History of Violence is, on its surface, a dorky self-portrait that depicts a violent past channeled through a fictional present. When painting this work, I was thinking about violent histories and the horrible realization that people can be both victims and perpetrators of violence. In this painting, I am both a victim and perpetrator. I am constantly engaging in the desire to be a “good” person while grappling with the parts of myself that might be both consciously and unconsciously diametrically opposite of good. Ultimately this painting is a complex, critical look at the many facets of violence within myself.
The self-portraits I make are a way to release my imperfect parts: humorous, rebellious, bold, self-deprecating, disrespectful, and facing uncomfortable truths head-on. I will be the first to admit that I’m a very flawed human. I used to have mixed feelings about self-portraits, but now I’m beginning to think everyone should make them. It’s a power shift from being defined to defining yourself, a reclaiming of identity. And I see parallels with how society is finally awakening to gender and sexuality. It’s not up to society and its many biases to define us. We, as individuals, should define ourselves.
Pride means being anti-racist; it means fighting for all humans’ safety and equal rights, all genders and sexualities, and not stopping until we achieve that. I think it’s a lifetime commitment to doing that work.
I participate in Pride year-round in small ways. Over 2020 and 2021, I’ve participated in many fundraising shows for organizations that know what they’re doing, like Color of Change, The Ali Forney Center, NAACP Legal Fund, Food Bank for New York City, and others. I encourage those of us who can support these organizations to do so!