1.) an aperture or gap, especially one allowing access
2.) a beginning; an initial part:
a.) the occasion of a play, exhibit, public building, etc. being declared open or ready for use, marked by a celebratory gathering or ceremony
b.) a recognised sequence of moves at the beginning of a game
c.) an attorney’s preliminary statement of a case in a court of law
d.) an open piece of ground in a wooded area; a clearing
3.) an opportunity to achieve something
(Featured Image: Julian viewing his pieces "Far From Any Hope of Harbour" and "Welcome to the Precipice" hung and lit for the opening.)
(Image above: Guests browsing Julian's Water Works exhibit at the Holter Museum of Art.)
2020 introduced us all to the idea of “social bubbles” when the coronavirus pandemic first swept the globe, and efforts to protect the safety of various immunocompromised family members have kept mine small ever since, so when more than 300 fellow artists, community members, and allies came to the opening of my shared exhibit at the Holter Museum of Art last week, I found myself truly overwhelmed by the reminder of how powerful it is to “find your people”: the people who are moved by what moves you; who have shared your struggles; who stand on your path because it has also been their own. I’m a person who very much enjoys a nice bit of solitude, but humans as a species are social creatures, and we need community to be truly whole.
(Image: Julian and his wife, Madeline, laughing together in front of his piece "Here Comes the Breaking" during the exhibit opening)
I grew up in rural Montana in a time and place without any representation of transgender people and no vocabulary to discuss the surrounding ideas, and as anthropologists have observed in their studies of various cultures, until you have words for an idea, it’s very difficult for our brains to grasp it. Like so many lost young queer kids trying to survive an adolescence that left me always on the outside of every social peer group for reasons I couldn’t fathom, I gravitated to the theatre. In a context where I was allowed to try on other identities, I finally began to uncover my own, and yet for years after that, I continued to wrestle with a sense of resignation: even if I understood who I was on the inside, there was no way to really BE that person in the eyes of the world. I’d been cast in a role that wasn’t negotiable, as I saw it, and so I did my best to learn my lines and master the choreography assigned. I knew what I was supposed to be, to do, to look like, and yet the closer I got to that ideal, the more it felt like one more costume, a mask that left me invisible somewhere beneath. Taking it off, however, felt like letting down everyone around me. I didn’t have the words to talk about any of the things I was experiencing, so I just got quieter.
Perhaps it was a clue the year I was 13, when I spent summer camp avoiding the other girls to play D&D with two nerdy boys I’d befriended instead, or when I tried to sing with the tenors instead of the altos in my high school sophomore choir. Maybe I should have known when my freshman-year university friends teased me about having “p*nis-entitlement days”. Romantic developments certainly affirmed the hypothesis, and plenty of attempted flirtations fell flat when I was inevitably approached by exactly the wrong kind of person while presenting as a woman. College classes and changing social norms have brought me words for people like me - genderqueer, transmasculine, gender-nonconforming - a whole vocabulary of ideas that affirms to me that I am far from the only one.
We don’t come into self-awareness all at once; growth is an ongoing aspect of living. I have just completed my first year of hormone therapy for gender dysphoria, and with the help of some fairly minor medical assists, I am feeling at home in my own body at 35 in a way I had come to think was impossible for me since early adolescence. I am at ease socially in ways I have struggled to be my entire life, finally comfortable with the person I am. And I am terrified, because people like me are being actively targeted as outlets for the fearful rage being stoked in our neighbours by right-wing influences; our healthcare is under threat, our right to walk peacefully down the street, to use the bathroom without harassment, to participate in our communities, to raise our families, to be safe from violence and free of religious oppression - to live, to love, to be.
(Image: Exhibit poster for the Transilience collection at the Holter Museum of Art.)
I spent a long time in my life trying to disappear into the background of every situation, too unsure of my own voice to speak, too afraid of mistakes to make an attempt, but I didn’t like letting other people speak for me, either, and no matter how small I made myself, I still didn’t fit. Eventually, about a decade ago, I undertook a year-and-a-day of complete silence as part of coming to terms with my own identity and obligations, and now I am learning, day by day and piece by piece, to put my words into my work and into the world. Being part of the Transilience collection at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, MT alongside Rae Senarighi’s stunning larger-than-life Transcend exhibit, which features portraits of trans joy and power, is a privilege and an honour, and it feels supremely fitting as the crowning mark of my artistic achievements so far and also - I hope - the launch of a new phase of growth in my professional career as a creator. I acknowledge my fear on many fronts, but I am thrilled and full of PRIDE to be part of a movement that is building so much that is beautiful; more than anything, I hope the work I do adds bricks to the growing foundation, leaving those who follow in our wake on firmer ground and opening new doors into a future infinite with possibilities.
(Image: Julian standing with his piece "When You Know That Goodbye Is Inevitable" at the exhibit opening at the Holter Museum of Art)
🦊 Hi, my name is Julian; my pronouns are he/him/they. I am the genderqueer/trans Montana Artrepreneur Program (MAP) certified artist behind Fox Spirit Design (@foxspiritdesign). I work in both digital and mixed media to create narrative works and mythological animal portraits inspired by the beauty of nature and the inherent power of stories to affect reality. My hobbies include hiking with dogs, devouring books, getting geeky about the ways we use words, and trying to leave the world a little bit cleaner & kinder for everyone.
🎁 If you like what I do, you can find more of my work here on my website, follow me on IG or FB, and/or support me on Patreon.