I was first introduced to trans artist and author, Sean La'mont, through my participation at the Queer Youth Festival at Healium Gallery in the Inman Park district. Lamont is a resident artist that creates magical work that allows the viewer to be filled with emotion.
Her charcoal portraits put the human body on display from a variety of aspects, whether it is focusing on lips kissing or showing a male or female torso in all of its splendor. Lamont also takes great pride her portraits of musicians. The accuracy is mind blowing and she has even had the chance to meet the celebrities she has drawn at various pride festivals and concerts.
Year-round she sets up a booth at all of the Pride festivals and displays her original creations and prints for sale. I caught up with her at her booth during this year's Atlanta Pride Festival where I got to meet her mother and her nephew who were helping her with sales.
Where are you from?
I'm originally from San Diego, California, but I've lived in Atlanta since 1999. I visited here a few times before making the permanent move and each time I was here it just felt right. Atlanta is the first place I saw me and people that looked like me and it's really what made me go through with my transition. Once I got here I got serious about my hormones.
What made you become a portrait artist?
My best friend wanted me to draw Prince for him for his birthday but I told him no. I was a fashion designer, I drew clothes not people. But he pushed me to it and started it.
Is being a full-time artist something you always thought you would be?
I'm not. It takes a lot of money to be able to maintain the quality that I put into my work. The packaging, the framing, traveling all of it is a lot so I have a full-time job to be able to keep it up. A gallery owner said to me, "You'll never be an artist unless it is your life. It has to be how you eat, sleep and live." So I guess I'm not an artist.
But you definitely are an artist, the work you put into each piece is amazing! Is this the Prince that started it all?
No, he has all of those originals. But how I knew this was real was that every time he opened one he would cry. I would send him a new piece every year, up until he passed, and we would be on the phone and he would say "Sean I'm about to open it now" and that's the feeling I love.
I see that you have had celebrities sign their portraits, what's the best celebrity reaction you've had?
Hmmm, that's a tough one but I think the best was Anita Baker because we had to fight our way through the crowd and at first they wouldn't let me through. They wouldn't let me give her the portrait but my husband grabbed it and forced his way through everything.
What are some challenges you have faced as a trans-woman of color in the art world?
First and most importantly is finances. When they refer to us as starving artists, honey they are telling the TRUTH!!! It is extremely important to understand that it requires a substantial amount of money to pay booth fees, reproduction costs, packaging, framing, travel, accommodations, did I mention that I'm high-maintenance? Hopefully, soon I will come in contact with a wealthy donor or investor to take Sean La'Mont to the next level. I honestly hope that race is not a factor in my artistic career considering that I create art everyone regardless of nationality or sexual orientation. Other challenges happen in my own GLTBQ community. Gay and Lesbian establishments support other gay and lesbian artists. They shun away from trans artists unless we're on a stage. Trans visual artists have to find their own path. And that's really sad because we're all the same.
As a trans-woman of color do you believe that being visible and having a voice is important?
Trans people have always been visible, shunned, denied, disliked, discriminated against and ridiculed. Now we are much more visible on a larger scale and finally, we have a voice. Not that I agree with what that voice is saying, but that's another conversation. It's nice to see and hear our journeys of life being told.
How as your art helped to shape your queer identity?
My art allows me to capture many facets of the GLBTQ experience and that has really shaped my life and caused me to grow as an artist.
Where can we find you online?
LaRue Calliet, known as LaRue C., is an Atlanta based fashion and art photographer. His work focuses on capturing the energy and color personality within the human spirit.