Y'señia Almaguer’s turquoise-colored living room in her small Miami apartment doubles as her inspiration room.
A stack of art books featuring Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel sit atop a purple and pink end table. Nearby, a towering bedazzled Santeria altar accented in gold honors Oshun, the orisha or god of love and femininity.
Adjacent to the altar is where Almaguer creates. Her painting nook is wallpapered with doodles, a portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat and a graffiti poster demanding that we all “coexist.”
“I’ve always been very creative, and I’ve always wanted to tell my story through my work,” says Almaguer. Her paintings are inspired by her Cuban heritage, her religion -- Santeria -- and her personal journey as a transgender woman.
Aryah Lester, a poet and trans woman, says she organized TransArt to break down stereotypes of what it means to be a trans person.
“We’re so much more than people’s perception of us,” she says. “We’re artists, we’re poets, we’re writers."
Almaguer says TransArt has given her a platform to not only show her work but also to make a statement about many of the issues trans women face. One of her pieces that will be on display is “Forbidden Fruit.”
In the painting, a woman is eating her own heart “because she’s been ostracized by society and called a sinner because she’s being who she is,” Almaguer says. A serpent-like penis is suffocating the woman in the painting.
Almaguer says the piece speaks to the discrimination trans women face daily, the violent deaths many trans women experience because of who they are -- this year alone at least seven trans women of color have been killed -- and the objectification of trans people when society focuses on their body parts, specifically their genitals.
From a very young age, Almaguer says she explored her identity through doodling and drawing. She says she takes the negativity she’s experienced as a trans woman and channels that as energy to create art.
Her sketchbook goes everywhere she does.
“It’s basically a visual diary of what I’ve been through,” she says. “Instead of voicing it, I prefer for my work to tell my story.”
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