BUTCH: Not like the other girls
“I saw an early incarnation of BUTCH: Not like the other girls when I performed in Vancouver—a work in-progress at the time, no more than images on a laptop. Well, I’m a hard audience, especially when it comes to the art, politics, sexiness, and spirituality of gender. And yet, even in that early stage, Holman’s work blew me away. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing and talking about gender, and BUTCH is important work. Images like these, in which folks beyond the gender binary are shown so powerfully fierce and sexy and beautiful and exactly who they are, are–as I’m sure you will agree–sadly rare… I’d love to see BUTCH: Not like the other girls travel—to New York, to San Francisco, and to all the little towns in between. Even in our great metropolises, there are too many young butches who have never been told they are handsome. I want those youngsters to see this work, and see butch through the eyes of a great butch who knows how to see and show.” — Kate Bornstein
BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls is a photographic exploration of the liminal space occupied by female masculinity in contemporary communities. I delineate Butch not as oppositional to Femme and Trans identities, but as an inclusive site of resistance to limitations on the way women, gender, and sexuality are still defined. The images honour the mercurial beauty, power and diversity of women who transgress the gender binary – celebrating the transversal (cutting across categories – literally Queer) dialectic of female masculinity, unapologetic and undiluted.
Some say butch is an archaic term—old-fashioned. Butch can be traced back at least to the late 1800’s. It held an unquestioned place in lesbian communities from the 1940’s, thru the 60’s, until it went out of style in the 1970’s & 80’s with second wave feminism. Then for a while it was ok again, sometimes, in some places, just kind of, you know, low class – until it experienced a resurgence in the late 1990’s, along with the femme revolution. Then (sigh) it went back out again with so-called post-feminism. I don’t think that Butch is archaic. Perhaps it’s arcane, that is: requiring secret knowledge to be understood. Maybe if some don’t get it, then they just don’t get it.
In my work, I explore the sexual and social stigmatization of women, the body and the queer subject. I dismantle socialized, role-defined, gender appropriate behavior and its signifiers. Much of my work is an examination of the implications of being a gender anarchist.
We’re bombarded every day with the message that we’re wrong, disgusting, barely human. Whether we’re going into a job interview or a public washroom There is such maligning of masculinity in women. I wanted to counter that, especially for young butches. I want them to know they are glorious in their myriad styles of butchitude. I want these photos to make all butches feel the way my late Femme wife Catherine made me feel: disastrously handsome.
BUTCH: Not like the other girls had its first exhibition as public art on the streets—posters in bus shelters all across the city. Passersby were confronted with 20 proud butches—lit up and larger than life—where they would normally see advertisements. Having more visibility starts to shift the culture. If the sight of a butch becomes less startling, perhaps it can help make the streets safer not just for us, but all non-conforming folks and Queers.
Can you see me now?
People are continually creating identities — for the street, for the mirror and for the camera. My work with them is collaborative, investigating and colluding with them in presenting those identities. I reject the convention of objective uniformity in photography, I insert myself into each work. My approach is a layered reinvention of self-reflection and humorous romanticism.
BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls’ first incarnation exhibited as a public art project in transit shelters in 2013, with a simultaneous gallery show at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (the Cultch). According to Cultch administrators, the opening night—which attracted well over 500 attendees and spilled out into the street for half a block—was the largest visual art opening in their 35-year history. The project went viral, generating thousands of posts and shares on social media sites, blog posts as far away as Germany and Denmark, and interest for further exhibitions across Canada and the United States. BUTCH subsequently showed at Wellesley College and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto, the largest LGBTQ+ independent archives in the world. At every venue where it has exhibited so far, the organizers said it was their largest solo opening it to date.
BUTCH: not like the other girls encompasses a hundred subjects and thousands of images, of which 20 were formatted for 47”x 86” public transit shelter project , and 22 more were formatted for gallery exhibition, size 20”x24”. Upcoming exhibitions may be expanded or contracted to suit the exhibition gallery spaces.
“Female masculinity is a particularly fruitful site of investigation because it has been vilified by heterosexist and feminist/womanist programs alike: unlike male femininity, which fulfills a kind of ritual function in male homosocial cultures, female masculinity is generally received by hetero and homonormative cultures as a pathological sign of misidentification and maladjustment, as a longing to be and to have a power that is always just out of reach.”
