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T.J. Ripley
Honors, Painting + Drawing

As I move through the world as a lesbian and gender non-conforming woman, my body often feels like a lightning rod for hostile observation. The (hyper)awareness that I am constantly scrutinized by strangers manifests as a specific bodily tension in public spaces, and the persistent sense that I am being watched follows me into my private life as well. It is as if I am physically carrying the weight of their gaze, and constantly forced to see myself through the eyes of an unfriendly stranger. My self-portrait paintings are created in an effort to hold and return that gaze, so that I can look back at the world, and confront it. Through my paintings, I explore what it means for me to share my private life, domestic spaces, relationships and personal history with an outside viewer. I also engage with assumptions and stereotypes about female masculinity, lesbianism, and sexuality. The paintings Self-Portrait– Together In Bed and Still Life With Harness are an honest insight into a type of relationship and intimacy that is not typically part of the art canon. They are intended to challenge the viewer to confront their own perceptions of lesbian relationships. I am influenced by Catherine Opie’s photographs and portraits of the L.G.B.T. community, and by the paintings of Jordan Casteel and Nicole Eisenman.


I am a lifelong resident of Washington, and I grew up on Vashon Island. As a child I was fascinated by art and storytelling, and I insisted on taking every single art class offered by Vashon High School. During this time I also became interested in drawing portraits of myself and the people around me, something I continued after graduating. I spent two years working as a firefighter and E.M.T. before moving to Seattle and entering the University of Washington in 2016. Although I was not initially enrolled as an art major, I registered for a different art class every quarter, until I finally took my first painting class in 2017. Oil painting has been my medium of choice ever since. I am still creating self-portraits, although I no longer sketch them from the front seat of an ambulance. I currently live with my fiancée in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.