The last time Dylan Scholinski wore a dress, he was locked in a mental hospital and his name was Daphne. Daphne was institutionalized at fifteen, diagnosed as an "inappropriate female." In the three years she spent at various Midwestern mental hospitals, Scholinski endured abuse and forced "femininity training." Her parents' insurance finally ran out, and she was released at age eighteen.
Dylan is now forty and a successful artist, author and public speaker. In 1997 he published his memoir of life as Daphne, The Last Time I Wore a Dress, and has been creating and displaying his intimate artworks most inspired by his institutional incarceration all over the country. He made Denver his new home when he relocated from Washington, D.C., last fall. His inaugural, untitled show opens tonight at Isadore Gallery, 3542 Walnut Street. When he's not painting, Scholinski is involved in the Tranny Roadshow and the Denver Zine Library with his partner, Kelly Shortandqueer (aka Kelly Costello). He is also working with writer/director Andrea Janakas to adapt his book for a feature film. Meanwhile, another of his undertakings Sent(a)Mental: A Memorial to GLBTIQ Suicides is similar to the Names Project (commonly known as the AIDS Quilt) and the National Organization for Women's Clothesline Project. Scholinski hopes Sent(a)Mental will bring visibility to mental-heath issues and the epidemic of people in the queer community lost to suicide.
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"Being gay or trans is not the issue; we're not seeing psychiatrists for that," he says. "We don't talk about it because we want to be seen as normal, but like everyone else, we are also anorexic, depressed, schizophrenic, in wheelchairs, and we feel invisible. I've lost many friends to suicide over the years. With this project, I'm trying to create closure for people. One of the hardest things to deal with is that there was no time to say goodbye. I feel fortunate that I'm able to express myself, and I want to give other people that opportunity and make a place you can leave your pain or get through it so you don't have to carry it with you."
Get a glimpse inside Scholinski's head at 6 p.m.; the show runs through May 24. Visit www.isadoregallery.com or call 303-293-1950 for more information. For more on Scholinski's projects, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.