Henry Art Gallery Welcomes an Account of Transgender History
By Carley Schmidt
August 11, 2016
'Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects' explores the presence of local gender non-conforming communities
The Henry Art Gallery will host the second iteration of Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects beginning Saturday, August 13. (The first exhibit took place at the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries in the spring of 2015.) The upcoming show, which explores the challenges of discovering and researching an under-historicized culture, is part of an ongoing series of exhibitions organized by Chris Vargas, executive director of the Museum of Transgender History & Art, an organization that creates autonomous events throughout the country.
The exhibition will focus on the lives and experiences of transgender people and communities in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. It will highlight archival materials, and the work of contemporary trans artists who engage with history in their work. The term “trans” should not be viewed entirely literally, Vargas says. Rather, the pool of artists simply falls under the category of gender transgressive, or non-conforming.
This type of language, along with cultural changes, plays a role in the difficulty of digging up a narrative from the past that has not always been documented, he notes.
“There are many challenges in pulling out history for marginalized communities. A lot of road blocks occur in trying to tell history from this perspective. It’s not straightforward – there are always multiple histories going on at the same time.”
Museum-goers can expect to see archival work from the 2000 rock opera “The Transfused,” material from Seattle’s Ingersoll Gender Center, work related to Spokane jazz musician Billy Tipton and much more. With this broad collection of art and artifacts, Vargas says he hopes to educate viewers on the presence of conventional gender-defying people throughout history – and now, the existence of the many trans artists within our communities.
The exhibit will run August 13, 2016 through June 4, 2017 at the Henry Art Gallery.