Margo Selski: Androgyne Dreams

What’s a mother to do when her 12-year-old son has a passion for long hair and lovely dresses? If she’s surrealist artist Margo Selski, she lets him pose as the subject of her fantastical paintings in the exhibition “Hitherto and Henceforth."



Margo Selski PORTRAIT XLRG (provided) | ADVOCATE.COMNo mother wants her child to be bullied or to have a difficult childhood. Have you or your husband ever encouraged Theo to suppress his impulses and dress like the other boys in order to spare him harassment?
This is a very difficult balancing act. Do you knock down your child’s natural impulses, or do you let the world knock him down? My husband and I decided that the important thing to do was to not purge Theo’s desires but to prepare him fully for the idea that his peers would react with a hostile reaction to his choices. I think it is a mistake for parents to try to micromanage their children from afar. Helicopter parenting is just not possible. You can’t be there all the time, and you can’t be controlling your child’s every mannerism and comment. Further, the semiotics of teen culture are generally treacherous territory for a parent to try to legislate in their child. We encouraged Theo to find some sort of “style identity” that would allow him to express his love of beautiful, fine things, but also not invite misinterpretation and bullying. I think of the goth-steampunk-alternative kids in L.A. that we met through Henry Lien, owner of Glass Garage. These boys wore makeup and dressed outrageously, but they somehow got away with it and were actually seen as cool and a little intimidating. People did not mess with them. However, Ellensburg is probably not sophisticated enough to support that sort of sophisticated subcultural reference. Kids here will probably react to anything different with hostility, and we are making sure that Theo understands that.

Although it seems premature — and correct me if I’m wrong — to put any labels on Theo that sexualize him, have you responded to his behavior by educating him on gay and trans issues?
You are absolutely correct. Gender identity and sexual identity are two very different things. The fact that he might be androgynous in his identity doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t feel like a boy inside or that he is gay. But we have introduced him to different people. My gallerist Henry Lien is openly gay and sort of serves as the proverbial “gay uncle” for Theo if he has any questions. Through our visits to L.A., Theo has met many gay and lesbian people as well as many outrageous and creative straight people. We are working very hard to give Theo opportunities to be exposed to views into diverse lives, but stepping back and letting him find his identity on his own, in his own time.

You took Theo to L.A. for the exhibit’s opening, which he attended in a beautiful red velvet gown, pearls, and black lace opera gloves. What was that experience like for him?
The opening exhibition was like Theo’s opening concert of his world tour as a rock star. Los Angeles is a lifeline for Theo. It is his Oz.

For more info on Margo Selski and “Hitherto and Henceforth,” visit

Tags: Art