Tourmaline is an activist, filmmaker, and writer. Her work highlights the capacity of Black queer and trans people and communities to make and transform worlds. In her films, Tourmaline creates dreamlike portraits of people whose stories tell the history of New York City, including gay and trans liberation activists, drag queens, and queer icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Happy Birthday Marsha, co-directed with Sasha Wortzel, 2018), Miss Major (The Personal Things, 2016), and Egyptt LaBeija (Atlantic is a Sea of Bones, 2017). Tending to the histories and haunts of disabled, poor, Black, queer, and trans life that echo and vibrate beneath neighborhoods and cultural landmarks, Tourmaline’s films undulate between narrative and non-narrative and illuminate the mundane acts that form the fabric of historical events and mutually supportive communities.
In the style of Black fantasy and folktales such as Virginia Hamilton’s The People Could Fly, Tourmaline’s work for the High Line, Salacia, takes place in Seneca Village—a 19th-century free Black community in upper Manhattan that was demolished to create Central Park in 1855. Salacia follows Mary Jones (born 1803), a Black transgender New Yorker as she discovers her power in the face of heightened systemic racism and transphobia.
Tourmaline presents the first work in High Line Art’s newest format: High Line Originals. Part of High Line Channels, High Line Originals marks the first time High Line Art commissions new video work and is intended to support the work of local, emerging artists. Salacia is co-commissioned by the Brooklyn Museum and High Line Art, presented by Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The High Line presentation of Salacia is curated by Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator.
Related event: A conversation with Tourmaline and Kimberly Drew, June 27, 7pm.
Tourmaline (b. 1983, Boston, Massachusetts) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Recent screenings of Tourmaline’s work have been presented at venues including BFI Flare, London, England (2018); Seattle Transgender Film Festival, Seattle, Washington (2018); Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon (2018); New Museum, New York, New York (2017); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York (2017); the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, New York (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (2017); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California (2017); and the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York (2016). Tourmaline was a 2014 – 2018 Activist-in-Residence at Barnard College Center for Research on Women, New York, New York; HBO’s Queer Art Prize winner for The Personal Things (2017); and a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council: Workspace Resident, New York, New York (2016). Tourmaline’s writing has been published in Teen Vogue (2017); by MIT Press (2017); and by Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law (2014). Tourmaline is the founder and director of the production company Star People with activist, filmmaker, and writer Sasha Wortzel. Star People has produced films including Happy Birthday, Marsha (2018) and STAR People Are Beautiful People (2009).
Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support for High Line Art is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and the Charina Endowment Fund. High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson.