My artistic response to the life, writing, and activism of Michael Noble.
“Labels struck a chord with me as someone who has always found conflict, rather than solace, in being labelled by myself or others…”
Renee Miller is a queer writer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing. In 2019, she completed Honours, her work was focused on looking at literature through the lens of queer and gender studies. Along with her passion for writing, Renee has always looked to explore and express ideas of gender, sex, and sexualities through visual art as well.
intersex; identity; sex; gender; memorial
Facets is a visual artwork that response to the writing and activism of Dr. Michael Noble while also serving as a memorial. The artwork ponders on two important subjects in Dr. Noble’s academy and creative writing: identity and creativity. It depicts a basic monochromatic portrait of Dr. Noble that is almost emerging from the bold solid yellow background of the intersex flag. In the purple ring residing in the centre of the flag is an anatomical heart rendered in a fashion meant to resemble cross-stitch. The artwork attempts to personalise the bold imagery of the intersex flag into a memorial, such as one would embellish an item of clothing with cross-stitch or embroidery.
I never met Michael Noble but after his passing, I saw the impact his life had on the community around me. I began reading his work and the way he wrote about identity and labels struck a chord with me as someone who has always found conflict, rather than solace, in being labelled by myself or others. With this piece, I wanted to explore Noble’s discussion of identity, while memorialising him by showing his creative spirit and dedication to intersex rights.
It meditates on Noble’s writings on identity by combining his image with the Intersex flag. The flag was created by Intersex Human Rights, an organisation that Noble was a part of. The original flag has two bold elements, a purple ring, and a bright yellow background. These colours were chosen to avoid gendered colours such as pink and blue (Carpenter 2013). The ring is meant to symbolise how intersex individuals are whole and complete as they are, a fact often not recognised by the medical world that violates intersex bodies to impose a gender binary.
In Noble’s writing, it is clear his relationship to the label of ‘intersex’ was complicated. He wrote, ‘[b]ut these labels are not the sum total of who I am: they are only facets of a multidimensional being that is me’ (Noble 2010). As such, I did not want to reduce Noble to a label or a flag and chose to depict his image emerging from the background. I wanted to force the flag to represent Noble.
I added an anatomical heart inside of the ring to symbolise Noble’s passion and creative spirit. I chose to construct that heart in a manner that imitated cross-stitch, a meditative artform Noble had a passion for. Cross-stitch is often used to embellish or personalise an item and here I wanted to draw on that connection to show Noble has very literally left his mark on the intersex community and beyond.