Queer Issue 2014
Photographer Zackary Drucker is making waves. She recently published a gorgeous coffee-table art book, along with artist Amos Mac, called TRANSLADY FANZINE. In addition, Drucker's photographic documentation of her five-year romantic partnership with Rhys Ernst (who transitioned from female to male), titled simply Relationship, landed in the 2014 Whitney Biennial in New York City. She's showing and performing in art galleries on the regular, in both NYC and her home of Los Angeles. I spoke to her on the phone as she sat in the parking lot of Paramount Studios, where she and Ernst are working as consultants on a new television show that will air this September called Transparent.
When did you start making art?
When I was very young, 3 or 4 years old, I derived great pleasure from diving into my mother's dress-up clothes—prom dresses, dance costumes. I'd get dressed up, and my parents would take a Polaroid. We had a photo album full of pictures of me as lots of different female selves. I really consider that album my first art project and the foundation for my art practice as an adult. I've always used art as a place to explore. I picked up photography in high school—it really got me through those years. There was a black-and-white darkroom, and I spent most of my entire four years of school in it. I photographed my friends, my mother, and myself. I had a really strong portfolio, and this led me to the School of Visual Arts in New York, and later CalArts in California.
You've done videos and performance art with strong language, like your video FISH: A Matrilineage of Cunty White-Woman Realness, and you're constantly doing interviews. Do you have any nasty internet trolls?
I find the internet heartbreaking sometimes. When an interview is written, I NEVER read the comments. Being a cultural producer is a lot like being a trans person, in that you can't allow the outside world to define you. You have to maintain a self-definition that isn't altered or affected by the things that other people are saying. It goes the other way, too—if you're motivated by praise from other people, what happens when the message changes? Ultimately, you have to keep on doing what you're doing and not hinge any of it on recognition.
Relationship was full of really personal photographs, of you and someone you love. Did you feel vulnerable hanging this show on the walls of the Whitney Museum?
Oh, yes. It's all very vulnerable work. It's hard to revisit—and one of the reasons I try not to think too much about how my work is being consumed.
Another queer artist and photographer, Ryan McGinley, who has also shown work at the Whitney, just gave an amazing speech at Parsons School of Design on "advice for young artists." What advice would you give your teenage self?
Ha! What would I say? I think, most importantly, to believe in possibility. Manifest your wildest dreams and stick with them until they happen. This is similar to a piece of advice a famous friend of mine, another kind of trans cultural figure, Laverne Cox, gave me when I was very young. She said, "Imagine the WILDEST thing—the most far-fetched goal." She basically said, "Reach for the moon and make it happen." I really believe that we as humans can make anything possible with enough determination and work.
I think we're steeped in a culture that tells us we're inadequate and we need to keep consuming things—things to modify and improve who we are—and it's really distracting. And none of it matters.
Looking forward and backward—who are your favorite trans artists?
Greer Lankton is one of my artist role models. She explored her struggle with gender identity through sculpture and making dolls, and she was included in the Venice Biennale. Then some of my favorites are the people in my life—Flawless Sabrina, Kate Bornstein, Justin Bond, Ron Athey (who isn't trans, but still a favorite).
I'm just happy trans is in the conversation. There's so much possibility on the horizon. There haven't been many transgender artists, historically, but I'm looking forward to a future full of trans people.