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This trans artist has been creating art from behind bars for nearly three decades

Jamie Diaz, a Mexican American transgender girl, has been incarcerated at a males’s jail in Texas for the final 27 years. 

All through that point, she’s been creating watercolor work that commemorate queer and trans folks. Almost a decade of her work, courting again to 2013, debuts Thursday at Daniel Cooney Wonderful Artwork in New York. 

The exhibit, “Even Flowers Bleed,” is Diaz’s first solo artwork present, and it’s named for a collection of still-life work of flowers in vases. On the flowers’ thorns, there are drops of blood.

“Every thing bleeds, every little thing feels ache,” Diaz, 64, mentioned in an announcement in regards to the collection. “We’re not the one ones…even flowers can harm. That’s simply a part of nature.” 

A portray by Jamie Diaz.Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Wonderful Artwork

Along with the nonetheless lifes, the exhibit consists of portraits of Diaz and of Gabriel Joffe, her buddy and co-curator of the exhibit. Many of the work characteristic queer themes or symbols.

Diaz was born within the Chicago suburb of Waukegan, Illinois, although she grew up in Houston, in accordance with her web site. She has been creating artwork since she was a baby, and as a younger grownup she labored in a Texas tattoo store.

In 1996, she was sentenced to life in jail for aggravated theft, and she or he is eligible for parole in 2025, in accordance with the Texas Division of Legal Justice. 

The exhibit can be a pivotal second for Diaz, in accordance with Joffe, who makes use of gender-neutral pronouns. They mentioned they began writing letters to Diaz in 2013 whereas volunteering for Black and Pink, a bunch that advocates for jail abolition.

Jamie Diaz's painting "Gabriel in Transition."
Jamie Diaz’s portray “Gabriel in Transition.”Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Wonderful Artwork

Joffe mentioned they hope the present will assist display that Diaz has a help community and that she would proceed to contribute to the neighborhood if granted parole in 2025. Along with being Diaz’s first solo present, “Even Flowers Bleed” additionally marks the primary time her queer artwork can be proven to the general public. It’s one other step in her larger purpose to create the most important queer artwork assortment on the planet, Joffe mentioned.

“It appears like an necessary second for her work and for her technique of hopeful re-entry,” they mentioned. “A narrative like Jamie’s might very simply be informed by means of a lens of trauma, however there’s a lot pleasure right here, and there’s a lot pleasure in her work.”

Lots of Diaz’s work characteristic queer folks or queer themes and motifs. In a single, titled “Might Our Queer Spirits Perpetually Soar,” a faceless determine stands with its arms outstretched on a three-dimensional pink triangle — an emblem that was utilized by Nazis to establish individuals who have been imprisoned as a result of they have been suspected of being homosexual and that has since been reclaimed as an emblem of queer delight. A white dove flies above the determine within the portray, leaving a rainbow path behind it — a motif that Diaz mentioned represents the queer spirit.

Jamie Diaz's painting "May Our Queer Spirits Forever Soar."
Jamie Diaz’s portray “Might Our Queer Spirits Perpetually Soar.”Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Wonderful Artwork

“Queer spirit means love, magnificence, and pleasure, to be proud and glad that we’re queer folks,” Diaz informed Joffe earlier this yr in an interview shared on her web site. “It’s like an emblem of happiness and acceptance. I’m attempting to make a robust assertion that the queer spirit has simply as a lot recognition or honor because the human spirit.”

Within the interview, Diaz shared that she begins her inventive course of in jail with a cup of espresso every morning. She mentioned she usually paints with watercolors on illustration boards and watercolor paper regardless that she prefers oil on canvas, and she or he makes use of her hand as a palette. She will get her supplies from the unit craft store and the commissary. 

“I typically ask for a lock of somebody’s hair (usually from different trans ladies on the unit) and use thread to make my very own paintbrushes,” she informed Joffe.

Jamie Diaz's painting "Trans is Beautiful and Healthy."
Jamie Diaz’s portray “Trans is Stunning and Wholesome.”Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Wonderful Artwork

Daniel Cooney, the proprietor of the gallery the place Diaz’s work can be displayed till Oct. 29, mentioned what struck him about Diaz and her work is the “sense of delight that she has about who she is.”

The jail system is “made to dehumanize you, and she or he’s very centered in who she is,” Cooney mentioned. “She additionally has delight, and she or he’s in a position to categorical it, and that’s actually profound.”

In an announcement in regards to the exhibit, Diaz mentioned she believes it is very important “shed as a lot gentle as doable on inequality in addition to present the integrity, braveness, magnificence, and love of LGBTQ folks.”

“We aren’t all good or all unhealthy, we’re simply human with our personal struggles, hopes, desires, and needs,” she continued. “And it’s for you most of all, stunning queer folks, that I create and dedicate my artwork. I hope that my artwork will honor you and produce you pleasure.” 

Joffe mentioned Diaz’s work is very necessary as a result of transgender individuals are extra more likely to expertise incarceration. 

Greater than 1 in 5 transgender girls (21%) reported that they frolicked in jail or jail — a price 4 instances larger than that of all U.S. adults, at 5% — in accordance with a 2016 report by the Motion Development Challenge, an LGBTQ suppose tank, and the Heart for American Progress, a liberal suppose tank. 

Jamie Diaz's painting "Cocoa and Cream Transgender Dream."
Jamie Diaz’s portray “Cocoa and Cream Transgender Dream.”Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Wonderful Artwork

Joffe mentioned there’s a direct connection between trans folks’s disproportionate incarceration and the tons of of payments filed by Republican state representatives over the past two years that search to limit trans folks’s rights.

“If trans folks can’t get jobs or aren’t paid as a lot, they’re pushed right into a criminalized economic system,” Joffe mentioned. “So there’s a direct trans-to-prison pipeline.”

However Joffe mentioned it could do Diaz a disservice if her artwork and her story have been solely about trauma or statistics, as a result of “she is the embodiment of trans and queer pleasure and resistance.” 

“There’s a legacy of that in our actions — even when stuff is unhealthy, individuals are dancing within the streets, and I see her as a direct embodiment of that,” Joffe mentioned.

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