Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

An “Assertive Stance:” Transgender Artist Reflects on Gender Fluidity

<lass="page layoutArea column" title="Page 1">

In a new St. Olaf exhibition, viewers explore gender and sexuality through the art and through themselves. Artist Zackary Drucker uses photography and video to bring queer consciousness into focus in the space of the exhibit, using her own transgender identity and body as a subject. “Zackary Drucker: She Gone Rogue” runs through November 2nd in the Flaten Art Museum.

Drucker works across different media, mainly photography and film, to spark deep thought and create compelling, beautiful art. Jane Becker Nelson, the director of the museum and curator of the exhibit, said, “though Zackary doesn’t describe herself as an activist, I think that there’s an element of activism in her work. Many identity decisions she’s made as a trans-woman reflects an assertive stance, such as choosing not to change her birth name when she transitioned from male to female … she’s not concerned with passing.” Her insistence on the fluidity of gender is apparent and articulated in the exhibit.

The show is displayed as a film and two separate but flowing series of photographs. The long video takes viewers on a surreal, seemingly circular journey with Drucker and appearances by parent and elder figures, a fortune teller, and a romantic interest. Drucker narrates in the background with poignant, dream-like words. The film is somewhat disorienting, but the emotions exude and capture the audience.

The first and second walls display portraits taken in traditional, almost vintage styles, some in which Drucker is clothed and some in which she is nude. Interestingly, only in the nude photos does Drucker make eye contact with the viewer. Katherine Jones ’18, who visited the exhibit, noted how raw and honest the exhibit is, and how it makes the viewer feel its emotions, too.

For Jones, the third wall was the most interesting. “The series was of her and her significant other or boyfriend. I liked that they didn’t explain what was going on [with a sign] until the very end. It let me just look at the pictures and make my own interpretations, and when I read at the end, it helped put the pieces together.” This wall combined everyday life as it is understood by all with experiences directly related to Drucker and to transitioning, adding a layer not already known to many.

Madeline ’16, a St. Olaf student who asked that her last name not be used, also commented on this facet of the exhibit. She said that by “delivering messages through a combination of performance and pictures of everyday life, [the exhibit] establishes a certain intimacy with the audience.” It is this intimacy that helps so many people connect with the inspiring exhibit and powerful message, even and especially when they have limited experience exploring gender.

Becker Nelson said that this exhibit has been in development for nearly three years, ever since she came into contact with Drucker for a previous project. She said, “When I started my job as the direc- tor of Flaten Art Museum a year ago, this was the first show that I booked…one of my goals [with the museum] is to increase visibility for stories that might otherwise slip beneath the dominant narrative.” This exhibit has begun to do just that.

Although the art speaks powerfully for itself, Brecker Nelson was also able to bring Drucker herself to campus in order to help the exhibit reach and teach even more. In her time on campus, Drucker worked in her exhibit with six classes ranging from Women’s and Gender Studies to Art/Art History and Film courses. She also facilitated a trans-sensitivity conversation for faculty and staff of both St. Olaf and Carleton, and spoke with St. Olaf’s student group Gay, Lesbian or Whatever!

Madeline, a GLOW co-coordinator, said that the group works to “plan community meetings and campus events related to LGBTQIA+ and Allied lives and issues,” and an event with Drucker worked perfectly. Her talk at a GLOW meeting was packed with students and faculty, and also with community members not associated with either college. Both this talk and Drucker’s artist lecture at the gallery helped connect the art and her experiences to the community receiving them.

Becker Nelson spoke of queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz and his idea that a collectively acknowledged and celebrated queerness is not yet here, but that it’s on the horizon. “While Zackary was here, I felt our community got a little closer to that horizon.”

Her presence gave visibility and started conversations that can continue through the exhibit and a few photos that will remain permanently with St. Olaf, with GLOW and their events, and through the individuals that form our greater community.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *