Close Close

Aging and the Lived Experiences of Transgender & Gender Nonbinary Older Adults: Narratives Through Art

January 23 – March 11, 2023 | Pollak Gallery
Monmouth University

Exhibit Sponsored by:
Monmouth University’s School of Social Work’s LGBT+ Older Adult Project; The Center for the Arts; and the Intercultural Center

As told in their own voices through art and film this exhibit sought to share some of the diverse lived experiences of transgender and gender non-binary older adults (T/GNB) in the United States and throughout the world. The exhibit centered T/GNB individuals’ unique narratives and made their lives visible. We hoped that this program provided a path to unite a wide audience in a shared experience.

The artwork chosen celebrates the strength and resiliency of these individuals while also sharing the painful challenges encountered. The process of living authentically may instill hope and bring joy, but often this process involves losses and pain as well. The purpose was to increase understanding and knowledge of the lives of T/GNB older adults while supporting Monmouth University’s commitment to create an inclusive, affirming, and equitable campus community.

A Look at the Artwork from the Artists’ Perspectives: In their Own Words

Jacob Clayton

Select any of Jacob Clayton’s works to view the full-size file.

Self Portrait/ How Many Fifths of a Man Am I?

All the self-portrait pieces are from an ongoing project called Deprivation of Self, Portraits. In the piece entitled Self Portrait | How Many Fifths of a Man Am I?, I took inspiration from artists Wendy Red Star and Hank Willis Thomas’ work to question the motives and effects of a society that assigns worth to ourselves, and fellow humans based on the color of our skin, or what we’ve got under our clothes.

Self Portrait/ Marlboro Man

Considered the essence of masculinity and one of the most successful ad campaigns in history, I very clearly remember seeing him in magazines and billboards as a young girl and desperately, desperately wanting to be him.

The Freak

Using a camera as a starting point, I fuse my body with iconic imagery that is rooted in our collective consciousness. My hope is that through re-evaluation of familiar concepts, self-reflection and honest discourse can slowly begin to undo a history of invisibility, implicit bias, and pathologizing of transgender people.

The Binary

No description.

Vitruvian Tran

I revisit this western ideal of the “perfect male” in Self Portrait | Vitruvian Tran, my take on Leonardo da Vinci’s famous illustration. 

Steve Cummings

Select any of Steve Cummings’s works to view the full-size file.

Women, Life, Freedom

This image came to me around the time of the peaceful protests that Iranian women were engaged in, sparked by the tragic death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini, who was arrested by Iran’s ‘morality police’ after she failed to cover her hair. The title of my piece is what these protesters chanted as they voiced their collective outrage over this young woman’s death. In the meantime, I was inspired to create a bold, colorful image of a strong, spiritual, ‘patron saint’ figure of collective ‘transgender-hood.’ These two ideas intersected and blended when I chose to dress my transgender woman in a burka of psychedelic, saturated colors, and images. In between these patterns and swirls of color the viewer will discover progressive phrases such as ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Love Is Love’ and ‘#MeToo;’ slogans which signify equity, strength, and societal change.

Golden Mirror

This remains the most personal piece I’ve ever created. I wanted to create a collage of everyone who has been a significant source of support, friendship, and love, beginning with my mom and dad (the first people to spring from the heart area). The woman is the Two-Spirited, Anima (feminine) side of me. My friends, family, and lovers expand and surround me. I am in many of these photographs. I chose to put a purple heart over my face to give room and visibility to the side of me that many of them don’t know as well. Lastly, I was very much taken with the song ‘Golden Mirror,’ written and performed by a Venezuelan / Guatemalan singer / songwriter named Kaina. I am especially drawn to the words in the chorus, which ring so true to me during these current times:

‘Love can feel like an illusion

But I see it every day

In your heart, a golden mirror

Someone to embrace’

Interior, Vespertine Night Club

(2021) – Many of my images are fictional imaginings of what LGBTQ life was like in 20th Century America, pre-AIDs. Here I wanted to show some regular denizens of a fictional Gay Bar in the late 1970s; like sharing a sweet snapshot into a world where many gay and transgender people came together to socialize as a united community, still with the ability or possibility to find happiness, friendships, and love even as many of these individuals remained closeted outside the clubs and nightlife.


