Can something be violent and gentle at the same time? How can we balance the grim and the whimsical? Are there things that are both plant and animal? Are individuality and collectiveness mutually exclusive? Valentin Brown (b. 1994) makes what he calls “soft body horror” in both two and three-dimensional forms in response to these questions. As a neurodivergent trans man in recovery, he works to synthesize opposites in an effort to find strength and meaning by walking the middle path in an often polarizing world. Brown lives and works in Hamilton, Ontario and is a graduate of the Visual and Creative Arts program at Sheridan College. He has exhibited in group shows at Sheridan College, at the Durham Art Gallery in Durham, Ontario, and with Art Spin in a temporary venue at the Planet Storage facility in Toronto. In 2019, he was awarded Tangled Art + Disability’s Won Lee Fellowship.
Is that a mushroom, or his “peen”? Is that a pile of leaves or a pile of bones? Is that the “trunk” of the body? Valentin Brown queers the human body using forms from nature—creating what he calls “soft body horror”— to describe the tension he experiences as an autistic trans man recovering from PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. He is mindful of the tension and discomfort he makes in his work and embraces and entertains it with deliberate care. In his practice he has balanced these elements by delicately bending tree bark into an aluminum bowl, carefully tracing his rolls, lumps, and knarls with quiet lines, shaping one thousand tiny clay biomorphic objects, and mixing human hair into crumbling concrete forms mended with tensor bandage.