Trans­ac­tional art

BE­ING A CAR­TOON­IST IS HELP­FUL WHEN EX­PLOR­ING GEN­DER

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Sunday Arts & Style - By Joel Lang

Ay­oung artist from We­ston, who goes by the name Mady G., works in a kalei­do­scope of comic styles and often de­ploys them to teach a kind of sex ed.

Just af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, Mady G. was teamed with Jill Soloway, cre­ator of the tele­vi­sion se­ries “Trans­par­ent,” to do an an­i­mated video on why some trans­gen­der peo­ple use the pro­noun “they” when re­fer­ring to them­selves as in­di­vid­u­als.

Both Mady G. and Soloway have adopted the sin­gu­lar “they” to sig­nal their own gen­der viewpoint. Their three-minute video ran in the De­cem­ber is­sue of Topic, a new dig­i­tal Con­tin­ues on page D2

mag­a­zine, called “Check­ing the Third Box.” It was in­spired by the trend among states and cities to add a third gen­der op­tion to the male and fe­male boxes tra­di­tion­ally pro­vided on birth cer­tifi­cates and driv­ers li­censes.

Soloway, the writer and nar­ra­tor, de­liv­ers a se­ri­ous mes­sage about how the third box, or x box, can be a lib­er­at­ing and safe space for peo­ple who con­sider them­selves nei­ther male nor fe­male.

But Mady G., who gets di­rec­tion as well as an­i­ma­tion credit, gives the mes­sage a play­ful, col­or­ful treat­ment. Watched with the sound off, “Check­ing the Third Box” could be an in­struc­tional car­toon for pre-school vot­ers. Some of the sim­ply drawn au­thor­ity fig­ures look like up­right fish.

“I was very flat­tered,” says Mady G. of the chance to work with Soloway. “I was as­signed as trans­gen­der artist to work with an­other trans­gen­der per­son.”

Mady G. is just 25 and grad­u­ated from the Pratt In­sti­tute only in 2015. As a free­lance car­toon­ist and il­lus­tra­tor, Mady G.’s re­sume lists two pro­noun choices: they/them or he/him. Like Soloway, Mady has slowly moved away from the fe­male iden­tity he was born with.

“I feel more mas­cu­line at cen­ter, but I don’t feel like a man. I feel like I’m me,” he says. “My goal is not to present as a cis-gen­der (straight) man. My goal is to ex­ist in the mid­dle as my­self and work through the world that way rather than, I guess, tak­ing the easy way out and just pick­ing an­other binary gen­der and be­ing un­happy in a dif­fer­ent way.”

Mady’s on­go­ing and open-ended tran­si­tion in­forms much of his work. His video with Soloway was re­ward­ing but mi­nor com­pared to a book due out in April. Al­ready listed on Ama­zon, it bears the self-ex­plana­tory ti­tle “A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Iden­ti­ties.”

Done in the style of a graphic novel, Mady says he did the more strictly ed­u­ca­tional sec­tions of the 100-page book, while co-au­thor J.R. Zucker­berg did sec­tions that em­ploy smurf-like char­ac­ters to demon­strate its les­sons. The cover art is a bright and in­no­cent gar­den scene peo­pled by bug-eyed snails.

Mady also is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to The Nib, an il­lus­trated dig­i­tal mag­a­zine de­voted to so­cial and po­lit­i­cal is­sues. Its con­trib­u­tors work in many styles (Tom To­mor­row is one fa­mil­iar name). Some pieces ap­pear as sin­gle pan­els, like tra­di­tional ed­i­to­rial car­toons, but oth­ers are multi-panel, read­ing from top to bot­tom. One 16-panel piece Mady did re­cently lam­poons the gen­der polic­ing of pub­lic re­strooms. In­stead of a Robo­cop, Mady has a Bath­room­bot en­forcer that goes hay­wire.

One style Mady avoids is the anatom­i­cal in­fla­tion seen in su­per- hero comics. He does, how­ever, make art for gallery dis­play. Last year he was in an im­por­tant group show at Gallery 1988, a Los An­ge­les venue with a movie star fol­low­ing that fo­cuses on pop cul­ture. Mady’s psy­che­delic piece, “Phan­tom of the Par­adise,” was a homage to a 1974 Brian De Palma movie with the same ti­tle. Now a cult fa­vorite, it pre­ceded the sim­i­lar “Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show.”

