Cameron Tyme Edison
Name: Cameron Tyme Edison
Current City: Los Angeles, California
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Self-taught multimedia and visual artist, Cameron Tyme Edison resides in Los Angeles with their partner Wilton James and cat/son named Brock and has been making it weird since '96.
As a multimedia intersectional artist, Edison's work covers painting, sculpture, film, mixed media, performance art, poetry and music.
Read on to discover Edison’s journey to self and how they have kept it authentic and real through life.
What was your life like growing up and at what age did you begin identifying gender-fluid/non-binary queer?
I was born in Michigan but lived in Los Angeles till I was 5/6 years old because my dad is a musician. Though I was young, it gave me a diversified and fabulous, yet innocent peak of the life of an artist. It was weird for me to move to Michigan and have my differences suddenly be frowned upon or misunderstood. It only became more obvious with time.
Growing up I tried to be friends with kids who didn’t give a fuck about being different, but at one point, I did have to change schools because of the way I was being treated by the students and staff. High School was strange because I was one of the only overtly queer art kids trying to own that. I couldn’t date much because the guys I went out with either didn’t understand me or fetishized me. The queer dating pool was slim pickings for sure anyway.
My parents were also much different from other parents from what I could tell. I also I didn’t have religion pushed on me unless you count the artsy-alternative-tattoo-covered-working-class-musician aspect, and I always felt very supported as an artist/queer kid. I generally had a humble, but a very cool and open-minded upbringing. Even though it wasn’t always perfect, my parents do love me and have never tried to make me be anything I fundamentally didn’t want to be, and I’m thankful for that.
Overall, despite trying to radically and openly be myself, I still found myself constantly crushed by labels and how people thought they could define me with them. This was one of the reasons I dropped everything and moved to Los Angeles by myself at 16. I could have a fresh start to be my authentic self as well as pursue my art in a more appropriate environment.
In regards to coming out, I feel like I’ve come out so many times by now; it’s hard to be sure when I officially came out as genderfluid because it was a journey that involved me unboxing why I had been denying the world a big part of myself.
I was taught these misconceptions that made me feel trapped. Supposedly I needed to "hate my body”, have intense dysphoria, and medically transition in some way.
For a long time I’ve been made to feel I wasn’t queer enough or trans/non-binary enough to validate my identity. When I was 13 I came out as bisexual, then later as lesbian, then “maybe I’m trans”, and then “I’m not trans enough”, and oh I’m “Queer/pansexual”, and so on, which I think is a more common journey than we’re lead to believe.
I think words are limiting, and too many people box themselves in and feel trapped. It takes time and experimentation to figure it out, and it can fluctuate over time. Only in the last 2/3 years have I become more open about the fact that my sexuality and gender are simply fluid and flexible entities that are not guided by heteronormative ideas. I still struggle with labeling my experience, but the words I use come close enough for the time being.
Can you explain to the readers what it means to identify as gender-fluid/non-binary queer?
That can be different for everyone. For me, queer is a more accurate term than bisexual because sex and gender aren’t a factor in who I’m attracted to. Queer can be more of an umbrella word for anyone who simply doesn’t identify as heterosexual. As for being gender fluid, it means I could feel like a femme fatale goddess, the hottest boy in school, both/neither, or even something I can’t put into words. The “male or female” binary system simply does not do justice to the vast possibility of someone’s personal gender, but also simultaneously ignores that intersex people exist, and that sex/gender are not naturally binary. Non-binary does not equal androgynous, or vaguely masculine, and clothes or gender expression have nothing to do someone’s gender. Non-binary does not operate within the restrictive and rigid limits of what is considered ”male”, and what is considered “female”.
Basically, for me, it means “fuck these made up rules! I will feel, look, act, fuck, and be how I want to be at any given moment.”
What are your pronouns?
She/He/They. I like when people use whatever feels natural or mix it up. It makes me feel more seen than just using “she”, which is what most tend to do. It’s hard to feel misgendered when you encompass all that is gender.
How do we shift our culture away from entitled curiosity and misunderstanding and move towards empathy?
We must detach ourselves from a need to categorize every single person we meet, and start seeing our common humanity first and foremost. I can’t tell you how many times I could have gone without being asked by a stranger if I was “...a boy or a girl?” This mentality is not just annoying and invasive. It can be dangerous.
