The Hippo


Jul 5, 2020








Part of “The Gender Series” by Jeff Kramer, on view in “This is What TRANS Feels Like.” Courtesy photos.

See “This is What TRANS Feels Like”

Where: Studio 550, 550 Elm St., Manchester,, 232-5597
When: On view through July 31; opening Thursday, July 21, during the Manchester Open Doors Arts and Cultural Tour, from 5 to 8 p.m., which will include spoken word poetry and a trans panel with representatives from the law enforcement, student medical and activist communities, plus music; visit the TRANS Art Exhibition Facebook page

Change through art
Studio 550 hosts “This is What TRANS Feels Like”

By Kelly Sennott

 The original goal of the art exhibition “This is What TRANS Feels Like” was to educate, but participating artists have also found solace in shared experiences.

“We just got [a poem] from a sister … about having her trans masculine brother come out to her. … It evoked so many emotions,” said artist and curator Jeff Kramer during an interview at Studio 550, where the show’s on view through July. “I’ve made that phone call to both my sisters. Reading this poem, it was just like, I get that. … It’s such a great way to share those moments that not a lot of people know about.”
Kramer, a trans man and Rights & Democracy advocate, constructed the exhibition with Christina Gibson, who works for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. Twenty trans artists or trans allies are represented on the Studio 550 walls in paintings, drawings, photos, poems and mixed media pieces; Gibson said they were receiving submissions until the morning of the opening. Some came from as far as North Carolina. 
In the show, Kramer has a nine-piece photography collection, “The Gender Series,” divided into masculine, neutral and feminine self-portraits, which were made pre-hormone therapy.
“I was going through my transition, and I was having a very hard time. … Photography saved my life,” he said. “By doing this series, I was getting my feelings from the inside to the outside.”
Jay Gott, from Bedford, contributed a poem, “Finally Free,” about finally making the transition, and 18-year-old Haden Prell made a painting, “Trans Puppet,” of a hand holding a blue and pink marionette with bandages around his chest, set against the transgender flag. Jody Veilleux had a few mixed media illustrations and a photo.
All in one way or another illustrate the transgender journey. Many interviewed said they found making the art therapeutic — like Veilleux, who came out as trans at age 21 to close family and friends in the ’90s but only recently stepped into the physical transformation process.
“I’ve been battling this for nearly 40 years — my identity — and it was just last June when I reached my breaking point and was ready to make the physical transformation,” Veilleux said.
One of  Veilleux’s pieces is a rainbow-esque self-portrait, “Peace and Chaos,” and another depicts a cracked egg wearing Groucho glasses with a fake moustache, nose and eyebrows. 
“You hope that you can find one person who will look at it and be like, ‘I get it. I’ve been there. I understand that piece.’ In another aspect, it gives others who don’t know what that feeling is like ... a way to relate to it,” he said. “Sometimes doing stuff like this is very helpful. It can help bring things into perspective to others and maybe have them see a different side to it.”
Organizers hope the show will act as a platform for education and help bridge the gap, to take the stories of what’s happening every day in New Hampshire and apply them to provoke social and legislative change.
“The motivation behind this project is to push the narrative around. What is transgender discrimination? What are some of the issues folks in the transgender community at large face?” Gibson said. “They can be denied housing. Service in a restaurant. Medical care. Having an exhibit like this ... brings a lot of the issues that affect the transgender community outside the transgender community.”
And, she said, maybe it could even play a role nationally.
“New Hampshire is a first-in-the-nation primary. Sometimes the nation looks to us to set an example,” Gibson said.
The plan is to take the show around the state. Next they were talking with Wrong Brain, an arts collaborative in Dover.
“I think we’ve come so far as a community, but we still have so much further to go,” Veilleux said. 

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