Portraits of Androgyny

Androgyny, to me, has always been the essence of intelligence and beauty. I grew up following female cross-dressers from internationally popular stories, but as it turns out they are a staple in Romanian fairy stories as well. In these tales, they reject men in favour of being who they want to be: working, travelling or meeting interesting people. Being a tomboy myself, I can tell you this is only part of the story: the rejection happens only on the surface, and is aimed at society’s restrictions. She will not be bound to such misery. Underneath however, a tomboy is a true romantic, and her warrior persona is aimed at discovering the one who is right for her on all levels (usually a wise man who is not afraid to show feminine qualities). Discovering one’s true partner  was in fact the original aim of Martial Art contests, long ago. Warrior women or female knights are referenced in various cultures around the world, such as the Onna Bugeisha in Japan (the name itself suggests their skills are simply another form of art) or Persian women’s cavalry units.

In Romania, when pre-Sumerian Cucuteni Culture first introduced male cross-dressing figures, “religious canon was loosened and artists began to take charge of their own art” (Monah, 2011). The mythical ancestor in Cucuteni Culture is a hermaphrodite (the Primordial Ox mentioned in the Zoroastrian Avesta), so what the male cross-dressers did was to release this information to the wider public. The religious performance was not about their individual desires at this point, but about connecting with this original information, which in turn terminated the need to maintain a prestigious image. So while in the beginning this culture thrived on principles like accumulation of prestigious objects, later on artists shifted their focus towards democratization of religion by widely sharing in the Thinker’s symbolism.

Closet cultures were brought about by farming, when freedom of thought and appreciation of the wild in each of us began to fade away. Because only in farming (the widespread practice of which only took off after the primordial Disaster) does one need to control the outer “role” that males or females must play, in order to generate profit – something that does not apply to wild animals. Diversity exists in nature: for example snakes can change not only their skin but also their gender, which is why the image of a serpent (symbolic of water, gender-fluidity) was associated with our ancestor, and subsequently hated and misunderstood.

Through my art, I strive to understand how religion, romantic interest and sexuality are interlinked through fantasy, and how sharing our knowledge about these aspects can work towards increased respect for all, freedom from illusion, and ultimate happiness.

1. The Rose of Versailles/1997. The story of Lady Oscar, an androgynous-looking woman raised as a boy at the court of Marie Antoinette, was popular in many countries including Saudi Arabia. The animé is from 1979, referencing the fashion of that time and back-sending it to 1789, during the French Revolution. My style of placing together different scenes from a character’s “destiny” helped me understand their essence. In this case, it was not fitting in on any political side, historical changes, and figuring out one’s true feelings among all that.

2. Medusa/2002. Ink on smooth-finish paper, cut-out. One of my first attempts to draw Brian May of Queen, who (in his words) appeared “androgynous, esoteric” to American audiences. In Greek mythology, Medusa is misrepresented as evil due to her mortality, suggesting that a secret is missing from elite knowledge (from their belief in classical dualism). For me the image had been just a funny joke, but the video for the song Resurrection actually shows May with Medusa hair “rising” from a prison of ignorance to visionary shamanism. The arrival of YouTube hadn’t happened yet.

3. Tomboy/2003. Watercolour, collage. In Zoroastrian mythology, Zurvan was an androgynous being who created Time and would also end Time by projecting Ahriman into the Abyss. This painting happened in response to literature class, where male writers were always given preference, and analyzed by other male writers we were expected to quote in our commentaries. Yet I could relate much better when I was allowed to do it directly. Issues such as depression were very familiar to me, but a genius was traditionally male and was believed to have no true mate. By contrast Nature, the creator of all genius for her own protection, always has mating in mind. “Projecting into the Abyss” means to travel to the point of origin and awaken to spectrum of sexuality as an important factor in fulfilling the intellect. So it is not high intelligence which causes depression by (supposedly) not being matched; it is a type of cultural bias towards the category of eternity versus mortality, a bias which translates as racism in historical terms.

(to be continued)