By Carolyn Schweitz
When UNC-Asheville (UNCA) senior Jeremiah Ethan Maitri began research for their senior project, A Trans-Parent Inclusive Body of Art Work, they had no idea where the journey was about to take them. After months of hard work, Jeremiah’s exhibition is on display in the Disability Diversity Center in the UNCA’s Ramsey Library. The exhibition features 14 mixed media collages as a response to a call to action for more trans bodies to be featured in artwork. Additionally, the exhibition houses a wealth of information, from resources on healing and safety to a selection of more inclusive books. The art installation also includes a research questionnaire that Jeremiah reworked from Nadine Burke Harris’ research on the long-term effects of childhood adversity.
Accessing the questionnaire proved challenging for Jeremiah because it deals with individual trauma. Jeremiah reflects that it is crucial as a researcher to communicate their findings in a way that meets the needs of the population the exhibition hopes to support. Jeremiah also stresses that self advocacy had been life-saving for them. “Being self-aware, one can make valuable life changes to prevent future health issues,” says Jeremiah.
Jeremiah has great personal investment in the project as a member of the trans community and as an artist with autism and a survivor of trauma. Yet, Jeremiah expresses that the project is far bigger than just them. “Labels are for jars,” says Jeremiah. “And humans are not jars.” The exhibition is about creating a safe environment that is neurodiverse, multicultural and queer-friendly.
Jeremiah’s hope for the project is to transmit an experience of support, acceptance and non-judgment. Their desire is to be seen, not just as one piece of their identity, but as a whole person. “My hope is that people will ask for what they need,” says Jeremiah. “And if they don’t get their needs met, they will keep asking until they do.”
To view Jeremiah’s artwork, visit the Disability Cultural Center at UNCA’s Ramsey Library. The Center is open Mondays and Fridays, 12:30 to 4 p.m., and Wednesdays 3:30–5:30 p.m. Further information can be found at UNCA.edu/academics/ academic-services/accessibility/disability-cultural-center and on Jeremiah’s website at jeremiahmaitri.wixsite.com/trans.