See, Study, Spy

Clothing was a vital element to See, Study, and Spy. There’s a sense of locker-room intimacy to the paintings, as if all three could be placed in the same setting. 

Views is a multi set collection of paintings, photographs, paper arts, and digital media. The first set is painted landscaped over male forms found and rendered from queer content websites. Paintings are on canvas. See, Study, and Spy are 12×12, $360 each. 

Say her name: November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance 

I wept the day I learned of Shade Schuler’s death. I’d never met her, hadn’t seen her picture until that morning, but I’d just finished the portraits of Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Jazmin Vash Payne, Taja de Jesus, Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Kristina Gomez Reinwald, London Chanel, Mercedes Williamson and India Clarke. The quick succession of portraits brought only sadness; death lingers heavily on the United States.

In just weeks, more names were added to the list of those destroyed: K.C. Haggard, Amber Monroe, Elisha Walker, Kandis Capri, Ashton O’Hara, Tamara Dominguez, Jasmine Collins, Keyshia Blige, Keisha Jenkins, and Zella Ziona.

Transgender women face a one in twelve chance of being murdered in the United States; Transgender women of color have a one in eight chance.

#SayHerName is a twenty-one piece set of 18 x 24 watercolor and ink portraits of Trans Women killed in the Untied States during 2015. Each piece is painted in reds and blues with negative white space as a dra- matic contrasting element. This red, white and blue color scheme reflects the citizenship of the women and the culture that produced their deaths. Paint is splattered across the pristine white of each page, representing the violence each woman faced. The backgrounds number their murders as reported (not the order that they occurred).

K. Ryan Henisey is a queer artist in Los Angeles. The art in his #ArtToEndViolence collection celebrates a passion for important and challenging social justice issues juxtaposed against a veneer of pop art. The superficiality of the genre draws attention to the violence perpetuated against communities marginalized by the dominant culture by forcing the viewer to confront what is meaningful.

Dear family 

Tyler Clementi was driven to suicide for being gay. When we excuse hate-driven language and actions, young people die.

Dear family,

I don’t know what to say to you because the things that you say to others and the things you don’t say to me already ring with the sounds hate, discrimination, and everything you taught us not to be. 

I see when you comment on news articles. They trickle through my feed. 

I see your posts to each other. They’re difficult not to read. 

I can see the things you like and the people in your life. 

I can see when you do nothing. 

I can see you. 

I can see. 

Bri Golec was murdered by her father for being Trans.

Your gleeful support of men and platforms which have clearly stated their hatred for Queers, Muslims, Black Americans, women, and the disabled is confusing and upsetting. 

That support echoes: at worst, of the bully-boys on the school yard teasing me to tears; at best, of the silent, sneering children as the others called their jeers. 

Would you see me converted through electroshock therapy? 

Am I to blame, in my queerness, for the nation’s faults? 

Do you believe that our fellow citizens should register based on their religion? 

Or that women are objects for men to taunt and abuse? 

Do you believe that a publicly operating business should be able to turn me away simply for a perception of queerness? 

And for that matter, do you even support my right to marry? 

Do you think I’m evil? 

How do I help you see that there is no difference between some discrimination and totally oppression.

Your behavior, your silence, and your support for these men and platforms leads me believe that the answer to each is yes. 

Yes to torture and to blame. Yes to abuse and to discrimination. Yes to the perception of evil. 

Dear family. I don’t know what to say to you because the things that you say to others and the things you don’t say to me already ring with the sounds hate, discrimination, and everything you taught us not to be. 

Freeing the Spirit: form and figure in the works of Eve Lyman

How do you think about art? You just start thinking. I’ve had the pleasure of spending a year in thoughtful art practice with Eve Chayes Lyman and others. This article explores a small sample of Eve’s art and what I think about when I view it. 

Eve Chayes Lyman, Red

Eve Chayes Lyman is an accomplished artist. Her photography is deeply concerned with humanity and human environments, often focusing on color and texture as reflections of our shared experience. 

Her lens travels, much of her imagery is taken in Afghanistan, North Africa, and Latin America. The dynamism of her Arab Spring images — from Cairo, Morocco, and Tunisia — are as rich as her documentary-style views into the lives of others.

Complimenting her talents at photography, Eve has a body of drawn and painted figures that simultaneously explores and exposes the human form. Prolific and impassioned, each piece is a window opening into its own reality.

Eve Chayes Lyman, Content
“The art I make is perhaps a result of all my thoughts,” Eve wrote to me, “but when I make art, I never think.

“I try to ride the wave,” she continued, describing the way she works as a spiritual and alchemical process, “allowing each element [of the painting] an unfiltered, uncontrolled freedom, knowing at any moment I could crash and burn — and often do. It is a painful, exhilarating process.”

I find her work evocative of Egon Schiele. But unlike Schiele, whose figures were freed by hard lines and angles, Eve’s portraits are liquid, almost lyrical in composition — a feminine counterpart to Schiele’s masculinity. 

Eve Chayes Lyman, Blue Moon
Blue Moon, for instance, flows like an aerial view of a river delta, the florescent ink creating blooms that form into a proud display of the feminine body. The divot of the subject’s hip may be one of the most divine aspects of the piece and, true to style, highlights the unique beauty of imperfection that is so characteristic of her works. 

“The human figure,” she explains, “naked, vulnerable, unencumbered by context, has an infinite capacity to express and embody the essence and complexity of what it means to be human.”

Eve Chayes Lyman, JJ
Indeed, Eve’s subjects are most masterful when she allows her hand and the media to drive the form of the painting. Her yellow and ochre portrait of JJ carries a weight of age and experience in his gaze because she allows her pen to dynamically form the eyes. We feel the depth of the piece as the liquid watercolor application meets the layered and staccato swirl of the pen.