(2017) – This shows another one of my transgender / androgynous figures adorned in an ornate coat of colorful psychedelia, standing tall, proud, and strong, embracing Queerness, Otherness, and both the duality and balance of ‘Two-Spirit.’

Subway Martyr

This image takes place on a city subway in the late 1970s, detailing an assault on a transgender sex worker. There’s a loudness and ‘gaudiness’ to this image that is in keeping with NYC during that time. I wanted her facial expression to remain stoic maintaining her dignity even as she is being attacked, and to show the hypocrisy of the man seated in the corner, reading the Holy Bible while failing to lift a finger to help or assist her.

Sue Barr

Select any of Sue Barr’s works to view the full-size file.


Gender Reflection is my visual exploration about the possibilities we each have on how we present ourselves in today’s society. It is my creative quest to delve into individual human behavior and how we search for acceptance and ultimately fulfillment. You can have all the professional and personal accomplishments in the community as a cisgender yet still not be able to achieve genuine inner happiness. 

Julien Tomasello

Select any of Julien Tomasello’s works to view the full-size file.

Julien Tomasello’s series of collage-on-panel works

  • The Secrets of Summer is an ongoing series of collage-on-panel works. Each work possesses a narrative of “autobiographical fiction.” These narratives blend events, dreams, and desires I experienced as an LGBTQ+, gender-fluid, young person during the 1980’s and 1990’s, with threads of fictions influenced through the books, music, films, television, and art I absorbed during this time. Escapism was a panacea to the isolation and fear I felt during my youth. The world around me seemed steeped in conformity, homophobia, and later, darkness as AIDS began its ravage of the LGBTQ+ community I hoped to become part and made the expression of love seem toxic.
  • The Secrets of Summer, is named after a short story from the 1994 book, The Informers, by one of my literary heroes, American-author, Bret Easton Ellis. Ellis’ short story chronicles a brief period in the lives of a group of savage and seductive vampires existing in modern-day Los Angeles. Much like my own sexuality and gender-identity as a youth, the vampires’ true nature exists in secrecy due to the threat of obliteration. While I hid my truth via posturing and obsequiousness, Ellis’ vampires hide theirs behind mirrored sunglasses, beauty, and aloofness as they travel in chic sports cars under the city’s glaring sun. Collage is the medium of choice for my series.
  • Collage was one of the first art practices I fell in love with as a child artist. I now, as I did then, use the pre-existing hues, patterns, and textures of prefabricated materials to communicate the world as I (re)envision it. I find intimacy, control, and escape in the meticulousness, obsessiveness, and repetitiveness of my collage method.
Dream House

In “Dream House”, I depict a beautiful, suburban family living within the beautiful bubble of the American dream: a beautiful and safe home filled with color, comfort, and the signs and symbols of traditional, American, family life. This dream house appears to be a sanctuary where nothing harmful or distasteful can invade. This family is isolated from the realities of the outside world. The members of this family are also isolated from one another. Each lives a dream within a dream. Each is absorbed in ephemera that feeds their own egos, dreams, and desires. The most isolated of the family unit is perhaps the young and androgynous boy, on the far right, who is immersed in the fantasies created from play with his Barbie Dream House ®. Within this dream home, the only true window (to the outside world) is the television which broadcasts news related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, the reality this window reveals is ignored by everyone in the home – but for how long? Will this reality eventually shatter the dreams of one or more of the members who live in this dream house?

Last Dance

My piece, “Last Dance” depicts the scene of a boy who has snuck away from home in the middle of the night with his dog. Together, they venture into the dark and beautiful Southern California desert. The boy, wearing pajamas and his mother’s Candies ® “slides,” climbs onto a rock and begins to sing Donna Summer’s, “Last Dance.” Magically, the desert moon is changed into a shimmering disco ball, wild horses become colorful unicorns, and the animals of the desert join to become an audience for the boy who is transformed into a beloved star.

