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In the Galleries: Dylan Scholinski

In the Galleries: Dylan Scholinski

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Transgender artist and activist Dylan Scholinksi proves that art can save your life in an exhibit at Monmouth University.

An activist and author of the award-winning memoir The Last Time I Wore a Dress, Dylan Scholinski, 48, has appeared on 20/20, Dateline, and Today to discuss his experiences living a transgender life. Scholinski will give a lecture at the Pollak Theatre at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday in conjunction with an exhibition of his work at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. The exhibition runs through April 10.

"I paint for my survival and myself," says Scholinski. "Time and again, I have realized that without my art, I would likely be dead. At the age of 15, primarily because I lacked signs of being a 'heterosexual female,' I was labeled 'mentally ill' and confined to a psychiatric ward. I lost over three years of my youth."

"I consider all of my art to be autobiographical," he continues. "I tell stories about my life: what I am thinking, feeling, experiencing; creating a sort of map of my live and its emotions. The content of my paintings deals with the experiences I had leading up to and during my years in the hospital, and continue on to reflect the struggles I have faced as a transgender queer human -- as well as an ex-mental patient."

Scholinski's work portrays the anguish of his hospital years and his ultimate triumph -- while this latest exhibition also includes examples of artwork from his Lead With Your Heart workshop in which participants use the image of the heart as a template to create their own artwork and show how the heart connects us all.

His memoir was listed in the Top 10 Must Reads in Out magazine's first transgender issue. Scholinski, who lives in Denver, is also the founder and witness for Sent(a)Mental Studios, an artistic safe haven dedicated to helping facilitate creative alternatives to suicide.

He spends much of his time working in his studio, public speaking, creating zines -- such as Freedom of Depression, Please Forgive Me for Judging You, and Sent(a)Mental -- and frequently opens his studio to a variety of at-risk youth to provide a safe space to explore and discover ways of expressing and empowering themselves.

More of his work and story can be seen at DylanScholinski.com, and those wanting to connect with Scholinski can do so on Facebook here.

Pollak Gallery at Monmouth University,
400 Cedar Ave., West Long Branch, N.J.
Through April 10; free admission

Dylanscholinski_thorazinecrushdetailx633_0Thorazine (C)rush (detail)

11scholinski72hourholdx633_072 Hour Hold (installation detail)

08scholinski72hourholdx633_072 Hour Hold (installation detail)

Freecece_instax633_072 Hour Hold (installation detail)

06scholinski72hourholdx633_0 Dylan working on 72 Hour Hold

About 72 Hour Hold

This piece was originally developed in response to a quote -- "the patient has no sense of home" -- from Scholinski's hospital chart when he was institutionalized as a teenager. The installation begins with Scholinski building and re-creating a psychiatric hospital's seclusion room -- then once it is completed and painted white, Scholinski lives in and completes a variety of tasks (known as after-wards) within the space for a period of 72 hours.
Mediums: walls, time, wood, white paint, vinyl, twin mattress, sheets, blanket, patient/artist, pajamas, towel, toiletries

During each 72 Hour Hold,
* The patient/artist will live mainly in the 72 Hour Hold room with a few exceptions -- mainly he is free to go to the restroom.
* All activity in the 72 Hour Hold room will be under 24/7 video/Web surveillance.
* The patient/artist will be allowed to draw, erase, write, sleep, read, exercise, photograph, etc.
* The patient/artist will go for one half-hour walk per 24-hour period -- occasionally outside.
* The patient/artist will be available for shared visiting hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m., and shared meals (bring your own) at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Watch video of 72 Hour Hold here.

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From Capable, as part of "After-wards: possible side effects include," inverted foam cups. This is a sub-project of 72 Hour Hold.

My Little Pony, wrestling action figures with a plastic pony. From the "Lost Collection" series. Photography by Amanda Tipton.

From "The Lost Collection," found balls. Photography by Amanda Tipton.

My Ducks in a Row, found toy ducks. From the "Lost Collection" series. Photography by Amanda Tipton.

The Lost Collection
"For many years I have compulsively gathered evidence from daily walks and adventures -- while bearing witness to this extensive collection of found objects that had been previously lost, damaged, and discarded," says Scholinski. "The processes in this series happen in three stages. The first stage being the finding, selecting, and collecting of the objects. Then, in the second stage, I take portraits of the objects and meditatively remove all the distraction and visual noise that is around them to honor them as beautiful, simple, alone, complex, and quiet. Finally in the third stage I prepare a surface to be printed to, while covering an additional sheet of paper with charcoal. I put these surfaces together and mask the whole piece off to a firm table. I then draw the image by scratching and allowing that to draw/print through the charcoal-coated page to the prepared surface. Throughout this process I cannot actually see what is transferring -- and I am forced to trust that the hours put into this process is transferring to the surface. It is in this stage and process that the documentation of the object is complete."

Apples_tablex633_0 From the series "One a Day"

One a Day
"In 2013, I ate an apple a day," explains Scholinski. "Post consumption (sculpting), I took portraits of the apple cores -- and eventually let the cores dry out and become collectable trophies -- displayed as a calendar.
"In 2014, I collected small baggies of objects from my daily travels -- random things that attracted my attention -- from rusty or run-over things, ticket stubs, ear wax, chewed gum, abandoned notes and toys, rubber bands, to whatever got picked up when I swept my studio."
"In 2015, I am currently collecting anywhere from 30 ro 90 seconds of sound per day and [uploading] them to Soundcloud."

"This series is an extension of some of my previously obsessive daily practice/commitment pieces," notes Scholinski. "Such as portraits of a water bottle, self(less)self portraits, (in)security and self reflections, or dogs in cars."

Img_0221x633_0 From the series "One a Day"

Img_0666x633_0 From the series "One a Day"

Img_1139 From the series "One a Day"

Leadheart_displayexampledetail1x633_0The Lead With Your Heart project

"This collection began at the 2nd Annual Queer Youth Summit this year in Denver," Scholinski says. "Sent(a)Mental Studios was there providing a day-long open-studio environment. The theme this year was 'lead with your heart,' partially due to the timing being so close to Valentine's Day. I began by thinking about how when I was in grade school, the goal was really all about collecting as many valentines as I could ... definitely more about quantity than quality. This led to my thoughts around how if we are truly to lead with our hearts -- perhaps it should start with our own -- and so this collection was born. The idea being to use the image of the heart as a template to fill and show how your heart feels on the inside, and to use the space outside of the heart to show what is affecting and influencing it. Each person took it thier own way, and a variety of work was created. I decided to continue this as an ongoing project in the hopes to collect the expressions of individual hearts and hang them together as the project grows ... to show how the heart connects us all."

Leadwithyourheart_02x633_0 From the "Lead With Your Heart" project

Leadwithyourheart_03x633_0 From the "Lead With Your Heart" project

Leadwithyourheart_04x633_0 From the "Lead With Your Heart" project

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