|Artist Linn Underhill calls herself "an old-fashioned lesbian - the kind that is out of date."
Underhill didn't "come out" until she was in her 40s, having been married to a man and raising kids. Now she explores gender-related topics using photograph-based art, some of which is featured in CEPA Gallery's current show, "Deviant Bodies 2.0." She is one of 13 artists in this look - from varying perspectives - at issues related to living as a "transgender" person.
Lawrence Brose, director of CEPA and co-curator of "Deviant Bodies 2.0," says there was a tremendous response when the show was being put together. And while at first the intent was a sole focus on lesbians, it was soon extended to all transgender people - a loosely defined, inclusive term. They ended up including artists from all over the world, nine of whom are themselves members of the transgender community.
The show, spread over all three of CEPA's spaces at the Market Arcade Complex, is a groundbreaking effort at presenting these topics in a fine-art setting. For many of the artists, it's the first time being exhibited in a gallery rather than, as Brose said, "an educational or consciousness-raising situation."
And rather than a typical group show, where each artist is only given space for one piece, Brose and co-curator J.R. Martin-Alexander have made room for at least several examples from each contributor. Aside from photography, the show includes multimedia work and video, some of which are displayed in newly designed and constructed viewing booths that cleverly mimic peep-show stalls.
Underhill's work is titled "No Man's Land" and is in homage to George Platt Lynes, a photographer at the forefront of gender exploration in the 1930s and '40s. In it, she offers herself elegantly "drab" (dressed as a boy).
The show, most agree, both affirms the transgender community to its members and brings some of its topics to the attention of the larger population.
"Before I came out, what I would have thought about this show?" Underhill mused. "I think I would've been secretly fascinated; it doesn't exactly "normalize' the topic or the people involved, but doesn't "queer' it too much either. People can use this show to open up doors for themselves."
Jana Marcus' series "Transfigurations," made up of documentary-style photos, features post-surgery transgender people, accompanied by quotes from the subjects.
"Jana's work acts as an introduction to the exhibit," Brose said. "It's an accessible project to bring people up to a certain comprehensive understanding of the issues facing "trans' people."
Emmett Ramstad, a transgender artist from Minnesota, says people can also relate to the show beyond the educational aspect.
"In this show, artists are richly talking about experience," Ramstad said. "You don't have to learn "Transgender 101.' It's artists talking about things we can all relate to, like living in a body and living in a society. It's not an "us versus them,' but a human show."