Class of 2023 • Painting

Conor O’Brien

Conor O’Brien
MTU Crawford College of Art and Design (MTU CCAD)


Graduation Year
Class of 2023


My work explores the relationship between marginalised queer bodies and the alien other of science fiction, pulling on representations of the incomprehensible. Trans and genderqueer bodies are being weaponised politically by right wing movements worldwide. The discussion around trans identity in media, which largely seems to ignore or underrepresent trans voices, has reduced the issue to ‘us’ and ‘them’. This dehumanises and alienates trans people, who instead become a thing to be feared rather than individuals to be understood.My paintings act as a first contact between the viewer and an alien body. The biomorphic creations I refer to as Visitors pull on life native to earth such as fungi or marine life, informing the viewer that they are more like us than we might initially think. Fungi, due to their relationship with death and decay, are seen as unnerving or something to be feared: slowly encroaching, invading your space, like the mould on your walls. However, this invalidates their invaluable participation in the creation of new life and the crucial role that fungi play in sustaining human existence. The amalgam bodies that emerge in my paintings include limbs and visceral forms reminiscent of genitalia and internal organs. They don’t resolve into coherent bodies - they appear to fluctuate, never resting, ever growing.My Visitors are flamboyantly coloured, overly sweet, loud and assertive. As trans and genderqueer people, we do not need to justify our existence or identity to anyone. By merely existing we challenge and dismantle preconceived notions of gender. This may frighten, disturb or enrage people who refuse to recognise us. Similarly my Visitors may evoke such a reaction, but to me they are beautiful and aspirational, defiantly and boldly themselves which cannot be ignored and is a joyous expression of the queer body.
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