—J. Halberstam, Female Masculinity
Photo-based exhibition by SD Holman at Eastworks , April 4 – May 4 , 2014
Easthampton, MA: US premiere of SD Holman’s show, BUTCH: Not like the other girls, will be exhibited at the Mill Arts Project MAP (Eastworks 116 Pleasant Street suite 137, Easthampton, MA ) from April 4 – May 4, 2014, with an opening party April 4th 7pm – 9pm. BUTCH is a photographic exploration of the liminal spaces occupied by female masculinity in contemporary communities. Curated by local resident of the valley over 20 years, Amiee Joy Ross, the exhibit is free and open to the public.
Holman delineates Butch as “an inclusive site of resistance to limitations on the way women, gender, and sexuality are still defined.” The images honor the beauty, power and diversity of women who transgress the gender binary, with subjects reflecting the many sizes, shapes, ethnicities, and styles of Butch. The transversal dialectic of female masculinity is celebrated here — unapologetic and undiluted.
SD Holman a photo-based artist who has exhibited internationally at galleries including the Advocate Gallery (Los Angeles), the Soady-Campbell Gallery (New York), the San Francisco Public Library, The Helen Pitt International Gallery, Charles H. Scott, Exposure, and Fotobase Galleries (Vancouver). Holman defines as a non-commercial, photo-based artist, a participant observer employing subjective conceptual documentary practice. Holman’s approach to photography is conflicted and perverse, bringing gesture, hazard, and a painterly sensibility into this most technical of media. Hailed by Guy Warrington as “the best portrait photographer in Vancouver,” Holman is also Artistic Director of The Queer Arts Festival, a professional three-week, transdisciplinary arts festival in Vancouver, BC.
“This show displays to me such a large range of this word, this expression, Butch. I truly believe the meaning crosses dialogue into all sorts of people’s gender identities,” says debut curator Amiee Joy Ross. Known in the Pioneer Valley as The Bearded Lady, Ross has been in the area for over twenty years and has been a professional piercer in Northampton and Provincetown for sixteen years at Piercings by the Bearded Lady. Ross has sat for numerous artists, photographers, videographers and art classes including local painter Betsy Stone, Leonard Nimoy, and Del LaGrace Volcano. Declared a Gender Terrorist by Del LaGrace Volcano, Ross says, “My personal identification with the word butch as part of my gender expression, and my participation in this work, are just a small part of why I am bringing SD Holman’s Butch Project to the Valley.”
The MAP gallery is located on the first floor of the Eastworks building suite 137 at 116 Pleasant Street, Easthampton, MA. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12-6pm.
The Mill Arts Project (MAP), a collaboration between Easthampton City Arts+ and Eastworks, that offers a gallery space and to incubate new curatorial voices in a community context. While curators bring a vision and dedication, ECA+ and Eastworks assist with space and offer an intensive educational curatorial and organizational guide as well as assistance in project direction.
For more information on SD Holman and BUTCH: Not like the other girls, visit http://sdholman.com
Exhibition Contact Burns Maxey: info@EasthamptonCityArts.com | (413) 527-8278 | EasthamptonCityArts.com
Media on Butch
Georgia Straight: Holman’s BUTCH: Not like the other girls challenges traditional gender roles
gayvancouver.net: BUTCH: Not Like the other girls is unapologetic and undiluted
Langara Voice: New Butch Images on Bus Shelters Seek to Redefine Gender
The F-word Vancouver Co-op Radio: Interview by Helen Polychronakos
Daily Xtra: Who’s butch now?
Mic.com: “9 Stunning Photos of ‘Butches’ That Shatter Society’s Stereotypes About Masculinity” by Marcie Bianco (December 2014)
Xtra Toronto: “Butch-itude: SD Holman is not like the other girls” (November 2014)
Common Ground (San Francisco): “Butch: Not like the other girls” 8-page pictorial (October 2014)
Plenitude Magazine: “SD Holman: Not like the other girls.” Interview with Leah Horlick (August 2014)
Beautiful Decay: “SD Holman’s Portraits Of Female Masculinity In BUTCH: Not Like The Other Girls” by Leslie Tane (July 2014)
Queering Gender in the Arts Blog: BUTCH: Not like the other girls
BUTCH: Not like the other girls Facebook Page