People Like Me Exist
Luan Joy Sherman
On the Flagpole
“There are approximately 1.4 million transgender people living in the United States. The Trump Administration and the conservative media would have you believe we are a very small, minority population within this country. We are thought to occupy the most “extreme” margins of everyday life. We are depicted as dangerous, abstract creatures, undeserving of access to basic resources and human rights. In reality, we walk among you. You depend on our labor as we depend on yours. We are your neighbors, classmates, educators, healthcare providers, personal trainers, dance teachers, soldiers, waitresses, cultural icons, city council members, authors, artists, family, and friends.
The cisgender-heterocentric Matrix constricts and suffocates society like a tube sock made of wool. As trans people, our mere existence is a form of resistance. Trans pride is radical. “People like me” aren’t “supposed to” exist. And yet, here we are. Surviving, thriving, and embodying alternatives to the universally oppressive rules of binary sex and gender. At this critical moment in US history, when our right to exist is being threatened and contested, my hope is that this flag will serve as a daily reminder for both cis and trans people that we are here, we are human, and we can never be erased.”
–Luan Joy Sherman, November 2018
Luan Joy Sherman currently works at the intersections of object hacking, fitness, rock climbing, queer separatism, and accessibility. His practice is rooted in movement, utility, vulnerability, and play. He utilizes athletic training, collage, writing, and drawing to generate points of access to conversations around trans identity, accessibility, labor, and masculinity. He works with his body and trans invisibility directly, as an archive and social sculptural medium. This manifests in his drawing, video, sound, and performance work.
Sherman investigates DIY, no-equipment training culture as a way to make fitness more accessible in the everyday and to build a bridge across the Western mind-body gap. He believes athletic practice can be about healing and forgiveness. In this space, and perhaps only in this space, he has learned to cooperate with the body he has fought since puberty. Training teaches Sherman to be curious about failure, to focus on progress, and to address the trauma that is stored in his muscles and joints every day.
As a queer and trans athlete, Luan Sherman occupies an “outsider” position in the highly gendered culture of sports. His fluid, evolving physique negates many of society’s deeply embedded ideas around the “biologically invariable” differences between male and female bodies. He uses his body as a sculptural object, a site for material exploration, a political statement, a fact sheet, and a guide for how to construct objects that engage our universal experience of having a body.
Luan Joy Sherman (b. 1993), is a queer, transgender artist living in Chicago, IL and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He uses drawing, sculpture, performance, video, and social projects to address trans identity politics in America, queer representation, masculinity, and athletic performance. He is interested in failure, performance, and “passing” as it relates to gender and aims to generate dialogue around the regulation and control of queer bodies in the US.
He graduated from The Savannah College of Art and Design in 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting. He has attended residencies at The Chautauqua School of Art (2014), Black Mountain School (2016), ACRE (2017), and SPACE Gallery (2018). In February 2018, he received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant as the Artist in Residence at SPACE Gallery in Portland, ME. He has been a faculty member and community organizer for School of the Alternative in Black Mountain, NC since 2016. His work has been published in STRANGEWAYS Magazine, Unvarnished Mag, ARKHAM, and HELIANTHEA SCALESIA.
He has exhibited work in galleries and project spaces in Lacoste, France, Manhattan and Brooklyn, NY, Atlanta and Savannah, GA, Black Mountain, NC, Austin, TX, Cedar Rapids, IA, and Chicago, IL. His work was shown at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan, NY during their Trans Film Series in 2017. His first solo show, “HOMECOMING”, was hosted by Little Berlin Gallery in Philadelphia, PA in May 2018. He will be performing at ACRE Gallery in Chicago, IL in December and as a part of a group exhibition at Loyola University in Chicago, IL in February, 2019.
He is currently building and developing a sound project space in the back of his car as a way to make sound art and audio recording more accessible and affordable for queer and trans people. This mobile project will include a bi-weekly podcast, a short-term residency program, and a micro-exhibition space.
Follow Luan on Instagram – @loo_en