SchoolArts Magazine

Summer 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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28 SUMMER 2018 SchoolArts L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G ARTIST Q&A SchoolArts: Tell us about your artwork. Taylor Bystrom: I mostly work in 2D. Many of my paintings call upon the traditions of sign painting. Most are large and flat with eye-catching embellishments. I also have produced a series of color prints that focus upon repetition of patterns of T's, a letter with significance to me. SA: What's your story? TB: When I was a child, I drew pictures of the way I wanted to look—short hair, jeans, T-shirts, and tattoos—but I was not taken seriously. Like many other members of the LGBTQ+ community, my story involves being dismissed or rejected by others. The sadness and confusion of my early years have made me into a stronger, resilient, and compassionate adult. SA: What brought you to art? TB: Stereotypical gender roles in a pink-and-blue world are often confining and difficult to overcome. Art gives voice to those things that sometimes are difficult to say out loud. My art is therapeutic and helps me to better understand myself while helping others get through similar circumstances. SA: What is the most important message that your work conveys? TB: Art has become a way for me to communicate and to help others. I am a transgender man who vocally advocates for global human equality and tolerance. The goal of my art is to help bridge a sometimes uncomfortable gap; to be vis - ible for those who can't be seen for who they really are. SA: What is the significance of hockey players in your work? TB: Ice is symbolic for me in a few ways. Ice is beautiful because it offers two opposing experiences. As a skater, there is the sensation of gliding on ice. Conversely, skating on ice offers the risky experience of falling. Ice demands the uniform; the cold demands a change. The freedom is in the armor and the warm bulkiness of the pads—a change of body, if you will. A lot of my work is the result of colli- sion in my life and portraying my figures on ice. There's a nice breakdown between overlap and collision. SA: Could you tell us a little about what your future holds? TB: I have found that many people are afraid of what they do not understand. I have frequently spoken to groups. During these talks, the audience asks questions that I answer with frankness and honesty. Speaking openly to people is one of the best ways to promote social accep - tance. I hope to start speaking on a wider scale in the future. In the meantime, as advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, I often donate my artwork to help raise funds for those who find themselves in less than ideal situations. SA: What can art teachers do to better support their LGBTQ+ students? TB: Art teachers can help their LGBTQ+ students by provid- ing safe spaces for them to talk about and show their work. The most thoughtful thing one of my professors did for me was give me a platform to tell my story my way. When I am able to show my artwork and talk about my life experi - ences, there is a feeling of being understood exactly the way I intend to be heard. The teachers who have listened to me and have seen me cry have made the biggest impact on my life. I have had so many teachers rally behind me during struggles when I have needed their mentorship the most. DISCUSSION Begin with a discussion of traditional gender roles. Start by showing pink and blue squares, and ask students what they represent. When students respond with male/female or boy/ girl, ask them how they learned this concept. Then show them images of stereotypically male and female toys, cloth - ing, etc. As a class, create a list of stereotypical gender behav- iors and personality traits. Then ask, "Do you fit perfectly into one of these categories? Which items on this list do you identify with? Which ones do not represent you? How do these ideas about gender affect people's behavior?" Explain that gender stereotypes are an oversimplifica- tion of reality and that gender itself is much more complex. Most people identify with aspects of both lists. Many people identify with and feel comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth, but many others do not. Art is a safe space for exploring ideas about gender, and only you can determine where you belong on the gender spectrum. Next, show works that challenge gender stereotypes from a variety of artists, such as Frida Kahlo's Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, and J.J. Levine's Alone Time, a series that features models portraying "male" and "female" versions of themselves in the same photograph. After some discussion, introduce students to Taylor Bystrom's work. STUDIO EXPLORATIONS • Create a self-portrait that challenges gender stereotypes. • Create a list of gender stereotypes that are untrue or that you find personally offensive. Create a poster or meme that challenges these stereotypes using, drawing, painting, collage, or digital media. • Choose a television advertisement that contains gender stereotypes. Working in a small group, create a parody video that reverses or challenges or the stereotypes in the original ad. • Create a series of symbolic paintings, drawings, sculp - tures, or videos that reflects your own perspective on gen- der and gender roles. Written by Karl Cole, Art Historian and Curator of Images at Davis Publications and Robb Sandagata, Digital Curriculum Director and Editor at Davis Publications. RESOURCES

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