April 2019: Artist Statement

Gender identity influences our character, who we are, and has a large impact in our day-to-day interactions. While gender is a mental component, it is expressed through our bodies. It influences how we present ourselves to the outside world. I explore these topics of gender identity in reference to personal and social relations through painting and soft sculptures, interviews, video art and photography.

As you observe my work, you will immerse yourself in a setting filled with colour, lack of perspective and distorted light sources. The altered representation reflects our altered reality. The understanding of the binary, the assumed genders of other people and social expectations are not exactly as we know it to be; they are taught concepts. Through my work, I am exploring and pushing the boundaries of humanity and the gender complex.

I’d like to point out that sex is biological (physical), while gender is a social construction (mental). Yet, our sex tends to determine our gender, or at least, people assume our gender based on appearance. In this way, our gender is assumed by others, and they will treat us a certain way because of social pressures and learned behaviours.

For instance, children are often separated by gender at play time. There are girl toys and there are boy toys. The choice to play with either toy is available, but gender roles restrict our choices because of learned behaviours. Gender is complex, but social pressures limit self-expression through the binary (boy and girl). Society is based on a male or female experience.

I interviewed some friends and family members to explore their gender experiences and how they feel pressured to act/dress/perform in a certain way to conform to gender norms. Then I reflected on my own gender experience and considered how my family, friends and other social connections have impacted how I view myself and how I want others to view me respectively. Although I am born female, am visibly a woman in her early 20s growing up in a male dominated society that sexualizes women, I am so much more than that. I am also an art student, and my art is how I tell my story.

Shayla Hickerson

%d bloggers like this: