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Maggie Ordon

I lifted the carefully crafted lid and reached my hand into the satiny pinkness; the softly cushioned cavity enveloped my hand as I glided it in further to discover a hollowed wedge. Rarely does one get to so intimately enter a piece of art (though several of the pieces in the Visualizing Trans exhibit also encouraged audience participation) in which the art and audience interpenetrate each other. The professional model, poised on pink heels in front of the bureau-like skirt supported by three sculpted wooden furniture feet, shifted slightly when I opened the lid. The other model’s bust was extended with a wedge cushion; the hollowed core lined with the same hot pink satin. What boundaries was I, the viewer, transgressing when I opened the “trunk” of a bustled skirt or slipped my hand into the center of the triangular attachment? Was I violating their personal space, reaching into the artist’s past and experience, or challenging the imaginary velvet rope protecting the art work? In these ways, the two pieces offered a physical experience of "trans" for the viewers, models, and artist.

I was drawn not only to the experiential aspect of the work, but also to how the piece explored dress, furniture, gender, and agency. Through “Gibbosity” and her earlier work, Liner is one of the growing number of artists who bring textile, sewing, and dressmaking skills into the art world. However, she is not presenting her finely crafted “garments” or “accessories” as fashion or clothing, but rather as “live sculpture,” thus removing them from the possibility of everyday dress and placing them specifically into the art space. Moreover, she has dressed her models with furniture, suggesting the connections our bodies form with space and objects with which we surround ourselves. The piece joins historical discourses on fashion, furniture, and gender with the artist’s personal position and experiences. Liner also successfully integrates the craft of furniture making with her dressmaking skills.

The pieces break down boundaries between art, history, dress, and furniture as well as create a new space where visitors can engage with how these issues intersect in the pieces, historically, and in their own lives. While the visitor is invited to explore these spaces and objects of “trans,” they must also confront what is not transformed or transgressed and for what reasons. For example, women are dressed in floral patterned upholstery fabric. The attachments physically transform them into domesticated pieces of furniture. They stand still silently, lacking any agency as strangers gaze at or poke and prod them. The pieces extend parts of a woman’s body historically associated with femininity and sexuality. The cushioned pink cavities of the bust extension and bustle exaggerate women’s anatomy, reinforcing the public display of an objectified female gendered body. Nonetheless, the pieces provoke the viewer to reconsider these seemingly natural associations and gendered representations. Through their playful, perhaps uncomfortable, participation, the audience destabilizes assumed categories by engaging with a piece that moves through many.

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Artists


  • Aaron Raz Link
    is a Portland-based artist.
  • Abby Shotwell
    is a Madison-based artist and homemaker who teaches at the Madison Children's Museum, Madison Public Library, and Madison Schools.
  • Alan Marcus
    is Director of the Centre for Screen Studies at the University of Manchester, UK.
  • Anna Campbell and Chele Isaac
    Anna Campbell is associate professor of sculpture at Grand Valley State University. Chele Isaac is a graduate student in the Art Department at UW-Madison.
  • Anya Liftig
    is a Kentucky-based artist.
  • Aristotle Georgiades
    is a sculpture professor at the UW-Madison.
  • BA Harrington
    recently completed her MFA at UW-Madison.
  • Bob Paris
    teaches in the Kinetic Imaging Department in the School of Art at Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Caitlin Berrigan
    is a Brooklyn-based artist who works in video, sculpture, performance, and interactive art.
  • Carrie Roy
    is a graduate student in the folklore program at UW-Madison.
  • Dan Schwarzlose
    is a Chicago-based artist and director of Elastic Arts Foundation since 1998.
  • Denise Bookwalter
    teaches at Xavier College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Douglas Rosenberg
    is a professor in the Art Department at UW-Madison.
  • Fred Lonidier
    is a Professor on the Visual Arts Faculty at the University of California, San Diego.
  • Gail Simpson
    is a sculpture professor at UW Madison.
  • Heidi Ganshaw
    is a Madison-based artist.
  • Jeff Fitzgerald
    is a Madison-based artist and founder of Revolution Cycles.
  • Jill Baker and Nelson Goranson
    Jill Baker is a graduate student at the University of Iowa Intermedia Program in the Department of Art. Nelson Goranson is a graduate student in the Education Department at the UW-Madison.
  • Jim Ferris
    is a poet and a professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the UW-Madison.
  • Jose Rodriguez
    is a graduate student in the Art Department at UW Madison.
  • Joyce Campbell
    is a Los Angeles based artist working in sculpture, film installations, and photography. She teaches at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate University.
  • Kate Hewson and Marina Kelly
    Kate Hewson is a Madison-based dancer and Arts Residency Coordinator at the UW-Madison. Marina Kelly is a Madison based dancer and artist, and a social worker at Malcolm Shabazz City High School.
  • Katrina Lamb
    is a San Franscisco-based artist.
  • Konjac
    is the collaborative team of artists Megan Katz and Jenny San Martin, both graduate students in the Art department at UW Madison.
  • Kurt Weston
    is a Los Angeles-based artist.
  • Laura Ferguson
    is a New York-based artist.
  • Leigh Ann Hallberg
    is teaching at Wake Forest University.
  • Lucy HG
    directs the Multimedia Studies Program at Los Angeles Mission College and co-founded the Institute of Arts and Multimedia.
  • Mark Harvey
    is Lecturer in Dance Studies in the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Mary Farmilant
    is a Chicago based artist, and teaches photography in the Chicago area.
  • Matt Irie and Dominick Talvacchio
    Chicago-based Irie and Brooklyn-based Talvacchio have been working together since 2002.
  • Matthew Kluber
    is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at Grinnell College.
  • Max Liboiron
    lives and works in Stonybrook, NY.
  • Nicole Gruter
    is a graduate student in the Art department at UW Madison.
  • Nikki Renee Anderson
    is a Chicago based artist and teaches ceramics in the Chicago area.
  • Phil Sayers and Esther Sayers
    Phil Sayers teaches Fine Art at Staffordshire University UK and is a transvestite artist specializing in feminine masquerade from historical sources. Esther Sayers is a key member of the Education Team at Tate Modern, London.
  • Robert Ladislas Derr
    is Assistant Professor of Photography at The Ohio State University.
  • Ryan Burghard
    recently finished his MFA at the UW-Madison.
  • Ryan Griffis
    is Assistant Professor of New Media at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
  • Sally Grizzell Larson
    is a Philadelphia based photographer, filmmaker, and script-writer.
  • Sarah Kanouse and Nicholas Brown
    Sarah Kanouse is Assistant Professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where Nicholas Brown is a graduate student in the Department of Landscape Architecture, History and Theory.
  • Stephanie Liner
    recently completed her MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Stephen Wetzel
    is a Milwaukee-based filmmaker and Education Coordinator at Mata Community Media in Milwaukee.
  • Terry Nauheim
    is a New York-based artist who teaches digital media, computer graphics, and interactive design in the New York City area.
  • The Art Club
    is a group of Madison 4th graders who have been meeting weekly with artist Abby Shotwell for the past three years. The members of the Art Club are: Leaf Anthony, Olive Earley, Gillian Gehri, Linnea Halsten, Sylvia Hecht, Isak Lund, Henry Shotwell, Isaiah Stefan, and Carina Vargas-Nunez