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Art

PRIDE 2018: DR. MARTENS SPEAKS TO DURHAM/OAKLAND ARTIST IRIS GOTTLIEB

Pride is a chance to honor everything Dr. Martens stands for — diversity, empowerment and rebellious self-expression — and with our 2018 Pride boot, we continue to support and honor the global LGBTQ community. This year, we’ve taken it a step further, and asked four LGBTQ artists to create artwork featuring this year’s 1460 boot to celebrate Pride.

The bicoastal Iris Gottlieb — based in both Oakland, CA and Durham, NC in the US — is lots of things. She’s an illustrator actively engaged in exploring queerness and science through drawings. She’s also an animator and author — and the three combined make for some pretty sweet, honest-yet-hilarious art. Keep scrolling to find out about how she feels about Pride, her approach to art and her advice to her 16-year-old self.

Tell us about yourself and your artwork in general . . .

I am an illustrator, scientist, grump, author, animator, and queer she-boy. My position as an artist in the Art World is to make art less serious, information more accessible and the world alittle more honest and vulnerable. I like funny things and I like being super open with my personal life, mental health, queerness. It’s important for folks to see themselves in others, particularly on the internet where people choose to share mostly the more pristine sides of themselves. I strive to make things with a vast, inclusive audience: so that anyone from any background can understand, appreciate and relate to it. I love drawing. It’s a really great career. I feel lucky to have it.

What has been a reccurring or important theme in your work lately?

Gender, gender, gender. In two weeks I am having gender-confirming top surgery and am currently writing a book about (intersectional) gender to be published next fall. So. There’s a lot of personal and professional focus on the topic. Inane jokes are always a theme in my public work, but interspersed has been glimpses of my behind-the-scenes research into visualizing the complexities in how we embody our multifaceted identities: struggle with our bodies, find likeness and difference among one another, and the historical context that has brought us to this point in gender history. It’s pretty fascinating and so incredibly complicated. I have written two illustrated science books (one of which is coming out this fall) in the hopes of engaging with people’s curiosity about the natural world, so this new work is all about engaging people in the conversation and introspection of gender identity.

Why is Pride month important to you?

Well. To be honest, I hate parties. And crowds. And being sunburnt. And drinking. And glitter. But I do love being queer. I don’t participate in Pride month, but rather try to participate in being proudly queer most days of every year. I make public work about being queer, asexual, gender non-conforming, and mental health and find that it resonates a lot with my audiences. I am moving back to North Carolina where it feels important to be openly queer somewhere that’s more conservative. My body is an unmistakable signal of queer presence and that is in some ways scary, but I also feel proud to be able to do that in the place where I’m from, while recognizing my white middle-class privilege gives me a certain level of safety other queer and trans people do not have. So, in short, I am proud to be able to publicly embody my queer identity, live in my queer body and be in a queer community, even in the times it’s really difficult to do so.

Tell us about the work you created for Dr. Martens and what inspired you.

So much of queerness is about unity; a joining of community around a shared identity. Humans have created intense divides along political, racial, gender, socioeconomic and ethical lines that are globally rearing their heads especially openly and loudly in this political moment. I am working on my own compassion and empathy for people who differ in their ideas of how the world looks or ought to look and it’s really hard. I often feel socially insulated within my community and struggle with forging connections beyond it, so I like to make work that attempts to bridge this divide in small increments – one drawing or one paragraph at a time. For strangers, the experience of getting to know someone’s intimate and vulnerable struggles (from close or afar) humanizes those experiences and creates empathy and, ultimately, some form of unity.

What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

Oof, that’s a tough one. I wonder what advice I would give myself now from my 40-year-old self? In some ways I think most 16-year-olds wouldn’t heed any advice, even if it was good for them. But I guess I would tell myself to be open to change. I can’t say I’ve been able to master that one much, but being able to know that things will change and then change again, and again and again forever can make each individual change a little less terrifying.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people.

I once ate 40 whole watermelons over the course of a summer.

Tell us about your first pair of Docs . . .

I got the classic black boots — the 1460 —from a thrift store when I was around 23. I don’t have them anymore, I handed them down to another queer youngster a year or two ago. May they serve their purpose for many generations to come. Amen.

Photography by: Chani Bockwinkel

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