Chicago Therapy Collective Trans Art Is Artist River Kerstetter

Trans Art Is Artist: River Kerstetter

Pronouns: They/them/theirs; She/her/hers

Why do you want to submit your artwork to the Trans Art Is opening showcase?

I am an aspiring artist and would like the opportunity to show my work with my trans artist peers. As we make selections for the Trans Art Is opening showcase, we are also exploring themes for future exhibits.

What themes are you interested in exploring through your artwork or in future Trans Art Is exhibits?

Trans bodies, nature, environment, “natural,” body modification, art

Tell us about the artwork you have decided to submit to the Trans Art Is opening showcase. Why these pieces of artwork?

My quilt, “Blanket for Home,” was created after asking myself the question, “Aren’t trans/queer people as indigenous and ‘natural’ as any other living beings on Earth?” The answer, of course, is YES.
My sculptures, “Hat for Protection 1 and 2” are pieces that combine materials and colors related to my experience of gender and race. The social constructions around hats, ribbon, masks, and color are queered and questioned in these pieces.

CTC Trans Art Is Artist Profile 2 River Kerstetter Hats for Protection

Artist Bio

River Ian Kerstetter is a queer indigenous artist and writer raised in central New Mexico and living in Chicago. Growing up as a queer, gender non-conforming child of Onʌyota’a:ka (Oneida) and European parents informs much of their work, as does their search for community and a desire to understand intersecting narratives of queerness, gender, history, heritage, and planet around them.t 

River is a co-founder of PansyGuild, a Chicago collective that seeks to investigate and celebrate the intersections of QPOC experiences primarily through printmaking and papermaking practices.

River was also a founding member of Vecinos Artist Collective, a New Mexico collective founded by Gabrielle Uballez and Michael Lorenzo Lopez that partnered with community organizations and other artists to create collaborative, multidisciplinary art, from parade floats to poetry workshops.

 River recently received their MFA in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts from Columbia College Chicago. They also hold a BFA from the University of New Mexico.

Artist Statement

I am an interdisciplinary artist and writer. My experiences of being queer, non-binary, and of Onʌyota’a:ka (Oneida) and European heritage in a society that often works to suppress difference inform much of my artistic practice.

My recent work blends writing, print media and fiber arts techniques to poetically document and make sense of these experiences. Like many queer people and people of color, I have spent much of my life seeking out community and others like me, and my art begins as an attempt to map my identity within contested histories, and to center and uplift other indigenous, queer and intersectional perspectives in academic and political spaces that have historically denied them.

Although the search for community can be confusing and difficult at times, it can also be a source of great joy and an act of rebellion in a society that often doesn’t value or see queer people, people of color, and gender non-conforming people. I see this joy reflected in the words, the brilliant colors, and performances in queer and Native American spaces like pow wows and Chicago queer nightlife. I also see connections between the diversity, color, and beauty of my communities and the rest of life on Earth.  Thus, color, the implications of garments and textiles, the interconnectedness of life, and a rebellious performance of joy have become important parts of my work.

My most recent work blends poetry, printmaking, and fiber arts in order to explore my own experiences of finding joy in my queerness, my gender expression, my heritage, and my desire to relate to the Earth. Using printmaking techniques to weave text about the experiences of queer and trans people, women, and indigenous peoples into textile-based objects, I remix and queer the objects I make, and point to the nuance and diversity of human experience.