Sometimes the most fundamental function of art is simply to assert the artist’s own existence—to literally make their mark, to preserve the contours of their life and times for history, and to offer their experience, testament, and vision to the world around them right now. In the case of multidisciplinary artist Page Person, that experience and vision centers around their own process of becoming who they are. Across drawing, painting, sculpture, storytelling, music, and performance, Person first processed, then repaired and transcended her experience of ostracization from the art world community that followed her coming out as trans—and her powerful subsequent experience of stepping into her power. Asserting her personhood in the face of ongoing attempts at political marginalization and erasure, expressing the kaleidoscopic rainbow of her innate human potential, Person has become her own greatest muse and gratefully offers her own lived experience as a prism through which we can all view ourselves. That she does this in big, bold, statement pieces in the form of visual art and razzle-dazzle gowns (mediums she considers interchangeable) only adds to the poignant joy of it all.
This integrated approach to art and life makes her emblematic of the current Made in L.A. 2023: Acts of Living biennial at the Hammer Museum, with its focus on art as, “an expanded field of culture that is entangled with everyday life,” and where she will perform her interactive one-woman show “How I Became a Person” this Thursday, November 16.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
PAGE PERSON: Always.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
It seems necessary for me to remind people that I am a person. I made it my mission in life to assert my personhood in as many different formats as possible. My right to exist has been constantly under question since coming out as trans and I use my work to say “I am a person.” I want people to learn empathy for each other’s varied experiences. Life is beautiful and we should all get to enjoy it in the way we like.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I went to the now defunct Atlanta College of Art and had the time of my life. I moved to L.A. ostensibly for the MFA programs—but a mentor suggested that I just get a studio and read books and meet the people that inspired me. I did go to every visiting artist lecture at UCLA and even did studio visits there posing as a student before having adjunct teaching gigs there. For better or for worse, that was my experience and it has given me an interesting life.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
L.A. has a culture and an art scene, but it also gives you lots of space to have a life outside of just going to gallery openings. I love that I can have a studio and be anonymous and go walk on a grassy hillside watching ravens chase coyotes—and then be at an after hours warehouse party with a bunch of drag queens and club kids. You can have community but you can also have a personal bubble.
When was your first show?
In 1994 I was in a show at Richard Telles called THE FREED WEED. I fell in love with L.A. and moved here from Atlanta a couple of years later.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
In conjunction with Made in L.A. 2023 I am putting on a solo performance at the Hammer called HOW I BECAME A PERSON on Thursday, November 16. The show describes how performing in the DTLA drag scene nurtured something in me bigger than my individual self. I want to show my journey from isolation to community in a fun way to invite allyship and advocate for trans rights.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
The Page Person/Rick Owens collab…period.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Telling stories has become an important part of my art practice. When I am painting I usually talk into a microphone and narrate the painting’s needs and what I am doing. Like: “It wants a big red dot, not too big, exactly… HERE.” It is about being in the moment and thinking about what story that this piece is telling. I make ambient sound loops to create an atmosphere but rarely listen to recorded music by other people in the studio. When I’m sewing I love to listen to a podcast (I highly recommend Sibling Rivalry, Gender Reveal, and The Allusionist).
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