Tear with Hockney

My triptych collage, “Tea with Hockney” represents my fantasy of travelling through the looking glass into David Hockney’s world – to become part of Hockney’s creative and beautiful tribe; to become friend, lover, and muse to the great artist; and to never feel the coldness of loneliness and secrecy again.

Trisha Shattuck

Select any of Trisha Shattuck’s works to view the full-size file.

The Leap

Coming out can be a tumultuous experience, especially after living a closeted life. Greg Louganis is pictured on this collage diving through the space of the image. The folded antique wallpaper represents the phases of introspection he may have passed through. The affixed dime facing Greg represents his boyfriend. The blocks with the horse and pony link to my own enjoyment of equine pursuits. The crushed saltshaker top is a secondary center of interest and is simply one other object of interest that I’ve collected over the years. The wallpaper was discovered in the attic of a house my folks lived in and was used in my parent’s bedroom… a link to my past.


I’ve worked at recalling aspects of my dreams as I wake. Where was I? What was I doing? Who or what was I with? It’s ridiculous, but I continue to work on projects while navigating my way through the labyrinth. Home improvement, art projects… I’m pleased to say that I am civil and aid others that I encounter. Mostly, I endeavor to determine what is symbolic about my dreams because it is there that I’m able to seek guidance in life.

Small things in the Grass

Viewing my daughter’s toddler out in the yard, where everything is new and exciting led to the creation of this piece. At her age, it’s as if she is really seeing the fine details. As an artist, that’s my quest right there; seeing details and maintaining a child-like curiosity. Cutting the canvas scrap is done without regard or preconceptions. I imagine the scissors in my hands for the first time, and the joy of doing.


I perceived a landscape in the wood, viewed from above. Having spent time in the arid southwest as a teen, and narrowly losing my life twice due to unexpected calamity, Mirage represents the pitfalls in life. One false step can send the unwary to their own demise. The parallel here is to the concerns I have simply living my life today.


Make of Sparky what you will. Let it represent your psychology; not mine. It’s a rotational piece that has been turned during its progress. There’s the arid environment again; a recurring theme in my works. Applied staples have been used for texture as well as canvas scraps.


I’ve enjoyed working on rough-sawn plywood panels. Besides being able to screw and glue objects to them, there are intrinsic patterns made by the growing tree that are incidental. By looking into the textures, you’ll notice areas of raised, course bark, and areas of smooth, fine texture. Accenting these textures with color becomes an artistic choice. Occasionally a vision or correlation will be perceived that moves me. In Mirage, several images came to me that I developed to share with viewers based upon the marks in the wood.

Rahne Alexander

Select Rahne Alexander’s work to view the full-size file.

Painted scroll featuring text in various colors, strokes, and sizes. Roughly, it reads as follows: "Unwork Unwork Unwork. Unlearn privilege as loss, unlearn cynicism, unlearn abjection, unlearn capitalist metaphor, unwork unwork unwork unwork unwork. End every binary. I am the end of the patriarchy and so can you."
I Am The End Of The Patriarchy And So Can You

I Am The End Of The Patriarchy And So Can You

I Am The End Of The Patriarchy And So Can You, began as a commissioned piece for the 2020 Mary B. Howard Invitational at the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston VA. The curators, Zoë Charlton and Tim Dowd of ‘sindikit, asked artists to produce a work that reimagined a past work in a different medium. I chose a failed work, a collection of adolescent poems designed to pay tribute to the artists and writers who had shaped my thinking. I Am The End Of The Patriarchy And So Can You ultimately evolved into a triptych of silk scrolls, painted with commercial and homemade dyes and inks. This piece I showed in Aging and the Lived Experiences of Transgender and GNC Adults was the first successful prototype for the project — a piece that was so immediately powerful that curator Zoë Charlton immediately bought and added to her collection. In full or in part, I Am The End Of The Patriarchy And So Can You have since shown in six shows in three states since debuting in the fall of 2020 and stands as a testament to the ideas that have been crucial to my survival and evolution as a transfeminist artist.