Mac McCusker received an MFA in Ceramics from Georgia State University and has taught at the college level at several universities in Georgia. Mac is a former resident artist and current instructor at Odyssey Clayworks in Asheville, NC. Mac’s work has been exhibited across the United States.
I am a transgender ceramic artist. While being trans is not a choice, being visible and therefore vulnerable is. I do not neatly fit into a box.
Gender presentation and the LGBTQ community are under attack in what is already a strikingly different nation under the presidency of Donald Trump. In my work, I am addressing the inequalities, prejudices, and fears of otherness that people do not understand. The bathroom laws targeting transgender people are promoting those fears and injustices. These laws promote discrimination against gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, and intersex people. It catapults transgender individuals into the spotlight and forces their private lives into a public dialogue.
These preconceptions of trans and gender non-conforming persons are why I have put myself on display despite my discomfort. It has become my own mission to both educate and inform through my work.
In 2016 I became an active participant in Project Canary, a collaborative group of artists creating and dropping art for people to find and keep in response to legislation that targets the most marginalized people in our communities. The project is explained on their website as follows:
The extreme and misguided decisions politicians make have real life repercussions. As our leaders send legislation such as bathroom bills, twenty week abortion bans and more into action, people’s lives are impacted. They claim to be protecting people, but often those whose lives are negatively impacted by these policies don’t have the privilege of telling their story. Project Canary honors the experience above the rhetoric by connecting people to each other through their individual untold stories.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote at length, and in the starkest and most personal terms, about what it means to be policed in America when you are black or brown. In the final section of her dissent in Utah v. Strieff—a Fourth Amendment case that probed whether the existence of an outstanding arrest warrant could serve as retroactive justification for an otherwise illegal police stop she said, “We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.”
I have continued to use this method of socially engaged craft in my work. I drove from North Carolina to California and back dropping off gender neutral ceramic magnets in bathrooms and rest stops in response to the bathroom bills that have swept the nation since the passing of House Bill 2 in North Carolina. I gave away 1000 of these art objects in an installation this year at ArtFields in Lake City, SC where there is currently no gender-neutral bathrooms. I have distributed these in Portland, Oregon and in Pittsburgh, PA. I have mailed these to high schools across the country upon request. Spreading visibility and education about transgender rights and equality is a pivotal part of my artistic endeavors.
I have recently reached out to the Gender Expansion project in Montana to collaborate about the needs of the LGBTQ population there. Their aim is to broaden the definition and expectations of gender identity and presentation. I would like to create art objects to place around Montana that will educate and promote visibility about gender identity to combat stereotypes of femininity and masculinity. The fluidity of gender in our current age is often mistaken for representations about sexual preference. Gender does not equal sex. Gender identity has nothing to do with sexuality. It is my goal to create several different art pieces that are well crafted and to create a dialogue around these issues. It is the object that will communicate and encourage a much-needed conversation.
I use humor in my work to make it approachable and relatable to a less informed audience. I incorporate my story and portrait into the ongoing narratives surrounding transgender individuals. It is an effort to place myself and others like me onto a broader platform where identity can be discussed and amplifies the voices of those of us whose lives are affected by stigma and stereotyping. It is my opportunity to control my own narrative and tell my story using clay as media.