SOMArts Touch On Interview with Courtney Trouble


  • WHAT: Courtney Trouble makes photographs and mixed media art that addresses queer identity and non-binary gender. Courtney’s work will be displayed at the Touch On Exhibition at SOMArts.
  • WHEN: Courtney Trouble’s work can be viewed as part of Touch On: Aesthetics in the Art, Politics and Ontology of Touch, on view at SOMArts December 1, 2016– January 12, 2017. Gallery Hours: Tuesday–Friday 12–7pm & Saturday 12–5pm.

“Fisted Ceramics: Hyper, Stilleto and Blood”, 2016, Courtney Trouble.

Where and how did the idea for  the Fisted Ceramics come from?

I took a ceramics class a few winters ago, before I started my MFA at California College of the Arts. I made these three bowls while thinking about nails and fisting. There’s two things they say you “can’t do” with fake nails – fist someone, and throw something on the wheel. I am a queer sex worker, so fake nails are a major force in my life – While in the class, I had to go to Las Vegas for the Adult Video News Awards and came to the next class with stiletto acrylics. I used them as a tool to make the pieces, just as I always adapt to this sex work related cyborg femme life I live.

What mediums have you used for your piece?

I am a femme who loves to rock fake nails, and I know how to fist with them – and throw pots with them. These pieces were made by throwing the clay around my closed fist, utilizing my nails to scratch and apply slip clay, cooked to Bisque, and finished with a pack of nail files. I hope people will see the same connection between the act of throwing something like a small pot on the wheel, and touching someone intimately .

What is the message you want viewers to take back from your pieces?

This piece is for those femmes, and for queer sex workers who are being witnessed in a space that is both professional and intimate. Trans sex workers are people who must face gender, labor, and performance as one. There is visibility and invisibility from all angles. What we put on, how we present, how we perform our genders in front of a camera, is to be recorded and witnessed both as we are, and as our sex worker personas. I hope people can see vulnerability, risk, and empowerment when they see the femme-fake-nail-fisted bowls connected to a naked trans man being relaxed and owning a sense of empowered openness – a break from the common assumptions that queer sex workers are either not themselves in their work, or that there aren’t other various labor and visibility issues that complicate our lives. But in the end, I also thought about beauty and sensuality and scopophilia. The bowls are put before the photograph so that they complicate your vision of the photograph. I also chose something I thought would maybe provoke some ideas about how trans and queer people exist in the world when they are sex workers, and how unique it’s made our lives.

What lies on the future radar for you as an artist?

I am totally into doing things with my hands right now. I used to be very hands-off with my work as a porn director, and still am to a certain extent with any porn production I consult for. Now, if I can’t touch it, I don’t want to make it. So I paint, I make objects, I make dust piles out of photo pigments and glitter. I like anything messy and inky, and I enjoy making experimental films, particularly around self-witnessing and self-surveillance. I do durational performances sometimes on my new website, I am also still running my porn production company TROUBLEfilms and am advising/teaching mentees in that field. I will be showing a very large piece of work related to some of my current thoughts around the environment and queer survival at Embark Gallery in January

About Courtney Trouble:
Courtney makes photographs and mixed media art that addresses queer identity and non-binary gender, with ties to pop culture, poetry, performance, pornography, sex, and surrealism. She is currently completing her MFA at the California College of the Arts

About the Interviewer:
Tara Chandi is SOMArts’ Communications & Gallery Events Intern. She is pursuing a Master’s in Interaction Design at the California College of the Arts. Her work is focused on designing for sustainable solutions and systemic change.