Experimentation is a vibrant aspect of Eve’s craft. Constantly exploring, Eve works in a variety of media. Fragment, for example, is charcoal on newspaper, Red is pastel on gesso and acrylic ground, and many works incorporate watercolor, pencil, ink, and other textures. 

Eve Chayes Lyman, Fragment
Though her paintings vary in media, her consistency in subject and style creates a collection that is both accessible and individual. Within Eve’s art you are capable of finding not only a mirror to your own soul but one that reflects back the heart of what it is to be human. 

Eve Chayes Lyman is a photographer and graphic artist. Her work has appeared in various publications including Harvard Magazine and Marie Claire and has exhibited in national and international venues. 

You can presently see Eve’s work at the Neutra Museum in Silverlake. She and I will be showing together at the Canoga Park Youth Arts Center for our pop-up show, Small Groups, November 14-20. Visit her Facebook page for currently available paintings, including those featured here. 

What compels an artist to paint 

I was 18 years old, freshly starting college when Matthew Shepard was lured, beaten, tortured and left to die in a field outside of Laramie, Wyoming.

I was still a year away from coming out but I knew by then that I was gay. So did everyone else (they just had the good sense to let me develop at my own pace).

My mother and father were especially protective during this time. I remember my mom not wanting me (an 18 year old boy!) to be out after 10pm. For a time they both checked in more than normal.

I, of course, was terrified. I was afraid of people finding out. I was horrified that something like this could happen. But I was also blessed. My parents became protective. My friends became supportive. And I hadn’t done anything. A cute, skinny boy had been killed a thousand miles away and I was cocooned as a teenager. Jadin Bell wasn’t.

Fast forward to the early hours of January 19, 2013; I’m 32, nearing the end of my time as a teacher. Later that year a parent will threaten me and shout homophobic slurs in front of 300 first, second, and third graders. But that morning, Jadin Bell, a 15 year old boy, makes the decision to take his own life. He had been relentlessly bullied, online and to his person, by peers and adults with little intervention.

This happened in my country; the home of the free and the land of the brave.

I taught in public schools for a decade; during that time I had a few hundred children. They’re all mine. All teachers, even the reformed, feel very possessive of even their most difficult students. I adored mine. And they would come to school each morning and tell me stories of their lives. These stories were different from stories I knew.

They would tell me of their parents being arrested. The police would come in the night, guns drawn and take mom or dad away. They would tell me of being pulled over and having to wait on the side of the road while their cars were searched. Their backpacks were spilled open too.

And on February 26, 2012 (I’m 31 and I teach first grade), a grown man follows a 17 year old boy and kills him in ‘self defense.’ Trayvon Martin had just bought candy from a local store. He looks like a boy I know.

My friends started telling stories now and I discovered that I don’t know a single person of dark skin who has not had a gun pulled on them (many by police and in urban centers). These are my friends and family. These are people from all walks of life, from high school drop outs to Ivy League grads, AND every single one of them has had a gun drawn and pointed in their direction.

I know guns. I grew up with guns. I’ve had guns in my possession while in the presence of police. I have NEVER had a gun drawn on me. On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri (I’m nearly 34, an author and artist). Now, acquaintances start telling stories – one man was walking down a major street when three police cars suddenly surround him and the officers jump out, weapons drawn. He ‘looked’ like the suspect. Or of times they’d been pulled over, handcuffed at gun point and searched, all the while being called ‘boy.’ These examples occurred in Los Angeles.

And other stories start to appear on social media. Suddenly I see people I know, people from all walks of life – high school drop outs to Ivy League grads – share about ‘losing rights’ and ‘protecting religious freedom’ and ‘standing their ground.’ And I’m made afraid all over again. I feel the same sense of horror I felt when Matthew Shepard was discovered. The faces in these paintings – these stories – could be my students or my friends; they could easily be me.

It’s like anew every time another sweet boy is pushed to suicide, such as Tyler Clementi who was 18 years old when he jumped from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010. I had just celebrated my 30th birthday; he had been publicly outed and shamed on campus and across social media.

It’s like anew when the body of a young woman is found. Transgender women, such as Gwen Araujo, who was beaten to death by four men on October 3, 2002, have 1 in 12 rate of violent mortality in the United States (I was 22 at the time and the hardest thing I had to do was break up with my boyfriend). Ty Underwood, the second trans woman to be murdered this year in the US, was found shot to death on January 26, 2015. Blake Brockington, an 18 year old transgender teen killed himself this week. I don’t want to hear that we’ve ‘come a long way since Angie Zapata‘ (who was beaten and bludgeoned to death on July 15, 2008).

Until violent deaths stop, we will not have come far enough.

Suicide rates among gay and transgender teens are unacceptable. Police violence against minorities (and the lack of accurate reporting and statistics) is reprehensible. Violence motivated by hate is unconscionable.

Though these stories terrify, though they stain the picket fences surrounding our star-spangled fields, they also transform and offer the opportunity for renewal.

These paintings are about awareness. As an artist and a teacher it is my duty to inform and transform. These paintings and their stories are my way of highlighting wrongdoing. They are my way of subverting what is so that we can create a world in which no teenager feels the need to take their life because of difference, where people can walk the streets of their neighborhoods without fear of gun violence REGARDLESS of the color of their skin, and where no one’s life is believed to be ‘less than human.’

These are stories of our own loss and shame. I challenge you to face them. I challenge you to share your own stories. We cannot fix the world by staying quiet.

Because these voices have been silenced, we must be compelled to speak.