Gender portraits is an art series by transgender artist, Drew Riley, that advocates for people with gender diverse bodies, identities, and presentations. By pairing vibrant paintings with personal stories of the subjects, Riley hopes to expand the viewers concept of what gender can be, while bring visibility and validation to people whose gender or presentation through gender falls outside of societal norms.
I got the idea for the project in 2013 while working on the self-portrait, "Adelescence," for an art contest. I was blown away by how emotional and validating my own painting was to me, and knew I had something powerful. I immediately started seeking out other trans people to paint and interview. In the spring of 2014, I launched a Gender Portraits Kickstarter campaign, and it was successfully funded! The funding let me spend a year painting and interviewing 12 people for the first release of the series. Since releasing the original 12 pieces, I have continued to add new work to the series, I paint live for an online community, I show my project and talk about gender issues all over Texas, and I create gender pride merchandise for gender queer people and allies. In March of 2016, Gender Portraits became a fiscally sponsored nonprofit project of the Austin Creative Alliance. Through their support, Gender Portraits has been able to seek out funding for even bigger and better advocacy art events, and more. Going forward, I hope to add many more components to my work benefitting gender diverse people. If you want to help support the series, you can do so on our Patreon Page.
Is It Transgender?
From the beginning, I decided to call this project "Gender Portraits," and not "Transgender Portraits." Transgender people are a part of gender diversity, but they are neither the beginning or end of the gender spectrum. Intersex people, drag performers, and cisgender people who present outside of gender norms, are all examples of people with diverse bodies or presentations, but who may not be trans.
Even though my perspective and motivations for gender diversity work are as a transwoman, I believe that you can't talk about gender without talking about ALL of gender. Not only to serve as context in conversations about gender, but because one can't fight for equality without fighting for equality for all. Total inclusivity is my goal throughout the series and I hope to represent as much intersectionality as possible in my work. If you are gender diverse, and feel that you have not been represented, please submit to be painted. I am always eager for new subjects that add diversity to my project and will be happy to share your story.
If you have any questions about the Gender Portraits project that were not addressed, please contact me.