"Awash in Bodies:" Sensual Watercolors and The Little Mermaid as Trans Fairy Tale
What was your favorite part of The Little Mermaid? Was it the classic fish-out-of-water moment when Ariel styles her hair with a dinglehopper? Perhaps when the enchantress cuts out the mermaid's tongue in payment for her potion? Ah, Disney omitted that detail from Hans Christian Andersen's original tale, along with the mermaid's suicide. Artist Jos Truitt also strayed from the Disney version, but felt a connection with the story since childhood, reading it as a "trans fairy tale."
"I got a lot of responses from other transwomen about the resonance of this story,"
recounts Truitt, an editor at feministing.com as well as a visual artist.
She exhibits pieces inspired by the story alongside watercolor paintings by Colette
Standish in "Awash in Bodies: Work on Paper by Colette Standish and Jos Truitt,"
curated by Dorian Katz and Marlene Hoeber.
Truitt combines a variety of printmaking techniques, including impressions of actual fish
scales and human fingerprints. Like Andersen's mermaid whose feet felt like they "were
walking on the sharp edges of swords," Truitt's transformations are incomplete, bloody
fragments of fins cleaving to scaly legs, but her path diverges from the original tragic
ending in taking charge of her destiny, finding "a place to try for some agency."
Of her new work, much of which was created for
this show. Standish is forthright: "This is all about sex." Although somewhat abstracted and dreamily blurred by the watercolor, her
figures, playfully winking with their backs arched and legs spread, make that much clear.
But there's also what the artist calls "marrying the intellect with the sensual." "With the watercolors you've got all this soft, yin, feminine stuff, and you've got these aggressive marks that come in," Standish says. "So the two of them play off each other. It's kind of a sensual dance between the two."
The opening reception for "Awash in Bodies" starts at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 with an artist talk at 8 p.m. (and continues through Jan. 27) at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission (at 10th St.), S.F. Admission is free.