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COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy of the artist

Welcome to the Big Top
Artist Dallas Rivas finds creative therapy in poppy, personal paintings.

By Scott Renshaw

Some creativity is born out of a deep emotional need for communication. Some creativity is born out of pragmatism. For Dallas Rivas, it's both.

Rivas—a Texas transplant who also is a Transgender Education Advocates of Utah trustee—has had his donated paintings exhibited at the Utah Art Center. He also designs LGBTQ-themed T-shirts under the moniker Dallas Ian's LGBTees & Queer Gear. Both creative outlets suggest his cheeky sensibility, with a personal twist.

COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy of the artist

The paintings, including his "Gender Freakshow" series portraying people of a variety of sexual and gender identities as carnival acts, turn mainstream perceptions about LGBTQ people into objects of satire. "I believe life is fun—and it is more satirical than serious," Rivas says. "People see us [transgender people] as freaks and are afraid to know more about it. We're pretty normal and boring people."

But Rivas also acknowledges that works like these are a way to process feelings he might not otherwise have a way to express. "I am not an emotional person who expresses myself, so painting releases some of my thoughts onto canvas," he says. "Creativity in any form helps me and is therapeutic."

Another kind of needed help inspired the creation of LGBTees several years ago. Boasting messages like "I'm the gay uncle everybody talks about" and "NOT Temple Worthy," they originated as a way to raise funds for the transgender activist group TransAction and its social activities.

Whether intended to raise money or raise his own spirits, Rivas' works also succeed at raising eyebrows and raising issues. According to Utah Pride Center executive director Rob Moolman, "Dallas' work is a great conversation starter for a lot of people who come through the center because of how he managed to play with the ideas of gender. His art has caused a tremendous amount of conversation, and he does it in such a playful manner."

For now, art is only a sideline for Rivas, who works for UPS by day. "I would love to quit and do art full time," he says. "One day." For now, he's able to demonstrate that "normal and boring," at least for him, might be a bit of humble understatement.

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