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Face to Face
Portraits by Margaret Clarke, Rosalie Favell, and Aaron Anaïs Kimberly
Aaron Anaïs Keimberly Autoportait 5
The photographs also remind me of the risk inherent in cross-dressing and in any revelation of an identity that contradicts social norms. Keimberly has set her portrait not in an open or public context, but in an isolated, anonymous one. She is alone in a whitewashed closet, trying on clothes that have been assigned to someone else. The possible consequences are not made explicit, but I know that Joan of Arc burned at the stake for her enactment of the young man, and the case of Brandon Teena1
represents the twentieth century’s brutal punishment of another transgender individual (note2
Autoportraits addresses the dilemma of gender self-identification: society tolerates a bending of assigned gender roles for specific purposes (heroic endeavours, tomboyish phases), but refuses to accept that a person might adopt the appearance of the other gender as a serious attempt at self-definition. Keimberly’s role-playing is not simply for convenience, comfort, or costume; it serves as an examination of the levels of artificiality and honesty that are part of all gender presentations.
In the process of considering the work of these three artists, I have addressed my own position as viewer. Have I perceived everything the artists intended? Of course not. Have I assumed certainties the artists never intended? Probably. The true measure of my engagement is my desire to look, listen, and ask questions. I want to understand something of the artists’ situations, their thought processes, and their dilemmas. I want to decipher the offered messages since the images address questions I’ve confronted in my own life – issues of choice, defiance, and boundary-crossing. I feel welcomed into the process because the artists offer confrontation not as in your face but as face-to-face; not as aggressive oppositions but as provocative invitations.
Tonia di Risio, In Absentia
10 B&W illustrations, 8 pages
In Absentia at MSVUArt
Robin Metcalfe, Aaron Anaïs Keimberly, C Magazine3
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1. About the Brandon Teena murder at songweaver.com (http://songweaver.com/gender/teena-sentencing.html). Last verified: 15 October 2005.
2. Leslie Feinberg, Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996).
3. Robin Metcalfe, Aaron Anaïs Kimberly, C Magazine, no 67/68 (Winter 2000/2001): 18-22.