This Artist Is a Gender Unicorn

Cock Jockey, 2018. Photo: Cupid Ojala

I don’t make it to Bushwick as often as I wish I did. Especially this winter, which seems to be determined to go on forever and make me less and less likely to do anything or go anywhere. But sometimes Bushwick comes to you, as it did at the Spring Break Art Show earlier this month. That’s the art fair which occupies a couple of office floors once used by Condé Nast in its old headquarters in Four Times Square, Condé Nast having decamped to the Freedom Tower. Spring Break feels a bit precious-precocious artisanal and also a bit like some zombie-apocalyptic aftermath when midtown was hastily abandoned to be taken over by these not so corporate galleries squatting in each of the 1990s-era office-space nooks and crannies, with their big sealed windows looking out into other towers with their the sealed glass windows. And all around you is this often very peculiar art, in tentative handmade takeover, each room its own wonderful if not always entirely convincing world, like gift shops to a series of urgent aesthetic ideologies, a haunted warren of “hmm, just what have we here?” It was a nice counterpoint to the blue chip certitude of the main Armory fair, anyway.

But of all of the trove of diversions on display at Spring Break, I just couldn’t get these out of my head: a series of whimsical drawings, by a trans man named Cupid Ojala, at the Art During the Occupation Gallery’s area. A larger selection of his work is now on display at the gallery in Bushwick. Ojala, who was born in 1977, grew up Mormon in Virginia, and earned his MFA at Parsons in 2012, is also the author of the Gender Wilderness Coloring Book. For all the fraught discussions our culture has had over gender these days, much of which is so obdurately beside the point, Ojala’s work conjures the pure delight of just being who you are, as well as who you’ve created yourself to be, perhaps especially if who you are is somehow magical.

Unicorn Thanksgiving, 2017. Photo: Cupid Ojala
Beach Unicorns, 2017. Photo: Cupid Ojala
Tandem Unicorns, 2018. Photo: Cupid Ojala
Cat Whisperer, 2018. Photo: Cupid Ojala
Space Camp, 2018. Photo: Cupid Ojala
Tiny House Envy, 2018. Photo: Cupid Ojala
This Artist Is a Gender Unicorn