Built by the US army in 1907, the remote and beautiful Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California, went from a soldiers’ barracks that was active until the 1970s to an artists’ residence in 1987. In this lovely, quiet environment, I feel deeply conscious of my inner world. In my weeks here, I’ve come to recognize how the noises and distractions of modern life affect me and how all the micro interactions that I have with nature, other people, and technology influence my life. This residency feels like a spiritual gift.
The Headlands staff is incredibly accommodating, and I have felt so welcomed into the community. As a trans person, I never know how people will react when I enter a new environment. I could be the first trans person they’ve ever met. The environment that has been created here over the past thirty years is inclusive and clearly celebrates diversity.
The community of people is amazing as well. I already knew three of the artists here. Like me they are L.A.-based, and we’ve been in group shows together. I’ve met many new people as well. Everybody is working in different media and has their own unique approach to art. The Headlands is a place of deep solitude, but when we artists come together for dinner, there is an outpouring of socializing.
I love collaboration. So much of my work has been collaborative. But this summer, I feel the need to mind my own business, to create on my own, and not be too influenced by others. It’s also tremendously liberating to be alone. In my everyday life, I’m always available to my family, friends, and co-workers. Having a restricted availability seems a tremendous luxury.
My work at Headlands consists of projects I’ve been interested in making for a long time but have not found the time and space to push forward. For fun, I’ve been trying to create one collage a day. I use great source material, like Cosmopolitan magazines from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, and vintage trans porn. I mix these different signifiers of how things are sold to women and how femininity is culturally constructed through different eras. For years, I’ve loved creating collages for my friends—typically birthday cards or personalized works—some of which are featured in Relationship [Prestel, 2016], the book that I produced with my former partner and current collaborator, Rhys Ernst.
Every morning I wake up and begin writing in a stream of consciousness, oftentimes what I was just dreaming about. Then, I work on my more structured writing. One piece is an experimental video, an abstract dialogue among five people. There’s also a short narrative I plan to film with my mother, a follow-up video to Southern for Pussy, created last year and featured on Open TV.
Working as a producer on “Transparent” for the last three years has taught me so much, so the biggest project I’m concentrating on is a TV pilot. The chaos of my life hasn’t allowed me to make time for many of the projects I’ve wanted to execute, and this is one of the largest and most exciting of them all.
Here, I get a chance to exercise every day. I try to exercise five times a week at home, but I end up working so many hours that it’s difficult to stick to that routine. Each day during my Headlands residency, I put on my workout clothes in the morning and walk over to the studio to work. But if I start to feel antsy, I just run out the door and keep on running through these gorgeous hills and down to the beach and up to these incredible vistas. It is just stunning here.
As told to Josephine Heston