The Trans Artist Has Been Creating Art Behind Bars For Nearly Three Decades

The Trans Artist Has Been Creating Art Behind Bars For Nearly Three Decades

During the last 27 years, Jamie Diaz, a Mexican American transgender woman, has been imprisoned in a Texas men’s prison.

Since then, she has painted watercolors that celebrate queers and transgender people. During Thursday’s opening at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York, her work spanning nearly a decade will be on view.

‘Even Flowers Bleed’ is Diaz’s first solo art show, titled after a series of still-life paintings of flowers in vases. Blood drops are visible on the thorns of the flowers.

Diaz said, Everything bleeds, everything feels pain. We’re not the only ones; even flowers can hurt. That’s just part of nature.”

There are portraits of Diaz and Gabriel Joffe, her friend and co-curator of the exhibit, and the still lifes. The majority of the paintings depict queer themes or symbols.

Diaz was born in Waukegan, Illinois, and grew up in Houston. As a young adult, she worked in a tattoo shop in Texas.

A Texas Department of Criminal Justice report says she is eligible for parole in 2025 for the aggravated robbery she committed in 1996.

Diaz’s exhibit will be a pivotal moment, says Joffe, who uses gender-neutral pronouns. While volunteering for Black and Pink, a group that advocates for prison abolition, they wrote letters to Diaz.

Aside from being Diaz’s first solo show, “Even Flowers Bleed” represents the first time her queer art will be exhibited publicly. Joffe says it’s another step towards creating the most extensive queer art collection.

Many of Diaz’s paintings have a solid queer theme and motif. The faceless figure in “May Our Queer Spirits Forever Soar” stands on a pink triangle with its arms extended – a symbol that Nazis used for identifying homosexuals imprisoned and has since been reclaimed as a symbol of queer pride.

“Queer spirits mean love, beauty, and joy,” Diaz told Joffe earlier this year in an interview on her website. “It’s like a symbol of happiness and acceptance. I intend to make a powerful statement that the queer spirit deserves equal respect as the human spirit.