FEATURED ARTIST – Brian Ness
STORY by Kate W.
I find my femininity sometimes, lurking, like the sticky film left when melted ice cream is too-quickly mopped up with an unclean sponge. It’s cloying but almost ignorable. It’ll emerge while I’m showering. I’ll think of how silky my legs used to be when I shaved them. I’ll pick up a razor, contemplate it, turn to my shampoo, rinse, towel off and don boxers. Sometimes the skirts that still hang in my closet call to me but their persuasiveness has waned as I’ve aged. I’ve noticed that each skirt and dress, while she employs different words, sometimes different languages, always speaks with my mother’s voice.
While others have doubts, I have no doubt that I am a woman. The “sir”s I receive are usually a pleasant reminder of gender’s visual landscape – a vista with so many crevices and hillocks that it is impossible to describe its variation. For simplicity’s sake things have been narrowed down to two options – boy and girl. I am not a huge fan of bowing to the power of simplicity.
The “pink or blue” binary first irked me when preschool taught me “pink is for girls.” I responded with a war against the color. Pink dresses and shoes moldered in my closet. I despised pink for the implication that I would like something simply because it was mandated by my sex.
I still dislike pink on principle. But I find, off-principle I enjoy pink’s many layers. I am thoroughly appalled by manufactured pinks but the natural ones, the ones you see walking around every day the pinks that fade into the browns of skin tones, the pinks that emerge from the green of flower stems or from between new leaves on trees, those pinks are life and renewal. Pink is not for girls.
While I have a soft spot for purple, green was and remains my favorite color. I coveted G.I. Joes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I wanted desperately to be a tomboy. I didn’t know how. I told my mother about my aspiration. I was handed a pink dress and a bow. My mother forbade both G.I. Joes and Ninja Turtles.
Not without irony, a late 1960’s era feminist, Mom also forbade Barbie. Her Barbie-Ban was a welcome excuse when I went, without dolls, to friends’ houses. My friends took pity on my Barbielessness. They all kept one Ken and a huge collection of Barbies. Each time they received a “Barbie and Ken” set, they would strip the Ken doll, keep the clothes, and give the naked Ken to me. I knew that I was supposed to find Ken attractive, and with his muscular shoulders and lack of penis, how could I object?
Part of me wanted to love Ken, but part of me wanted to be him, after all, in my friends closets, he had so many girls.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Brian Ness’s stories and illustrations are interested in exploring gender, specifically related to the effeminate, the de-masculinized, and the fabulous. His images reside somewhere between the present and the Victorian, where many of our current ideas of men and women were formulated, and whose children’s literature inverts, scares, and romanticizes the world in which it resides. He produces a quarterly zine called Kitten Punch, about the goings-on at a theme park/commune for sissies, called Dandyland. He received the 2007 Schochet Award for Excellence in GLBT Studies for his comic book/coloring book, BJ’s Unfabulous Christmas, and recently finished his first graphic novella, Molly Bottom. He lives and works in Minneapolis. You can follow his work at greetingsfromdandyland.blogspot.com.
Here are two more samples of Brian’s work:
Interested in being a Featured Artist? Just let me know!