Today we’re joined by Jude. Jude is a phenomenal visual artist who works with a variety of materials to create gorgeous works of art. Their work is stunning and incredibly unique, obviously made with a great deal of care. When they’re not creating visual art, Jude enjoys dancing and has done a variety of ballroom styles as well as performed in drag shows. It’s clear they’re a passionate artist who loves what they do, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’ve worked with many, many materials and prefer mixed-material pieces. I’ve also spent the better part of my life dancing, but didn’t incorporate my own choreography until I had moved away for college.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by what I see most often. That used to be nature – animals, pastel colors in the plants, fluid movement – but after moving into a huge metropolitan area for medical school I’m struggling to draw inspiration from the urban disaster that I live in. The architecture is all sharp lines and dark colors, neither of which appealed to me and yet both of which have influenced my work.
That said, when I previously lived in smaller towns I created some of my favorite pieces. This first one is a dress made wholly from dried maples leaves and tulle. The leaves were collected slowly from my school’s campus, dried over the course of a month, and pinned into place with needle-thin sewing pins. Because the leaves are attached by one pin each, their edges rustle and they move around a bit when the piece is being transported. It sounds like fall.
The second and third pieces were forays into materials that I did not have previous experience with. I was encouraged to try plaster casting, and found that it is a pain in the rear to dry the plaster (I lived in a very humid state) enough to paint and seal the form. I did enjoy the beadwork aspect. The fish was my shot at metalwork – every scale is hand-cut from copper sheeting and attached individually to the aluminum body. I had fish of one type or another for nearly 18 years, and their constant motion was hard to capture in a still object.
I started dancing when I was very young, but I found a home with ballroom. I danced the waltz, foxtrot, tango, rumba, swing, west coast swing, bolero, paso doble, cha-cha, and some others that I’ve forgotten. I keep up with waltz, foxtrot, tango, and paso doble as best I can – in college I joined a graduate student tango association – but after moving I have not found a new partner. Ballroom was so special to me because I danced for five years with one partner and the bond we created over those years has lasted even after I stopped competing and moved away.
After moving for college I ended up getting involved with my school’s drag show. At that time I was encouraged to try performing solo and choreographed a burlesque routine. At my college I felt overwhelmed at the sexual undertones of everything and being able to perform on a stage where I could step into a sexualized persona and step out of it after was gratifying. The confidence from performing gave me a way to block sexual advances off stage too. I performed in that drag show every year.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always wanted to create. I didn’t know until I started elementary school that creating things was generally called artwork and could be executed to a more satisfying degree with the help of new materials, new inspirations, and enough space to test my ideas. My favorite media is actually white clay. It’s cheap, it’s hard to ruin (and if you do, just recycle it into slip), and you can produce art with it in so many ways: wheel throwing, hand sculpting, slip casting, the list goes on. Ironically I never thought to take photos of my clay work because I imagined that I would always have the pieces in my living space.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I used to sign my work with a fang stamp when I was in high school, but that was only because scribbling your name onto a clay pot makes the glaze run funny. I don’t usually sign my work. I like to use as much color as I possibly can on every piece to create dramatic contrast and draw the eye through my work. I got better at this while making my costumes for dancing.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
I would advise you to make art that makes you happy. If you try a new material and every time you revisit it you want to throw it away in frustration, stop using it! When making art becomes a chore you will struggle to impart meaning into your work and you will burn out.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I’m one of the people that ‘just knew’ they weren’t straight. I was raised in a small town with very conservative views about sexuality, so I grew up thinking you had basically two options: straight or gay. I figured that since I was absolutely not straight, I must just be gay. I kept thinking that until a good friend made a comment about my absolute lack of desire and said “I think you’re some flavor of asexual”. I had never heard that word in my life and didn’t give the label much thought until several years (and failed relationships) later, when I did some very basic research and realized that my friend was right. But I didn’t search much after that. The town I grew up in was unsafe for gays and I seriously doubted that ‘changing’ to asexual would make the hostility better; in college I just let the LGBT community assume I wasn’t interested in a relationship. Even in medical school I let people make whatever assumption they need to, and if they ask I still answer just gay. It’s hard for me to conceptualize myself as asexual and harder still for other people to understand it without a five minute Q&A that I am not prepared to give.
Having taken to google just now, I see that there are many identities inside of asexual. I am wildly unprepared to choose one of them and will continue to define myself as an asexual person who is interested in having an intimate relationship where the emotional connection between my partner and myself is the priority.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve encountered a great deal of ignorance, usually in the context of a joke. Lots of variations on “You are in a bad mood because you just need to get laid”. Lots of backhanded comments about how anyone who doesn’t want sex must be broken, or that asexuals just need to see this one great porn movie to realize they aren’t actually asexual. It makes me very uncomfortable. I try to respond with the assertion that jokes of this type aren’t welcome and if they are going to continue with them I will excuse myself.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Easy – it doesn’t exist. I read it when I google asexuality and I heard it frequently in college from my LGBT community. It sucks. It’s like saying a certain flower doesn’t exist just because it’s not in your garden. It is very weird to hear people deny asexuality out loud.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
I would advise you to not give into peer pressure and do things because someone else says you will like it. Specifically, if you have to get black out drunk to consider having sex with your partner, you should probably re-evaluate your situation.
I would also like to point out that doing research and reading about the difference between aseuxal identities and other LGBT identities will help you become more secure in your identity. At the end of the day it’s just a label. If it’s really important to you, great! And if it’s not, that’s fine too.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I don’t know! I don’t have an online gallery or shop since I don’t sell my work. If people want to get in contact with me they can use my email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, Jude, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s much appreciated.