Multidisciplinary artist explores identity and gender binary in new exhibit

While many Americans still grapple with how to categorize trans people, artists like Hagudeza (Deza) Rullán-Fantauzzi continue to transform concepts like gender and identity. In their latest exhibitDon’t put that on, that’s not for you’, Hagudeza explores gender, sexuality, and life outside the binary.

Starting on October 19 and running through November 9, the Da Vinci Art Alliance (DVAA) will feature Deza’s work which investigates their trans non-binary self-expression and identity through the use of sculptures, dance, film, and more. This exhibit invites viewers to meditate on heteronormative restrictions that entangle trans, gender fluid, and non-binary people who seek not validity, but visibility. “I’ve utilized the art that I was practicing to speak about these emotions that I have inside,” Deza shared. “That’s really what this exhibition is about, this journey of presentation.”

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Deza moved to Philadelphia at a young age and immediately found their footing in dance. Deza received a scholarship from the Philadelphia Dance Theater and trained there in contemporary and classical ballet. They also received the Jonathan Phelps Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Contemporary Dance from Regional Dance America, and they’ve previously performed and choreographed for the Cincinnati Ballet’s second company. Realizing dance could be an outlet for creative expression, they began experimenting with form and shapes and how their body could convey meaning. 

“I was trying to escape this very conservative church that my family was part of that made my life a living hell,” Deza said. “I escaped to dance and it really helped develop me and express my emotions through my body and get in tune.”

As the Da Vinci Art Alliance’s 2022 Linda Lee Alter Fellow, Deza continues to utilize dance throughout their exhibit, challenging previous ideas of masculinity and femininity in hopes viewers walk away with a new perspective on the binary and gender. 

Using articles of clothing, chicken wire, and other mediums, the artist delves into their relationship with self as they present conflict between trans existence and a society’s proclivity to erase trans rights. 

“I was hiding my identity and who I truly was due to the fact that society for so long has made it clear that people like me will receive violence. That people like me will not be accepted, that if you show up differently you’re going to be criticized, you’re going to be ostracized and put to the side.”

Displaying discomfort and the idea of ‘otherness’ in their work, the artist wants viewers to experience, if only for a brief moment, the materiality of life as a trans non-binary individual in society. 

“I hope that people are able to see themselves, even if they’re not trans. I hope that they’re able to see how trans issues and trans discrimination affects everyone. When we’re not paying attention to trans issues, we’re creating a world of judgment [and] I hope that cis people who see this work are able to pay attention to what’s actually happening in America, and help create the change that is needed.” 

‘Don’t put that on, that’s not for you’ runs at the DVAA through November 9.