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Is Perlman

design and architecture senior high school|Miami, FL
TEACHER: Mateo Nava
3-D Art and Design
Male student wearing white dress holding frame
Notes on Trandescendence|NA
Idea(s): Using fabric, the performance combines femininity/masculinity to challenge rigid gender binaries. Material(s): Performance - wood, found cloth, mascara Process(es): Constructed wood and fabric garment, recorded act of putting on and taking off. Still from video.


sketchbook of writing, photographs, drawings
Process Images | NA
Material(s): Sketchbooks/Process- Paper, charcoal, collage, photos, pencil, screenprinting, markers, oil pastels.
Process(es): Process pages/sketches for pieces. Combination of images/writing/sketching to develop concepts.
Mateo Nava
At the same time, though, a certain level of structure also added guardrails. The way I worked with students through assignments was by implementing frequent formative assessments such as 1-on-1 meetings, sketchbook planning, and in-process critiques as well as summative assessments like final group critiques and portfolio reviews. I provided development resources such as facilitating discussions on sample portfolios and sharing resources for success. Additionally, I used writing in my class curriculum to help students develop a clear vocabulary for drawing a connection between their conceptual ideas and their visual approach. This allowed students to reflect on and clarify their ideas while working on their Sustained Investigation.
Throughout the school year, student and artist Is Perlman brought a keen sense of curiosity and experimentation to their work as they created a thought-provoking visual exploration of religion, spirituality, and gender through sculpture, performance, and installation. Early on in the academic year, I noticed that Is had a unique interest in experimental media and risk-taking. I realized that my role as an educator was not to enforce a pre-determined version of what successful AP sculptures look like, but rather recognize this as an opportunity to nurture Is’s artistic vision. I did this by helping Is and their classmates develop their technical knowledge of tools and skills for them to tell their stories. Allowing room for experimentation gave way to exploration and providing technical knowledge helped to set a foundation for students to form their own Sustained Investigations.
I encourage you to make work that feels both honest and healing.
Is Perlman
I make artwork about trans joy. Right now, mainstream representation of trans folks is often limited to our suffering and pain, and I make work to challenge that predominance. Due to systemic oppression, we have a history of being oppressed, and it would be inaccurate and irresponsible to ignore this long history. However, I see my work as a space where I can imagine a better future for trans people, one in which we are not just accepted, but liberated. I imagine a world in which our existences are seen as holy. Especially with the proliferation of anti-trans legislation currently sweeping the country, it felt necessary for me to use this portfolio as an opportunity to showcase the beauty and power of being trans.
My first piece, Notes on Transcendence, is a performance piece exploring the complex relationship between past and future in gender-expansive communities. The work involved constructing a wooden frame, applying found cloth, applying mascara to my face to create a fake mustache, and documenting the physical labor involved to uphold the object itself. When documenting this performance piece, it was important to me to be vulnerable, both in my expression and the positioning of my body. While one of my arms can fit within the garment, the other arm remains empty, reflecting both pain and empowerment. With this in mind, the garment becomes a cocoon, surrounding me with comfort and familiarity until I am ready to articulate who I am. Notes on Transcendence suggests that we must not wholly reject our past- instead, we must acknowledge it in the search for transformation.
After Sleeping Hermaphroditus is my homage to the ancient statue Sleeping Hermaphroditus, which depicts a figure at rest with both female secondary sex characteristics and male genitals. For trans people, our presence in public bathrooms is intensely questioned and politicized. Therefore, our bathrooms at home serve as locations of gendered rituals and sanctity, spaces where we can be vulnerable and exist freely in our bodies. To make this piece, I recorded myself at rest, then projected the video onto running water in my bathtub. I did not move my shampoo bottles and soap bars, making the piece more intimate, a glimpse into a private ritual. I remain restful and calm, representative of stoicism despite systemic ostracization.
While developing my portfolio, I was lucky enough to have Mr. Mateo Nava as my educator. Mr. Nava gave me the space to explore unconventional techniques and provided guidance to improve my technical skills. Most importantly, Mr. Nava encouraged me to be vulnerable. Making art about personal experiences was often emotionally draining, but it always felt worth it with a great teacher like Mr. Nava. To other AP Art and Design students, I encourage you to make work that feels both honest and healing. Especially for other students with marginalized identities, I want to remind you of our power to depict narratives that have historically been ignored and misrepresented. Your truth is your power – use it!
Untitled|59 x 80 x 31 in Idea(s): Referencing Sleeping Hermaphroditus, I portray the bathroom as a sacred place for trans people. Material(s): Installation - bathtub, projection, water
Process(es): Recorded video of performance, projected onto running water in a bathtub. Still from video.
If I were to share any advice with other AP Art and Design teachers it would be to find a way to balance freedom and exploration with clear guidance and meaningful resources in their curriculum. Encourage high standards but at the same time enable experimentation and risk-taking. In my time as a teacher, the most exciting surprises and artistic developments have come from students’ self-generated ideas rather than my explicit instruction as an educator.
—Mateo Nava, teacher
Is Perlman
Is Perlman