The Photo Issue 2019

These Self-Portraits Exist on the Edge Between Fantasy and Reality

For our annual photo issue, Matt Grubb shares transformative self-portraits that exist beyond the gender binary.

This portfolio appears in VICE Magazine's 2019 Photo Issue. With this issue we wanted to celebrate the absurd, the lighthearted, and the humorous. It’s important to take a break from the real world. As much as we need to be informed, engaged, and aware, we also need to laugh. We wanted to champion the people making art with a sense of humor. In today’s climate, there’s something nicely subversive about that. You can read more about our theme in the letter from our editor.


Check out an interactive version of the issue here, and why not subscribe to the magazine while you're at it?

Matt Grubb is a Brooklyn-based artist with roots in San Francisco and an MFA from Yale. Most of his work is focused on the conceptual—constructions, recreations, or manipulations—but for this issue, he shared a series of self-portraits that he made between 2017 and 2018. What started as an extension of a makeup hobby, over time became less about traditional ideas of drag glamour or beauty and more about transformations of all kinds. Each image typically begins with a vague concept, like the use of a Nintendo or a translucent facemask, and takes around three to six hours to complete. Grubb told us he tries to avoid anything which could be read as specifically gendered. The images are, in his words, “made in the middle ground between unreal confidence and complete self obliteration; the soft glow of Keeping Up With The Kardashians interview and that one harsh fluorescent subway light. In other words, they exist on the knife-edge between fantasy and reality that most queer people have to navigate to feel at home in their bodies. If I was beautiful that day, how could I make myself even more so? And if I was ugly, let’s all see how deep that ugliness could become.”