Trans women haven’t historically been represented in traditional oil painting. Artist Janet Bruesselbach wants to change that with a new series of paintings, Daughters of Mercury. Janet took a few moments to share what inspired the project and what she brings the art as a classically-trained artist.
In the Daughters of Mercury Kickstarter campaign, Janet Bruesselbach aims to create a series of full-length oil portraits of trans women. In her campaign video, Janet explains that she wants “to paint them how they want to be seen while exploring the complexity of gender representation.”
The idea for Daughters of Mercury grew out of the online community Janet has grown to love. She says, “society has only recently become more welcoming to them, mostly through a kind of snowball of virtual support, although I hesitate to call it unified in any way. There are many dangers to higher visibility, as well, and I can only hope to keep understanding expanding with trans women as painting subjects.”
A classically-trained artist, her work needs to keep in mind the values of Western art history cannon and how oil painting demands historical significance. Specifically with Daughters of Mercury, she wants to “want to refer to the near invisibility of trans women in art history, what that implies both about how society’s definitions around sex and gender change and about how history can work to oppress.”
In 2011, she ran a successful Kickstarter for Teleportraiture, a project which “to examine the tenuous technology, strange intimacy, and charged emotions around communicating remotely, by making the archaic oil portraiture tradition site-unspecific and international in a way that, if anything, makes it more personalized.”
When asked what success would look like for the Daughters of Mercury body of work, she answers, that besides making painting that she and each of her models love, “selling enough of them to actually be able to be keep making paintings, or to fund other projects. I have more models that deserve portraits than fit into the project, and I would genuinely like to continue the series another year or double how many paintings I make, paying models as much as they need, not as much as I can barely spare.”
This Kickstarter campaign is very personal to Janet for another reason. During the two years of wanting to create the work, but lacking the time or resources, she no longer felt like an artist.She couldn’t see a way to move beyond classical painting and couldn’t think about any other art she wanted to make. By the end, she hopes to “come out of this project either with new work to do, or with closure to my career as an artist, having done work I consider important.”
Backer rewards run from the $5 level to be included on regular updates and a credit in the calendar to the $6,000 level for one of the original paintings. The $25 level includes a printed wall calendar featuring the portraits.