My Mom is a Body Builder and So Am I
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My Mom is a Bodybuilder and so am I is both practice and an experiment in using my own body as a subject. For the past three years, I have been creating lithographs of abstracted collaged bodies, often using charcoal drawings from artists like John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins.1 This practice was born out of my frustration in graduate school and the limitations of art historical queer readings. In all my prints, there is an undeniable sense of “other” that the forms hold, often understood as trans bodies without any explicit signalling.2 Having moved past the catharsis of creating these images long ago, I wanted to make a shift to a clearer trans narrative in my work, and using my own body as image source was the most direct method. These drawings are the beginnings of my exploration with my body as subject, while also thinking about the transness of my body and the experience of my gender transition. By pairing them with the body of my professional bodybuilder mom3 and the ways her body transitions, it feels simultaneously more lighthearted as well as more personal, taking a deep dive right at the start so it gets easier later on.
Editor’s Note: Sam continues his exploratory visual practice of collaging together bits and pieces of bodies in this zine. Deconstructing and reconfiguring the already fragmented portraits plays further with the idea of building bodies.
Sam writes about his process with these collaged bodies as the 2020 Andrew W. Mellon Summer Intern in Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, RISD Museums. Read “An Act of Necessary Transfiguration” here.
Editor’s note: In one of our conversations, Sam recalled this unprompted recognition of transness in his work. He posted his collaged “beefcakes” on Instagram without explanatory text, but even without any note about their trans content/context, an old acquaintance reached out to express gratitude about how the collages articulated something that resonated with their own grappling with bodies and gender expression.
See Robin Nehila compete in (and win) the 2008 Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders MidAtlantic Classic, here.