Help fund portraits of trans women by Catherine Graffam

Catherine Graffam’s art Tumblr came across my newsfeed recently, and I was completely floored. Graffam’s oil paintings are primarily portraits of trans women, including a number of self-portraits. Her paintings are stunning – evocative, affecting, and full of personality. Trans women are not underrepresented in works of fine art, per se; in many ways we are the body of art – the figures on top of government buildings and on the bows of ships, the beauty ideal advanced by Michelangelo and da Vinci, the old statues in the Louvre. But there is a serious lack of representation of trans women by trans women, on trans women’s terms (you know, the condition of women in art). Graffam’s work disrupts that, using the language of oil painting.

Now, Graffam is fundraising for a portrait series of trans women called Trans-Pose. She has raised the funds to cover basic supplies – money she raises now will all go to her subjects, a diverse group of trans women who are all running their own crowdfunding campaigns. One of the first portraits from the series is below.

Portrait of Jobhaver (Rebeka Refuse) Oil on Canvas, 20x20 in Catherine Graffam

Portrait of Jobhaver (Rebeka Refuse) Oil on Canvas, 20×20 in. Catherine Graffam

“I had just graduated college and was trying to paint portraits full time (it was not working),” Graffam told me. “I had so many trans women friends who were increasingly falling into more and more difficult financial situations, and I had seen similar projects done but none were by a trans woman for other trans women (and trans fems) exclusively. I wanted to directly help my friends financially and use my privileges as a light skinned middle class person and platform as an artist that I have been able to grow because of those privileges, to lift up other trans women.”

Graffam graduated from The New Hampshire Institute of Art in May. “It was pretty traditional training by today’s standards,” she told me, “so it definitely influenced the structure and methods in which I paint. My process for this project is similar to that of how I usually work except the models whom I only have contact with online are in charge of the photographs I work from. I want them to have agency over their image and how they will be portrayed, since trans women are usually not given agency over our identity and experiences.”

Check out Graffam’s gorgeous work, and click here to support Trans-Pose. There will be a show of the work from this project on March 22nd, 2016 at McGowan Fine Art in Concord, NH.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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