From the early days of her childhood in Chile, the transgender artist Lorenza Böttner* had a watch for magnificence; she was notably drawn to birds, fascinated by their lightness and freedom. At some point, because the eight-year-old Lorenza was strolling to highschool, she seen feathers falling from a nest tucked in an electrical pylon overhead. Eager to see the hatchlings for herself, she climbed up the pylon however was startled by the sudden flight of a hen, which brought on her to fall and be severely electrocuted. When confronted with the terrible burden of not understanding whether or not her baby would survive the accident, Böttner’s mom fought onerous to supply her with the perfect medical care obtainable, arguing that if there was “simply an ear left on [her] physique” then it was value it. Lorenza lived however misplaced each of her arms.
Regardless of the innumerable obstacles she confronted after being institutionalized for remedy in her dad and mom’ native Germany, Böttner rejected “incapacity training” and as an alternative selected to attend artwork faculty on the Kunsthochschule Kassel. (Whereas there, she started publicly figuring out as feminine, however maintained a fluid gender identification and pronouns for the remainder of her life.) Thus started her outstanding profession as an artist, the fruits of which may be seen in her first-ever United States exhibition on the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork.
Böttner, who made artwork utilizing her mouth and ft, developed a powerful, multidisciplinary physique of labor that spans portray, images, efficiency artwork, drawing, and dance. An untitled pastel drawing that depicts the artist in three completely different modes of dresshangs at the beginning of the exhibition, as if to say her multiplicity. The leftmost Lorenza poses in a classically female, virtually Victorian fashion, full with lipstick and a painted-on magnificence mark; on the identical time, her low-cut gown reveals an abundance of chest hair, a tacit refusal to evolve her physique to the binary norm. To her proper, we see the artist with lengthy, braided hair in a extra gender-neutral outfit, whereas the rightmost determine presents as classically masculine, sporting a full go well with and facial hair. Right here, Böttner doesn’t simply place herself on a spectrum — she is the spectrum. On this piece, gender will not be an ossified closing vacation spot, neither is transness a straight vector; Böttner appears to insist that the self can inhabit the physique in a number of and numerous methods, none of that are mutually unique. It’s a liberating perspective.
Böttner herself eluded classification in seemingly each space of her life:s She was seen as a German in Chile, however Chilean in Germany; her training meant that she wasn’t an outsider artist, however because of her incapacity and transness, she was hardly welcomed as an “insider” both. In her photograph collection Face Artwork (1983), Böttner channels the ever-influential work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose œuvre impressed a complete technology of photographers to reimagine their typologies throughout the context of the self. The collection paperwork Böttner transferring between identities, making an attempt on and taking off numerous gender signifiers. She distorts her options with paint and maps out the varied angles of her face, demonstrating a transparent aesthetic kinship with the work of Janice Man, one other Becher protégée whose late-Nineteen Seventies self-portraiture not too long ago made waves on the Impartial Artwork Honest.
Different works within the present recommend a variety of influences, from Tom of Finland to the “Venus de Milo.” Böttner’s extra homoerotic works on paper from the Nineteen Seventies make use of the spherical, sensual strains and exaggerated bodily traits that had been the hallmark of Finland’s illustrations. Against this, one haunting untitled work from 1985 reveals a crowded avenue from Böttner’s perspective: women and men alike stare brazenly on the viewer, their faces betraying expressions of shock and even worry. The angularity and coloring of the figures remembers that of portray from Nineteen Twenties and ’30s Weimar Germany, the work of Otto Dix specifically. Böttner, used to being handled as a spectacle, said that such consideration didn’t trouble her: “I prefer to open individuals’s eyes and present them how silly it’s to cover behind a bourgeois façade,” she as soon as mentioned. Her 1987 efficiency because the “Venus de Milo” in New York — one of many conceptual highlights of the present present — epitomizes this method. She asks: Why are Greek statues which have misplaced their limbs seen as equally, if no more, stunning, whereas precise human our bodies are discriminated towards and pushed to put on prosthetics, even whether it is towards their very own needs?
Böttner was an interesting, complicated determine whose life was tragically minimize quick in 1994 because of AIDS-related issues. Consistent with her indomitable will, she continued to make artwork till the very finish: she made a few of the final works within the present whereas in hospice care, drawing a portrait and a bouquet of flowers in marker on hospital napkins. Regardless of their sophisticated relationship, Böttner’s mom preserved her archive after her dying, saving her from the destiny of numerous queer artists whose work has been misplaced to historical past or deliberately erased by their subsequent of kin. We’re fortunate that Lorenza Böttner’s work and her enduring spirit stay on.
*Though Lorenza Böttner continued to make use of her delivery identify and pronouns sometimes over the course of her life, this text mirrors the Leslie-Lohman Museum’s determination to confer with Böttner by her chosen identify, which is a variation of the center identify she was given at delivery.
Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm continues on the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork (26 Wooster Avenue, Soho, Manhattan) by means of August 14. The exhibition was curated by Paul B. Preciado.