Photo: Courtesy of the ceramics department of Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia.

Ceramics Monthly: What led you to make sculpture and narrative vessels that are focused on social commentary?

Mac McCusker: In 2016, North Carolina passed House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which mandated transgender individuals use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate instead of their gender identity. Those of us who are gender nonconforming were negatively impacted by this new law. It was a law that legalized outright discrimination. I was yelled at in bathrooms and feared for my safety. I reacted by making a self-portrait sculpture about it. It wasn’t a conscious decision to make work about my personal experiences as a trans and non-binary person. I made it because I was angry that someone else was making decisions that greatly affected my life and personal wellbeing.

CM: How has the visibility and vulnerability that comes with making work that documents your personal narrative—including your experiences and struggles, as well as your political and social concerns—affected your daily life and outlook?

MM: I can only tell my own story. Using the figure and self portraits are my way of communicating my own experiences and struggles in Trump’s America. The rate of suicide attempts in trans-identifying people is a massive 41%. I made a choice to move forward, to be visible and vulnerable so that others may know that they are not alone in their fight. The work that followed centered issues about microaggressions and outright abuse that I experience in my life and on social media. People can be cruel. A prominent member of the ceramics community suggested that he should start wearing dresses so that he may get more attention and recognition. My body and my person are consistently under attack. Insensitivity and ridicule are rampant on social media.

However, being visible has its upsides. I am contacted weekly by high school students, college students, trans and gender nonconforming people, and parents of transgender kids. They are either seeking advice or they just want to say hello. They express gratitude for my visibility and tell me that it provides hope for them in their own lives and in their futures. Looking back, I have no regrets. I choose to live my life authentically and to give a voice to others who can’t or choose not to be visible. It is not an easy journey, but it is rewarding to be able to share my experiences and to educate others about what it means to me to be transgender.

Topics: Ceramic Artists