Showcase promotes visibility of transgender artists, community

The “Transgender Day of Visibility 2017: Artist Showcase” March 31 will feature 30 artists including Luna Luxe, whose photography will be on display.

By Blair Paddock

Pink and purple waves swirl together and form a tornado. To viewers, the photograph seems to be a storm from an alien planet, but in reality it is a digitally-enhanced image of Vaseline smeared on a mirror. 

This and artist Luna Luxe’s other photographs will be on display at Center on Halsted’s first “Transgender Day of Visibility 2017: Artist Showcase,” March 31. Luxe said there are few platforms for transgender representation, so the event is significant because it unites transgender artists.

“Gathering 30 different trans people in one show [illustrates] that these people—besides their identity—can make really cool art,” said Luxe, who is also a manager and service technician at Columbia’s Computer Store.

Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., will feature work ranging from painting to spoken word created by Chicago artists. The event will provide a needed platform for artists to display their work and emphasize the visibility of the transgender community, said Vanessa Sheridan, the center’s director of Trans Relations and Community Engagement. 

“The trans community is diverse and filled with all different people who express themselves in all different kinds of ways,” Sheridan said. “Art is simply a platform for this expression.” 

Sheridan said the showcase will begin with the visual arts presentation and the live performances will follow in the center’s theater.

Every year, Center on Halsted hosts events in celebration of Transgender Visibility Day, but this is the first year it has done an artist showcase, Sheridan said. 

“I was thinking about what we could do to celebrate visibility and achievements, and I  thought it [would] be a good idea to celebrate the diversity of artistic talent that exists particularly in the transgender community here in Chicago,” Sheridan said.

The excessive attention paid to transgender celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner overshadows the community’s diversity, giving people a one-dimensional view of what it is like, Luxe said.

“[There is] some good representation, but for the most part the focus on the bathroom issue over the murder rate and lack of healthcare [is the problem],” Luxe said. “It is still not a hate crime to murder trans people in [31] states; there are more important issues that we need to tackle.” 

Painter Nadia Valdez said she is showcasing her portraits of

transgender women of color to make the diversity of the community more visible. She said she hopes attendees have a greater respect for transgender women and recognize the community’s beauty.

“We’ve always been the biggest target for violence within the demographic and sort of overlooked,” Valdez said. “I felt like putting that to light would make a lot more sense to celebrate the Transgender Day of Visibility.”

The showcase promotes the artistic talent and diversity  needed in this turbulent time for transgender people, Sheridan said.

“We’re trying to uplift the community and show we are capable of making contributions,” Sheridan said. “It’s a way to provide [positivity] in this difficult time.”