By Austin Bowes
My last article (for this school year) is about an artist relatively new to the visual art scene, but has nonetheless been written about extensively these past few months with her works in the New Museum Triennial. Vogue.com has described the Triennial exhibition, entitled “Surround Audience,” as a film, with none other than Juliana Huxtable as its star.
Juliana Huxtable wears many hats — she is a photographer, painter, DJ, poet, model, and inspiration. Born in 1987, Juliana kept a notebook of her own inspirations: drawings of “high-drama, high-fantasy images of idealized women — like angels flying through the air,” accompanied by her poetry. She has said in interviews that this poetry is usually expressed when she is angry, anxious, or frustrated to release some steam.
Huxtable has four works at the Triennial. Her works feature two poems on print and two self-portraits in a style called Nuwaubuanism — apparently a religious organization that draws from Islam, Ancient Egypt, and extraterrestrial theory that inspired Huxtable (to be clear, she does not partake in the organization, she simply drew inspiration). The result is one photograph of her body painted a lime green color with yellow hair and another photo of her body painted purple.
Her celebrity at the Triennial is enhanced by a sculpture in the center of the room, entitled Juliana, which is of — you guessed it — Huxtable herself. This sculpture, by Frank Benson, is a 3D version of a nude Huxtable (she was scanned around a year and a half ago, and Benson has since made the spray-painted manifestation of Huxtable). She lies sideways facing the viewer (although the sculpture is in the round) and her arm resting on her side with her fingers “pinched in a Cleopatran gesture.” Juliana is presented as a powerful woman, which is big in many ways, but also because Juliana is a trans woman.
As far as I know, Juliana Huxtable is the most talked about trans visual artist yet (then again I may have missed something in recent years, but I haven’t found anyone after some Googling). Juliana has been presented as the frontrunner in an important contemporary exhibition in one of the art capitols of the world (not to over-exaggerate her, but she is pretty freakin’ awesome).
If any of you remember the Candy magazine pullout that featured 14 of the most noteworthy trans woman of today, Juliana was one of those 14, next to women like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and Carmen Carrera. Juliana has already begun to make an impact in the art world, and clearly more as she is recognized for her talent in so many mediums. With so many more years, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more from Juliana, and I can’t wait.
Austin Bowes is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.