Mady’s work tends to ap­pear in new venues, phys­i­cal ones like Gallery 1988, or dig­i­tal ones like “Topic” and “The Nib.” Both are or­gans of First Look Me­dia, it­self the cre­ation of tech bil­lion­aire and phi­lan­thropist Pierre Omid­yar.

An­other high­light of Mady’s young ca­reer was do­ing an en­tire is­sue (No. 28) in the “In­vader Zim” comic book se­ries. Never heard of In­vader Zim? He came from the planet Irk to con­quer Earth and ap­peared orig­i­nally in a short-lived an­i­mated se­ries on Nick­olodeon.

Mady was a big fan of the show. He laughs that it was deemed too scary for kids. It was an in­spi­ra­tion as were films by David Cro­nen­berg and John Car­pen­ter. So was the Bea­tles “Yel­low Sub­ma­rine” and Ja­panese comic art. He took Ja­panese in high school at the Cen­ter for Global Stud­ies in Nor­walk and spent one se­mes­ter in Ja­pan.

“I like cute stuff. I like scary stuff. I like psy­che­delic stuff. I like sur­real stuff,” he says, “any­thing that has to do with un­re­al­ity.”

He says his mother, We­ston artist Les­lie Gi­u­liani, was also a “hu­mon­gous” in­flu­ence. Not so much be­cause of her art, which is a form of mixed me­dia col­lage, but be­cause she in­tro­duced him to ab­stract art and sur­real art. He says, how­ever, that his very first tat­too was of a car­toon fig­ure called a Bun­yip his mother uses in her work.

Sto­ries about the suf­fer­ings of trans­gen­der peo­ple have be­come so cur­rent that Mady’s own may be the least sur­pris­ing thing about him. In ele­men­tary and mid­dle school in We­ston, he says he felt bul­lied, often by teach­ers. He was di­ag­nosed with Ob­ses­sive Com­pul­sive Dis­or­der. He had a height­ened sense of smell and bal­ance so poor he had to sit in a spe­cial chair. He thinks his class­mates prob­a­bly viewed him as a “schlubby, weird girl,” if only be­cause he wore un­fash­ion­able cloth­ing.

Things got worse in high school, when he says he “pre­sented very fem­i­ninely be­cause it was ex­pected of me.” He wasn’t a man trapped in a woman’s body, he was some­body in be­tween.

“I al­ways iden­ti­fied my­self as my­self,” he says. “It’s weird I never felt like gen­der ap­plied to me, which I guess is the whole non­bi­nary thing.” His dis­cov­ery of a third way was grad­ual, often from per­sonal sto­ries posted on so­cial me­dia. “It was like, Oh my God. This is it. This is who I am.”

Mady now lives in Kingston, N.Y., with a part­ner, a writer who he de­scribes as a binary Cis-gen­der man. They’ve been to­gether five years and are en­gaged. Mady made their dat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences the sub­ject of one of his comic columns for The Nib. It in­cludes like­nesses of both.

Mady has drawn a va­ri­ety of self-por­traits, which are a record of how he sees him­self. Asked which he prefers, he says, “The more re­cent the bet­ter. I’m not quite out of the oven yet, so to speak.” Joel Lang is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Sun­day Arts & Style.

“I AL­WAYS IDEN­TI­FIED MY­SELF AS MY­SELF. IT’S WEIRD I NEVER FELT LIKE GEN­DER AP­PLIED TO ME, WHICH I GUESS IS THE WHOLE NON-BINARY THING.”

Con­trib­uted pho­tos

Mady G. ex­plains the nu­ances of gen­der is­sues by har­ness­ing con­sid­er­able car­toon­ing skills.

Con­trib­uted pho­tos

Graphic nov­els by Mady G. are an ef­fec­tive teach­ing tool for read­ers cu­ri­ous about trans­gen­der is­sues. Be­low, a frame from a video on which Mady col­lab­o­rated with Jill Soloway, cre­ator of “Trans­par­ent.”

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