Tiffany-Ashton Gatsby (they/she) is a queer-disabled, genderfluid person of Ashkenazi descent living with Multiple Sclerosis. They are an emerging artist and undergraduate honors researcher at the University of Washington studying Medical Anthropology and Global Health, Interdisciplinary Visual Arts, and Diversity. They are working on completing their undergraduate studies researching healing through art in the queer-disabled community. In the fall, they will start their doctoral program in Medical Anthropology.
They recently completed their thesis on healing through art in the queer-disabled community, as a foundation for further research in graduate school. As an artist, advocate, activist, and trauma survivor, Tiffany-Ashton focuses on representing issues faced by the queer-disabled community, including mental health, economic inequality, and social and political dissonance through abstraction, while examining performativity and perceptions of the intersection of gender and disability. They approach these topics through painting, sculpture, glass, photography, collage, assemblage, and film. They are currently working on larger film and performance pieces documenting lived experiences while interacting within biomedical systems, pushing back against the biomedical system, hegemonic cis-heteropatriarchy, and ableism while highlighting the issues queer-disabled persons deal with simply by existing in a medicalized and often desexualized body.
They are active in the disabled and LGBTQ communities, volunteering for several organizations including the National MS Society, Seattle Dyke March, and Crip Riot. As a member of both the disabled and LGBTQ communities, Tiffany-Ashton is an advocate and an activist. They embrace their multiple, marginalized identities and move forward into a space of recognition and celebration, hoping to someday establish a network of collectives for queer-disabled individuals to gather and create community-based artworks for public installation made to bring visibility to the queer-disabled community.
Tiffany-Ashton is a Pride Foundation, Gilman, GSBA Scholar, University of Washington Husky 100, and Homecoming Scholar. They are a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Mortar Board Honors Society, and Phi Sigma Pi Honors Fraternity.
I began my artistic journey when diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, initially exploring photography and fiber arts. After a relapse of MS left me homebound for nearly a year, I turned to art as a way to cope. I was dealing with Complex PTSD, panic disorder, anxiety, and agoraphobia and I lost my sense of identity and personhood. By channeling my emotions into a creative force, I began to see a path forward through art, activism, and advocacy.
My work embraces my multiple marginalized identities and is also heavily influenced by my time living in the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest. I strive to represent issues faced by my queer-disabled community, such as accessibility, socioeconomic disparities, political dissonance, and biomedical traumas experienced when interacting within the healthcare system.
My artistic style continues to evolve, especially since the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. My earlier work focused on painting, sculpture, and works with glass, using found materials in nature alongside wire, metals, concrete, and lighting to demonstrate the juxtaposition between nature and industry to explore various concepts through abstraction. More recently, I am working through a more socially engaged lens, using video, graphic design, and installation works to create spaces that evoke connectivity to broader issues. Rather than creating art for a viewer, I am striving to create immersive environments that require participation with the viewing community, so they become a part of the work.
I look forward to combining my work with my advocacy and research to reach broad audiences to gain visibility and push back against marginalization for my queer-disabled community.
I have experienced the power of healing through art. Not a physical or medical cure, but rather a powerful emotional transformation that allowed me to change my perspective on living in a queer-disabled body. This new perspective allows me to now use my position as an artist, activist, and researcher to bring attention to the many issues facing my community.
Living most of my life as a professional patient, social practice and installation pieces work as interventions to disrupt the status quo and promote individual, community-level, and political healing by promoting awareness of the many issues faced by others like me. I recognize the power of coming together with community members to collectively participate in creative outpourings intended to catch the attention of broad audiences. Through performance, installation, and social practice, I utilize an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating sculpture, photography, design, glass, painting, and other collaborative techniques, transforming them into candid and documentary video, collage, assemblage, and site-specific installations to push back against hegemonic cis-heteropatriarchy, ableism, and living in a medicalized and often desexualized body.
As I transition into my role as a doctoral student in Medical Anthropology, I will continue to research the positive effects of engagement with the arts on the queer-disabled community and how the utilization of social practice art as a site of resistance promotes healing. I aim to center my graduate research around creating spaces where queer-disabled individuals can show up as their whole selves to engage in collective art practices, continually seeking to effect positive change through art.
Feminist Disability Studies
Gender & Sexuality