Daughters of Mercury is a project I've been planning as a way to help support some amazing women by doing what I do best. In the past few years, I have become engaged with communities of trans women online, and this series grew out of my love for these friends and consciousness of transmisogyny and cissexism. I want to depict the diversity of women and expand what society considers a female body.
The name refers symbols associated with alchemical transformation through medicine and communication, more than the specific mythology of the messenger god and his progeny. Better Living Through Chemistry! That said, Mercury is the mother of metals, and the daughters of the angelic god include dryads and the "silent daughters". I'm not much of a romantic or mystic, but arguably, the painting process is one of transmutation of pigment into life. Its negotiations of representation parallel the continual aesthetic and cultural decisions trans women are often forced to make.
I will negotiate with each model about how they want to be represented, either complicating the conventional portraitist’s art of flattery with the dynamics of gender dysphoria, or celebrating features stigmatized as masculine as a woman’s features. Working toward around a dozen large scale portraits, the depictions will range from fantastical nudes, like Alice, above, to professional realism, and include models of color, size, and disability.
Respect for the models and making sure they are comfortable with the process is central. I want to depict the beauty and personality of ordinary and extraordinary women, whose history of depiction has often been stigmatized, degendering, or oversexualized, if seen at all. The Western oil painting tradition carries conventions both of objectification and elevation, but my work has instinctively dealt with how I look at women as a woman, and with Manet-like disruption of iconic composition.
Funding will go not only toward my time spent working on the project, travel expenses, and materials, but as much as possible toward compensating the models, who often have more regular medical expenses than others and fewer ways to cover them. Many are also working towards various different surgeries. I want to also promote my models' work and employ them throughout the project. Each will at minimum provide a text to accompany their portrait. Updates during the funding phase will showcase confirmed models.
Should I reach the goal, I will push for 10K more to fund an exhibition, to which all backers will receive invitations. I am already open to proposals for spaces, in New York especially. Whether this will simply be a pop-up or a longer term show will depend on what budget becomes available. Beyond that, I will push for double the funding to make two calendars, nude and clothed, doubling the number of paintings.
By backing this project, you are buying quality art, sincerely made, helping support trans women, and contributing to better awareness of transfeminist issues in art. In addition to backing for an original painting, prints, calendars, just images, or just to support, please share it with understanding audiences. Abuse and argument will be ignored and educational answers will be brief. Contact me if you or someone you know would like to be involved.
Press: Artist Resolves to Insert Trans Women into the Canon of Art History, Priscilla Frank, Huffington Post.
Risks and challenges
I fulfilled my first kickstarter project, Teleportraiture (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bruesselbach/teleportraiture), exactly on schedule. My Indiegogo project, Blind Reproduction (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/blind-reproduction), and St. Mark's On The Move (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/st-mark-s-bookshop-on-the-move), for which I was instrumental in saving my employer's business, were both also completely fulfilled. I have deliberately given myself over a year to work on this one, to make sure if I make anything myself or the models are unhappy with I can work on it until we love it. So I may finish the project much sooner than anticipated.
I have printed catalogs and calendars and organized exhibitions in the past. I am in contact with over 40 potential models, so there will be redundancy should any of my plans for sittings fall through. I may need to either rent studio space or work on the road. Having your financial support and obligation toward my models will dedicate me to the project. Perhaps some dire accident will befall my right arm, in which case I will spend the extra time I've given myself learning to use my left.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)