Especially on a somber day like the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, it's important to take a moment to also acknowledge the incredible contributions to society made by trans and gender-nonconforming individuals. In so doing, the question becomes, How do we celebrate and preserve the contributions of trans thinkers and artists?
In her acclaimed series Transtextuality (Senate Bill 48), painter Katie Herzog answers this question by reimagining Gerhard Ricther's famous 48 Portraits, which focused solely on white, cisgender (nontrans) "men of letters." Herzog's collection offers a new palate of black-and-white portraits focusing on 48 inspirational Western trans women and men accomplished in the fields of science, philosophy, and literature.
The collection's subjects include the late author and advocate Leslie Feinberg, scholar Sandy Stone, lawyer Shannon Minter, writer Kate Bornstein, filmmaker Christopher Lee, activist Riki Wilchins, and anthropologist Jason Cromwell, among many others.
Transtextuality's subtitle refers to California's Senate Bill 48, also know as the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011. The law requires California public schools and the textbooks used therein to include the political, economic, and social contributions of trans people as well as those from sexual, racial, and ability minorities.
Drawing on pictures sourced from the Internet, Herzog's project intends to elevate these often underrvalued images, interrogate the phrase "men of letters," address transgender representation in the public sphere, and "align painting with interactive digital archives," according to a statement from Los Angeles's Night Gallery.
Originally displayed at the Night Gallery in 2013, this year Transtextuality (Senate Bill 48) was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it will remain in the permanent collection.
See just a fraction of trans greatness in the portraits below and on the following pages.
Transtextuality (Senate Bill 48) on display at Night Gallery in Los Angeles, 2013
Paintings by Katie Herzog