L.J. Roberts, ‘Portrait of Deb from 1988-199?’, 2012-2013, Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Transgender artist L.J. Roberts, who had received a personal collection of political buttons as a gift, explains the impulse behind their re-interpretation displayed here: “I started embroidering this archive as a portrait of [Deb] and [as] a portrait of a specific time.” The artist’s transformative gesture speaks not only to the interconnected “threads” of individual human lives and the significant role of women during the AIDS crisis, but also to the recent resurgence of “craft activism” and to an imagined kinship that stretches through time and space. Though transgender individuals have existed throughout history, the recent past has seen great progress in the area of education on and rights for this community. The concept of gender as a continuum rather than as a strict binary has had an enormous impact on contemporary ideas of identity.

"This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today"

Collection of the artist