As a child actor, iO Tillett Wright turned her shoes around in the bathroom stall so that people would think she was a boy. As a teenager, she fell in love with both women and men. Her life in the grey areas of gender and sexuality deeply inform her work as an artist.
iO Tillett Wright thanks her parents for not asking her to define herself as a child. Her experience of growing up without having check boxes like “female,” “male,” “gay” or straight” thoroughly infuses her art.
iO’s photography can be seen regularly in two features in The New York Times: Notes from the Underground and The Lowdown. She is also the creator of Self Evident Truths—an ongoing project to document the wide variety of experiences in LGBTQ America. So far, she has photographed about 2,000 people for the project. Her goal: 10,000 portraits and a nationwide rethinking of discriminatory laws.
iO had her first solo show at Fuse gallery in New York City in 2010, and exhibited her latest work at The Hole Gallery in early summer of 2012. She has published three books of photographs; Lose My Number, KISSER, and Look Ma’, No Hands. She has directed several music videos, and spent nineteen years acting in films.
“[I] asked people to quantify themselves on a scale of one to 100 percent gay, and I watched so many existential crises unfold in front of me. People didn't know what to do, because they had never been presented with the option before.”
“Familiarity really is the gateway drug to empathy. Once an issue pops up in your own backyard or amongst your own family, you're far more likely to … explore a new perspective on it.”
“My mission to photograph gays was inherently flawed, because there were a million different shades of gay.”
“There are just as many jerks and sweethearts and Democrats and Republicans and jocks and queens and every other polarization you can possibly think of within the LGBT community as there are within the human race.”
“Sometimes just the question ‘what do you do?’ can feel like somebody's opening a tiny little box and asking you to squeeze yourself inside of it.”