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