Although I have already cast about 5 non-binary people's vulvas- I have always felt it really important to include trans bodies and voices in my art. For my artwork has always been, and always will be collaborative- body casting is inherently so, and my nude figure paintings (despite either execution being rather crude) have always used art reference photography, that myself or others, have taken of their bodies just exactly as they are, unfiltered, in relaxed and authentic poses. As a queer artist it is important to me that this collaboration was also queer focused. I want to create authentic art that reflects my values as an artist, and that accurately represents all bodies and experiences.
Finally, I can proudly say, that I am actively gaining experience casting trans and non-binary bodies- which includes gaining experience with penis casts. Although I am currently not comfortable opening up my studio to cast cis men's penises, I am now more well versed of a body cast artist, having successfully cast a penis three times. I still have a lot to learn- not just about body casting different type of bodies, but what it means to call yourself an 'inclusive queer artist', and why I am going to allow myself to proudly wear the badge of 'Queer INCLUSIVE Artist'.
I've made a previous post taking a look at what others have done before me- and decidedly called the Vagina China project 'TERF'ie (trans exclusionary radical feminists). Harsh words, that are easy to spit out but harder to really quantify. As a body cast artist myself, I can understand why you wouldn't be able to include penises, and therefore all women, in all of your projects. From a technical point of view they cast very differently, and translating them into ceramics is still something I haven't fully figured out yet (although I am determined that one day I will be successful in this endeavor). Aren't we as the artists allowed to decide what message we want to focus on. Celebrating the vulva by itself is something to be admired, something which, I might add, that the Vagina China project did beautifully.
So although I think I've come to a different conclusion on how I feel about the Vagina China project choosing to not include all women in their work. I definitely feel really aligned in my own work now that I am taking active steps towards no longer being "open to casting trans bodies" towards "actually casting trans bodies"!
As a budding artist I have spent a lot of time looking at those around me and before me who make art that inspires me, or is similar to mine. Trying to scope out what makes them successful and translate some of that energy into my own work. There aren't many other body cast artists focused on genital casts in the US. The artists that come to mind the most when I think about other successful feminist body cast artists are: Lydia Reeves (who is based in Brighton, UK) and Viktoria Krug (based In Australia, Viki does tour the world casting vulvas). One thing both of these esteemed artists have in common though, is the lack of penises in their work. Although I can only speculate as to why, I have a feeling that it is not coming from a place of exclusion for these artists. Everything I have been able to learn from them online paints a picture of really inclusive artists, focused on making work that uplifts people and makes them feel good about their bodies.
Why then is it that trans bodies, are often left out from these artists work? Especially if we all have similar goals in our narrative, and all are using body casting as a means for arriving there?
I think this is probably because artists often focus on things that feel personal to them. As they should. I don't think authentic artwork can come from a place of total lack of understanding and experience. Then, why is it, as an artist who is not trans, that I feel it to authentic to my own narrative to focus on including trans bodies in my work?
Possibly because although I am not trans-gender, I am queer. I understand what it's like to be shamed about your identity, and to not feel included in conversations. I view artwork as a conversation we artists are having with ourselves and the world. I wanted my conversation to speak on things outside of my own living experiences, by involving other voices.