Metuchen artist finds outlet in painting

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Tegan James will debut his first solo exhibit in Metuchen on April 15.PHOTO BY KATHY CHANG
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Tegan James will debut his first solo exhibit in Metuchen on April 15.PHOTO BY KATHY CHANG
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BY KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

METUCHEN — An art show focusing on transgender and the gender spectrum will be displayed at The Gallery at the What’s New Men’s Consignment store on Main Street.

On April 15, Tegan James will debut his first solo art exhibit titled “You Think You Know Me” with an opening reception featuring his 12 paintings of acrylic on canvas. The show will be displayed through April 30.

“As a transgender artist, I have chosen this special opportunity to work with an LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, Questioning) theme with a heavy focus on being transgender and the gender spectrum,” he said.

The canvas is where James said he felt safe to express himself. The artwork exudes the raw emotion of his journey.

“I was tired of hiding who I was, being misunderstood and apologizing,” he said.

James said he feels it is important that he uses the opportunity to bring awareness to the transgender community, not only to give a voice to himself and his own journey, but also to be a voice for those out there who still feel lost, scared or uncertain.

“It wasn’t until I was 36 years old that I discovered what was right with me and I wouldn’t have if others weren’t out there sharing their stories too,” he said. “It’s unconventional yet fitting to have this art show in a men’s clothing store. The owner, Mark Sher, is wonderfully quirky and a creative entrepreneur.”

Something was missing, haunting, almost nagging in the back of Tegan James’ mind after the artist had come out as a lesbian at 18 years old.

“It was not until a few years ago, I heard Chaz Bono [who is a transgender man and son of singers Sonny Bono and Cher] describe the same thoughts and feelings I was having of feeling all over the place and not knowing who you are,” he said. “I am 40 years old now so all those years, it was haunting me … my mind and body did not match and I felt stuck.”

James has changed his name from Christine Gerity to Tegan James to better fit his gender identity, which is still in the process as he transitions from a female to a male.

“This is still new,” he said. “I am very happy now that I found the answer and I realized that there was nothing wrong with me.”

Despite the new found answer, James said the period of transition has been rocky. He said he has found support with the LGBTQ community as he and his family including his wife and four children take the journey together.

James, who has lived in Metuchen for the past 20 years, said since he was growing up in Perth Amboy, he wanted a blue room and wanted to play sports with his dad and brothers.

He took to poetry and writing to express the confusion he was feeling on why he couldn’t have the blue room or play sports with the boys.

About four to five years ago, James said he found a bigger outlet in painting on a canvas to express his thoughts and feelings, which took him, at times, deep down into his soul.

The Gallery at What’s New Men’s Consignment store is located at 406 Main St. in downtown Metuchen.