Interview: TextaQueen

Published in Art Collector, Issue 63, January – March 2013

Many of your subjects are women and are drawn from life. What is about these women that interests you?

I seek out people whose expressions of identities of gender, sexuality or race resonate with my own
experience. My creative process is very collaborative so I tend to choose people with whom I have both a functional creative chemistry and a congenial social dynamic.

What will you be exhibiting in your upcoming exhibition with Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art?

My show in February will be a series of self-portraits. I’ve drawn relatively few self-portraits over the years, instead making work with people I relate to that is intensively collaborative in concept. I’m challenging myself to creatively explore the personal reflections and evolutions I am processing around various aspects of my identities.

You called one of your exhibitions Social Engagement and there’s always been that political thread to your work – particularly with regards to gender and identity politics. What role do you see politics playing in your work?

Rather than seeing politics as playing a role, I prefer to regard my work as inherently political. I depict what others may consider marginalised identities from a somewhat related perspective rather than positioning them as other … The empowerment of the subject, within their centred identities, is prioritised. If there’s a political ambition it is that others seeing the work also feel empowered in their own related identities and experiences.

You have a pretty elaborate professional persona. Can you talk firstly about why you changed your name to Textaqueen (from Arlene Textaqueen, and whatever it was your schoolteachers used to call you before that) and also how your texta superheroine costume came about?

That first name feels quite removed from my daily experience, as my close acquaintances have not referred to me by my birth names for over a decade. Sometimes I liked having that distance, but dropping the name was part of generally trying to decompartmentalise the different aspects of my identity. Also the rhymey name felt younger than I am, and my gendered first name didn’t feel in keeping with my current identity. The superhero costume was created for drawing workshops with children, and then I carried it through to my art world persona.

I imagine it must be kind of nice to have that persona, if only to get a bit of distance from what can be a brutally personal art world at times. Is that part of the reason or are there other things at play?

I’m a very playful, humorous person … Within the art world, and outside of it, I’m marginalised – as a person of colour, as queer, as a person perceived as female – and so playing with an outsider persona that I have consciously created is a way to exist, usually with some empowerment. I have sometimes been treated as a cute novelty act, and for some the superhero may detract from my seriousness as an artist, but I feel the persona is in keeping with the intentional accessibility of my artwork to people not schooled in the art world. In some ways I feel the playfulness … allows for the layered, out-there, somewhat radical content of my work to be appreciated rather than possibly dismissed in fear.

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