This trans artist has been creating art from behind bars for nearly three decades

Jamie Diaz, a Mexican American transgender lady, has been incarcerated at a men’s prison in Texas for the previous 27 many years. 

All over that time, she’s been making watercolor paintings that celebrate queer and trans persons. Almost a 10 years of her get the job done, relationship again to 2013, debuts Thursday at Daniel Cooney Great Art in New York. 

The show, “Even Flowers Bleed,” is Diaz’s to start with solo art display, and it’s named for a series of continue to-existence paintings of flowers in vases. On the flowers’ thorns, there are drops of blood.

“Everything bleeds, almost everything feels discomfort,” Diaz, 64, stated in a statement about the sequence. “We’re not the only kinds…even flowers can damage. That is just aspect of nature.” 

A painting by Jamie Diaz.Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Good Art

In addition to the however lifes, the exhibit consists of portraits of Diaz and of Gabriel Joffe, her friend and co-curator of the show. Most of the paintings feature queer themes or symbols.

Diaz was born in the Chicago suburb of Waukegan, Illinois, although she grew up in Houston, according to her web-site. She has been producing artwork due to the fact she was a youngster, and as a younger adult she labored in a Texas tattoo store.

In 1996, she was sentenced to lifestyle in prison for aggravated robbery, and she is suitable for parole in 2025, according to the Texas Section of Prison Justice. 

The show will be a pivotal second for Diaz, according to Joffe, who employs gender-neutral pronouns. They explained they began writing letters to Diaz in 2013 though volunteering for Black and Pink, a team that advocates for jail abolition.

Jamie Diaz's painting "Gabriel in Transition."
Jamie Diaz’s portray “Gabriel in Changeover.”Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Great Artwork

Joffe explained they hope the exhibit will enable display that Diaz has a support community and that she would continue to add to the community if granted parole in 2025. In addition to staying Diaz’s initial solo show, “Even Bouquets Bleed” also marks the first time her queer artwork will be revealed to the public. It’s an additional stage in her increased aim to create the premier queer artwork selection in the earth, Joffe said.

“It feels like an significant second for her perform and for her system of hopeful re-entry,” they mentioned. “A tale like Jamie’s could incredibly effortlessly be instructed by a lens of trauma, but there is so a lot pleasure right here, and there is so much joy in her operate.”

Many of Diaz’s paintings function queer people or queer themes and motifs. In just one, titled “May Our Queer Spirits Endlessly Soar,” a faceless figure stands with its arms outstretched on a 3-dimensional pink triangle — a image that was utilised by Nazis to discover folks who were being imprisoned simply because they were suspected of remaining homosexual and that has since been reclaimed as a symbol of queer delight. A white dove flies earlier mentioned the figure in the portray, leaving a rainbow path guiding it — a motif that Diaz explained represents the queer spirit.

Jamie Diaz's painting "May Our Queer Spirits Forever Soar."
Jamie Diaz’s portray “May perhaps Our Queer Spirits Eternally Soar.”Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Great Artwork

“Queer spirit suggests appreciate, attractiveness, and pleasure, to be happy and content that we’re queer folks,” Diaz explained to Joffe before this yr in an job interview shared on her internet site. “It’s like a symbol of joy and acceptance. I’m trying to make a impressive statement that the queer spirit has just as a lot recognition or honor as the human spirit.”

In the job interview, Diaz shared that she begins her creative method in prison with a cup of coffee every early morning. She stated she often paints with watercolors on illustration boards and watercolor paper even though she prefers oil on canvas, and she employs her hand as a palette. She gets her components from the unit craft store and the commissary. 

“I from time to time request for a lock of someone’s hair (normally from other trans women on the device) and use thread to make my individual paintbrushes,” she informed Joffe.

Jamie Diaz's painting "Trans is Beautiful and Healthy."
Jamie Diaz’s painting “Trans is Lovely and Balanced.”Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Wonderful Artwork

Daniel Cooney, the owner of the gallery in which Diaz’s work will be displayed right up until Oct. 29, stated what struck him about Diaz and her work is the “sense of satisfaction that she has about who she is.”

The jail process is “made to dehumanize you, and she’s very centered in who she is,” Cooney explained. “She also has satisfaction, and she’s equipped to categorical it, and that’s actually profound.”

In a assertion about the exhibit, Diaz explained she believes it is essential to “shed as significantly light as achievable on inequality as nicely as clearly show the integrity, braveness, splendor, and like of LGBTQ folks.”

“We are not all great or all terrible, we are just human with our individual struggles, hopes, goals, and wants,” she ongoing. “And it is for you most of all, attractive queer people, that I develop and dedicate my art. I hope that my art will honor you and deliver you joy.” 

Joffe stated Diaz’s get the job done is specifically essential due to the fact transgender persons are additional probably to practical experience incarceration. 

A lot more than 1 in 5 transgender ladies (21%) claimed that they expended time in jail or jail — a level four occasions bigger than that of all U.S. grown ups, at 5% — according to a 2016 report by the Movement Advancement Undertaking, an LGBTQ consider tank, and the Centre for American Development, a liberal think tank. 

Jamie Diaz's painting "Cocoa and Cream Transgender Dream."
Jamie Diaz’s portray “Cocoa and Cream Transgender Aspiration.”Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Wonderful Artwork

Joffe reported there is a immediate connection amongst trans people’s disproportionate incarceration and the hundreds of charges filed by Republican point out reps above the very last two several years that find to restrict trans people’s legal rights.

“If trans people just cannot get work or aren’t paid as a lot, they’re pushed into a criminalized economic climate,” Joffe claimed. “So there’s a direct trans-to-jail pipeline.”

But Joffe explained it would do Diaz a disservice if her art and her tale were being only about trauma or statistics, because “she is the embodiment of trans and queer joy and resistance.” 

“There’s a legacy of that in our movements — even if things is bad, individuals are dancing in the streets, and I see her as a immediate embodiment of that,” Joffe claimed.

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Kenneth Proto

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