Posted by: maxvoltage | July 13, 2011

coming-out as an artist

This month, I’m working on my first-ever original Theatrical Piece, and I’ve been reflecting on my path as an artist, and the road to owning my artistic self.

Growing up, my brother and I would put on elaborate performances for our parents and their friends.  We would round up neighbor kids, and often my mom would have to remind us “every performance has a beginning, a middle, and an END.”

Early on, music was a huge draw for me.  When I was three, I saw Itzak Perlman on Sesame Street, and told my parents I wanted to play violin.  They were super supportive, and at age five, I started taking violin lessons.  Soon after my brother started taking piano lessons, and music was incorporated into our performances.

Being a classical violinist became a huge part of my identity; it was the first thing I would share about myself, the thing I was good at, that made me different.  And at the same time, I excelled at academics, and took the over-achiever path in school.  My brother was highly involved in drama & theater, and less interested in academics.   I think because he was so solely right brain/creative, where as I had that as well as the left brain/academic side, my brother became seen as the “artist” one in the family.

Looking back, I wonder how this happened, exactly, that I no longer considered myself “artistic.”  Playing classical violin became more like a skill that I achieved, than an expression of my artistic self.  I also wonder how my struggle with my gender played into my artistic decisions.  I remember taking one drama class in Junior High, and being pretty much horrified and anxious the entire time.  I was a SUPER shy kid, and all the improv activities were my personal version of hell.  As someone not particularly comfortable in my own skin, the idea of doing theater was a struggle.  When I can’t even figure out my own identity, how can I play others?

So I stuck to what I knew I could do, where I felt comfortable.  Music didn’t tie to my identity, to my physical appearance in any way, nor did academics.  The extremely gender-binary worlds of drama & dance became foreign to me.

Then I came out as Queer, and it shifted everything.  Suddenly, I was comfortable in my own skin, and able to play around with gender, because my new queer culture created space for genderfuck.  Immediately I began playing with drag & dance, and accessed the stage in a whole new way, so very different from music performance.  That fire that I had as a kid around performance became re-ignited.  And from there, the stage was accessible to me again.  Little by little I’ve pushed past drag performance, and moved into other forms like Dance, MCing, and integrating music & performance-art.  But mostly I did these projects with creative partners.  The first drag troupe I formed (Ubergay Cabaret) was with my brother.  The idea of leading & driving art alone felt scary.  Even though I was a huge part of the artist drive & vision in these projects, I didn’t trust myself yet as an artist.

Over the last year, I’ve had amazing and empowering opportunities to step out and step up, on my own; this last season I produced Homomentum solely.  I have begun writing original music, and putting my own voice out there in the form of my new musical duo Glitterfruit.

Next week, I will be performing “Reclaiming Pink,” as part of the Portland Center Stage JAW festival of new work.  The piece has some dance & drag but mostly, is a piece of story-telling theater.  For the first time since I was a kid, I am using my own voice as the driving force in my art.

A couple days ago, I got F-holes tattooed on my shoulders, marking my musical drive but also, marking myself as the instrument, my body as the location for art.  The timing is not coincidental.  For me, rising to the challenge of writing & performing Reclaiming Pink, has helped silence that little voice in my head that says “you’re not good/inspired/talented enough to be an artist.”  It’s funny, as someone who has been on a stage my entire life, that it’s taken this long to fully admit and embrace myself as an artist.  But since I have, amazing artistic opportunities have been coming into my life like never before, and I have never been happier.

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Responses

  1. hey.. nice article. glad you are feeling good in your own skin. 🙂 related to this article a lot. thanks


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