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TransSurfacing is a three-part installation that investigates the current cultures of transgender people in America consisting of a wall collage, interviews with transgendered people and personal collages. As a lesbian who came of age during the era of the Stonewall riots and identity politics, and who identifies as butch and gender queer, I’ve experienced a lifetime of negotiating a nonconforming gender identity and presentation. However, the feelings of being in the wrong body are ones that are unfamiliar. The dual experience of what is on the one hand so familiar, and yet deeply unfamiliar is what compelled me to explore this subject.
As the project progressed I began to more directly investigate how and where I have fit into the gender spectrum. The result is a series of collages which represent a life marked by desire and fantasies to be the opposite gender, the startled moment of becoming a woman and the uneasy embrace of the feminine while presenting as butch—an identity captured today under the fluid identification of gender queer.
TransSurfacing is meant to offer a multiperspective view of trans culture—at a moment when transgender issues and representatives are beginning to break through into mainstream culture, yet are still bound tightly within the disciplined control of a dominant cisgender American society that metes out privilege or violence based on class and race but rather is a soupçon of contemporary personal experiences and perspectives meant to spark discussion. The collages issued primarily from research and images gathered from the internet, as well as from one-on-one conversations and films, articles and books. Several transgender people were asked to view the completed work and offer their candid opinions. The result is a circular conversation between the artist, the viewer and the some in the transgender community.
Jo Ann Block’s work comments on the complexities and ambiguities of queer identity. Her projects investigate queer history, sexuality, and identity as they are inscribed within historical and contemporary culture. Her work includes painting, collage, assemblage and installation. Block lives and works in Washington, D.C. She received a BFA from UCLA and a MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has worked as a graphic designer in the film industry in Los Angeles and has taught at Ventura College in California.