• Chelsea Thompto

Bone Deep


Detail of Bone Deep #1


I have recently started a new series of work titled Bone Deep. The series will consist of 10 editions of 10 made using a pen plotter on paper and will combine medical illustrations relating to various procedures commonly linked to gender transition and my own writings.


My writing in this series explores the relationship I have to these medical processes as a trans person who started transitioning a decade ago but still hasn't had access to or made a decision about many of these procedures. Appended to the original descriptions accompanying these illustrations, my writing, while conforming to conventional formatting inserts an emotional complication into an otherwise sterile and placid format.


This work is complicated for me because while I feel a drive to make it, I also worry about how it will be perceived. The worry here is that the work maybe become relegated to the realm of "trauma porn." Meaning that its value will be in based not on artistic/formal merit or the complexities it might explore but rather how it's emotional may be extracted for entertain by non-trans people. This has been a constant tension in my studio practice, seeking to speak directly and truly to my experience while also resisting the tragedy narrative that is so often applied to trans bodies and lives. Its any experience may trans people I know have endured. Trying to speak to ones honest experience only to find that your audience is there not to hear what you have to say but rather to consume the pain of your story, that they are all too ready to see you as the embodiment of a tragedy.


So in Bone Deep, I am aiming to ride this line by exploring both my own complicated relationship to the medical processes generally seen as part of "gender affirmation" and also the processes themselves. The goal here is a sort of mediation, that the content of my words might warm/soften/complicate the diagrams and sterile descriptions of the these processes and the diagrams and captions might lend my words some of their coolness in return. In my project Productive Bodies, I started directly using medical and governmental documents in my work because so much of my research has been about what these institutions do in order to visualize and comprehend trans bodies. I see this work as a continuation of research, trading in the visual queues of medical and legal documentation as a way of inserting my voice into this discourse. In Bone Deep, this takes the form, as stated above, of using the captions and diagrams of medical texts as well as through the use of a common document size: 8.5" x 11".


Bone Deep #1


When I see the work finished, I am struck by how quiet it feels, perhaps due to its size or in the case of this first piece its singularity. I will be curious to see how they read as a complete set. I am also very excited by the effect of using the pen plotter. I chose the pen plotter because I wanted something that would mechanically reproduce the images but something that would also result in a softening of the image. Much in the way the text of these works is a mixture of cold/scientific language and my own more personal writing, the pen plotter blends the predictability of the computerized coordinate plane with the much less predictable physical reality of a pen.


It achieve the look I was going for, I dialed in the settings and paper using a test sheet I designed for the purpose:


(I am happy to provide a PDF version for anyone interested, just message me through the contact section of my site!)


I am happy to be able to get back in the studio in this way, teaching 4 classes a semester has made it a bit challenging and although I have some other more digital projects in the works as well but it feels good to be making in this way as well.


More to come!

​© 2014 - 2019 by Chelsea Thompto