What is it?
Lois Bielefeld (b. Milwaukee 1978)
Tyler (from Androgyny series)
Inkjet pigment print
55 x 40 in.
Gifted 2016, John Shannon and Jan Serr
About the Work
Lois Bielefeld received her BFA in Advertising Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2002, and she continues her work in commercial as well as fine art photography. In Bielefeld’s case, her training has enabled her to convey a forceful message. She has concentrated on images of American home life, as in her projects Weeknight Dinners (2013–15, 2017), The Bedroom (2008–12), and New Domesticity (2018–to date).
Bielefeld’s Androgyny project (2013–14) continues this exploration of human behavior but now focuses on the complexity of gender identity; it includes fifty-seven photographs, three short videos, and a non-functioning public restroom installation where one can listen to audio interviews with the subjects. Six portraits are in the Museum of Wisconsin’s permanent collection. As in Bielefeld’s earlier series, collectively they sound a note of community at the same time they celebrate a proud and indelible individuality.
In the portrait Tyler, a slim, chic, and androgynous young person looks directly but apprehensively at the camera. As with all of the portraits in the series—young, old, seemingly more one gender than another or not—the subject is shown full-length, standing on the same strip of floor against the same white, uninflected wall. All of the individuality reposes in the figure; background is virtually nonexistent. Their off-center poses within the frame suggests that they themselves are off-center in regard to mainstream gender conventions.
Bielefeld chose the public restroom as a feature in the full installation because it has been the locus of widespread social and political arguments involving gender identity. For the artist and her partner, the discomfort and debates surrounding these issues have echoes in incidents they have experienced personally.