Intersectionality describes the connected but diverse nature of an individual’s social categorizations. In recognizing our own multi-faceted backgrounds and our interconnectedness we celebrate difference and establish community. The creative works I produce reflect the various facets of my identity – as a homosexual, as a Midwesterner, as a Catholic-raised agnostic – with intentional nuance. I focus my practice from a lived perspective.
Homosexuality is a prevalent factor in my life and thus experiences concerning this identity inform my content powerfully. The perspective gained from this identity is deepened by its dissonance with a more conservative Catholic upbringing. I struggle with the isolation brought by shame and “sin” as well as the denial of individuals into proposed “kingdoms of heaven” based solely on social categorizations such as sexual orientation.
The Catholic upbringing that I experienced occurred in homes decked in Midwestern kitsch. I consider Thomas Kinkade and Terry Redlin. Fantasy moments of large deer jumping high over wood fences and pheasants flying up from harvested corn fields are, to many in my region, a vision of what fine art is. I take from this an understanding that the identities of a region and the cultures which inhabit it are defined by their natural environments. When considering symbols, the impetus of my conceptual research, I consider which parallels in nature communicate my human experiences. I employ Midwestern symbolism to communicate the struggles between the various aspects of my intersectionality. In this sense I permit myself to speak subtly of homosexuality under a perceivable guise of wildlife art. For instance, a red cardinal is used as a stand in for the flamboyant, flashy male. A pairing of bright red cardinals communicates homosexual relations. Botanical imagery might convey undertones of rebirth (milkweed), love and sincerity (fern), happiness (dahlia), sourness (crab apple), discomfort and misfortune (poison ivy), or may convey a specific place such as the wood violet, with its allegiance to Wisconsin as the state flower. I use the complexities of individual identity – intersectionality – as the blueprint to inform and organize symbolism in my creative work.