my art practice explores the boundaries of my trans-ness as it brushes up against other aspects of my identity and the social and geo-political contexts that they find themselves situated in. through photographic intervention, photo collage, and abstract painting i am able to explore the deeply personal yet simultaneously public act of being a non-binary transfem. sara ahmed’s queer phenomenology and anne anlin cheng’s ornamentalism have been instrumental in conceptualizing my thesis in addition to the historical traditions of Black and Brown trans women, especially 90s ball cultures notions of opulence and glamor.
my work seeks to create tension between that which is legible and illegible, recognizable and unidentifiable. this is achieved through the abstraction of once legible forms taken from the ‘iconic’ american place of disneyland and pulls from concepts of constructed and aspirational identity and social mobility. disneyland functions as a site fraught with problematic source material and simply put discriminatory and exclusionary practices. I argue that much of its cultural appeal draws from conceptions of white nostalgia and new age manifest destiny and neo-colonial practices. my art serves to problematize any simple messages of trans-visibility or representation which are not the goal of this project. instead, i hope to create conversations amongst queer and trans bipoc that celebrate a richness of experience while actively working to dismantle systemic structures of racism, sexism, and capitalism.
in order to establish myself as both the subject and body of the work i have used self portraits with two specific dresses, one with strawberries and one with clouds. both have conceptual significance where the cloud dress is from the designer lirika matoshi’s disney princess and sleeping beauty collection and the strawberry dress is a version of the viral dress that was popularized over the summer of 2020. these two dresses are the first dresses i have ever bought and worn, and symbolically represent the huge personal transformation i have made in expressing my gender. these dresses and my own body provided the material for the abstract patterns that become stand-ins, taking over the constructed scenery of disneyland. they question if individual social mobility is mere superficial ornamentation or if the reorientation of queer space forces social transformation and expands our understanding of trans bodies of color.
Benny Siam is a non-binary trans-gender Asian-American and Latinx artist. They create metaphorical or digitally collaged self-portraits often set against the backdrops of “iconic” American places like Disneyland. In these deceptively “ornamental” works, the artist’s own trans body has not only become a site of self-reflection, but also the intersecting point to connect personal experiences with wider racial, cultural, social, and geopolitical meanings.
benny siam is a non-binary transfem, asian-american, and latinx multidisciplinary artist and educator! they are particularly interested in building community amongst young queer and trans people of color and dismantling institutional barriers of inaccessibility in the arts. they are projected to receive two bachelor's degrees in art practice and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, and a minor in comparative studies in race and ethnicity. siam has worked with students over the years ranging from elementary school to college students, bringing ideals of transformative justice and abolition into lessons on decolonization, anti-racism work, and queer theory through a visual and performance lens. both their art practice and community work centers around the destabilization of normative university and school spaces to be both more inclusive as well as nourishing spiritually, physically, and emotionally:)