Detroit photographer uses gender-bending self-portraits to explore black and queer identity
We all have a version of ourselves that lives in our head. Your favorite self, your strongest self, the self this world? for whatever reason? doesn't want to let you be. For queer and gender non-binary artists, that self isn't just a daydream. It's someone who might get you through years of being made to feel like an outsider. It might also be a canvas for important ideas.
Detroit photographer and curator Darryl DeAngelo Terrellhas been exploring identity, image, and history through their work. Terrell, a 2019 Kresge fellow who identifies as queer and femme, has been working on a particularly interesting series featuring a face they don't always show the world.
The self portraits feature their alter-ego named Dion, who is an unabashedly feminine and sensual character. Terrell said Dion came out of some of their own insecurities surrounding their body and its desirability.
“I started thinking about how I can pretty much present or formulate a false identity or alter ego that exhibited everything that I lack. And by doing so came Dion,” Terrell explained.
The inspiration for Dion came from a variety of places, including the women and girls Terrell grew up around in their neighborhood in Detroit, as well as poetry and music.
In addition to their work as a photographer, Terrell is also a curator. One of their projects is the Instagram accountMuseum of Contemporary Art IG—or @moca.ig. It's a curated collection of contemporary art from artists who are part of the African or Latinx diasporas.
Terrell created it when they were having trouble finding curatorial fellowships after graduating from a Master of Fine Arts program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago because they didn't have enough experience. In the age of social media, Terrell said “the best way to make experience, is to make your own experience.”
So, they started the Instagram account as a way to show "how contemporary African American art and contemporary Latinx art is being produced at such a beautiful and high quality, and how this work needs to be seen.”
You can find examples of Terrell’s work, as well as excerpts from our conversation, in the slideshow above.
Support for arts and culture coverage is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Catherine Nouhan.