Oscar Wilde once said, “Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” The idea that our lives might–like a sunflower turning to face the sun–stretch to accommodate art and ideas within art that we create or witness can only be good news.
Particularly if gauged by what we have coming up in the UMFA.
In addition to our conversation about The Gaze, our upcoming Martha Wilson exhibition and the Guerilla Girls and their social activism, we currently have on view in our salt gallery work by Shigeyuki Kihara. Though I have already briefly introduced her work in a previous post, I didn’t have much of a chance to touch on one element of Shigeyuki’s identity as a Fa’afafine, a third gender recognized in traditional Samoan culture.
Traditional Samoan culture is not alone in this: consider the Berdache or Two-Spirit of indigenous North American peoples (which also existed among the Inuit), the Hijra of South Asia, and, with some restrictions placed on the role, the Sworn Virgins of Albania. And of course the term transgender used in the USA, among other places, to recognize the state of one’s gender identity not matching one’s assigned sex.
Though being a Fa’afafine is only one element of the identity of a complex person working through complex ideas, her work has already empowered our own local community: Princess Kennedy at SLUG Magazine engaged in a dialogue with the artist, and Equality Utah is hosting the 4th installment of “Equality in My Community” Town Hall Series tonight at the UMFA. According to the event page, “This community dialogue is aimed at encouraging greater understanding among Utah residents about the state’s transgender community and offers a glimpse into the lived experience of over 11,421 Utahns who identify as transgender.”
Click HERE for more information about the event.
Conversations like these have already been happening among museum staffers: all of our staff attended an LGBT Awareness Training, educating ourselves about proper terminology, and how we as an institution can continue to not only be a safe home for difficult conversations, but also a place where all can speak and feel entirely welcome.
I love Wilde’s idea that life will eventually shape itself around art. I’m inclined to believe a man with the wisdom to say such things as, “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much,” and, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” (I’m clearly not alone in my admiration, either).
We invite you to participate in Equality Utah’s Town Hall tonight! The UMFA is offering free admission to attendees who arrive at 5 p.m. or after to view the exhibition. We hope to see you there!