Mister Samo - I exist: Celebrating Trans people through Art
Artist and activist Samo (@mister.samo to his following) has been painting, spraying, and illustrating since 2013 and has found prominence in the UK and across the world through his focus on gender transition and the natural world. Often using himself as the model, as well as his beautiful network of trans, non-binary and genderfluid connections, his work often documents the experience of gender transition from a personal as well as societal lense and he has used a range of mediums across the years to express his work.
Born and raised as a council estate kid in Portsmouth, Samo’s rise to street art fame has seen him painting installations across the UK as well as internationally, most notably as one of a few select artists invited to create work for World Pride in New York City. His painting, illustrations and prints are now collected all across the world, including by Game of Thrones actress Kate Dickie and the alt punk band Sleaford Mods.
In 2019, I EXIST was the dream of an artist, a trans-man and an activist, all rolled into one who wanted to see trans bodies, ALL trans bodies celebrated in art. For too long, trans bodies have been excluded from art and I EXIST became about showcasing trans bodies in all their uniqueness and beauty. Consider how society has typically admired cisgender nude bodies through history and how our modern perceptions of beauty and gender have evolved with the world.
I EXIST evolved over time into a 50-piece exhibition, showcasing trans bodies across life stages, social structures, working environments and relationship structures, it documents Samo’s own experience of gender and combines these artworks with powerful storytelling. A world-first exhibition at the Coastguard Studio in Portsmouth featured the full collection which has also been produced into a book, also called I EXIST which is now available. Alongside the exhibition, Samo and prominent voices in the trans-community hosted a week of workshops exploring aspects of art and identity and drew crowds far beyond venue capacity to share in the stories.
The I EXIST Project is proud to receive grant funding from Arts Council England.