People want to know how to treat you based on your gender, but trans/gender non conforming people step outside of traditional gender roles. Some people have physical features that go against subjective concepts of gender under threat of ridicule, assault, and even death. An entitled sense of curiosity can negatively impact marginalized individuals such as people of color, people from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds, people with disabilities, etc. We need to start normalizing and humanizing our vast diversity as a species, while also realizing how much we all have in common. If we start seeing the people around us as fellow multidimensional human beings who are worthy of basic respect, instead of just overly simplified categories and stereotypes, maybe things would be different.
Next, let’s talk about your phenomenal art. What initially attracted you to the world of art and how would you define your style?
I’ve been doing art for as long as I can remember. My parents started to encourage me at a really young age. My dad always had art magazines and books lying around the house – he loves collecting toys, music, original artwork, tattoos, etc. So it was easy for me to be interested in art, and I’ve always loved doing it. When I was 13, I was at my first art show; it was a surreal and beautiful experience for me. I walked around the gallery exhibiting my work with amazing artists and realized that this is what I was meant to do with my life. Art has always been there for me, and I wanted to put all my heart into it.
My style is really defined by my line quality and sense of color. This developed naturally through many years of using a completely free-hand approach to ink drawings and is influenced by my experience with having color synesthesia (i.e. I experience vivid color projections, and intense associations of color with many different forms of stimuli like people, numbers, concepts, music, etc). My art is created in a stream of consciousness, can be symbolic, and is deeply influenced by my inner world interacting with the outer world. If I had to put my style into art terms I would define it as stark pop surrealism/expressionism.
Do you have a preferred medium you like to work with?
I dabble in many mediums, but I do have mediums I utilise more than others. I definitely love doing freehand ink illustrations, watercolor, and acrylic paintings, but more recently have been doing a lot of digital art as well. I see mediums as tools more than an extension of self so I love exploring new mediums.
How does the world around you and the individuals who inhabit it fuel your creativity?
I’ve surrounded myself with the love and life I’ve always wanted and needed. I’ve chosen the city I want to live in. I’ve found the people I want to be around, and I work with people who take me as I am. I have stopped accepting anything less than that.
As a natural introvert and freelance artist in LA, I’m grateful to have a cozy and magical home that’s decorated in a lot of art, creative alters, and toys, with a partner whom I feel sees and understand me fully as I am, (he is also queer poly and non-binary musician/artist).
Having a peaceful little world where I can be completely me, helps me thrive - especially creatively. I’ve been through many rough patches and have lived and worked and places that have been emotionally burdensome. I know there’s this myth about artists thriving when they are depressed, but let me tell you right now, artists thrive when they are loved, supported, and cared for just like everyone else.
When I’m depressed, I’m lucky if I can squeeze a drawing out without balling up on the floor. I often have an overly negative outlook on whatever I do manage to make when I’m depressed. Creativity is a part of me that’s never gonna go away rain or shine, and can be a great way to work through the hard times, but I know I’m better off when I’m thriving in every way.
If you could give one piece of advice to young individuals around the globe, what would it be and why?
Don’t let labels and the expectations of others dictate what and who you’re supposed to be or what your life should be like.
Don’t let anyone stop you from being your most authentic self.
Everyone’s journey is different and doesn’t have to look a certain way. Just follow your heart, have confidence that it will lead you to the life you want for yourself, and the person you are meant to be whether you know what that looks like, or not.
Discuss the importance of paying it forward.
Being kind, generous, and paying it forward, are generally good things that everyone should do without expecting a payout. You can feel good about contributing to the good of the world. I can say from experience that energy keeps flowing and helps us more than we can conceive of at times. It can come back to you in ways you would never expect. I remember someone once saying that “movies about time travel depict people worrying about how doing something tiny in the past could drastically change the timeline of the future, but no one ever applies that to the present.” Our life is filled with endless choices and possible futures. Paying it forward in the present can help you stay on a path to a brighter future. Whether it’s all in your head or happening on a quantum level, you will certainly attract more positive energy into your life if you put positive energy into the world around you.
Who are some of your greatest influences and why?
Hm, hard question, the first person who comes to mind is Frida Kahlo. She hated being defined as a surrealist because her work reflected her reality, and my work also has a lot of self-reflection and expression. She wasn’t taken as seriously as her famous husband Diego Rivera but did not let it phase her (and now she is arguably more recognized and celebrated). She was a self-taught artist, who was a disabled, super queer, and a gender non-conforming communist. For me, it’s just hard to think of someone more ‘badass and inspiring than her right now.
However, I do feel sickened by the whitewashed commodification of her image and erasure of her queerness and disability. I know history has done this to many people, and I’m determined to live as loudly and as honest as possible so no one can have the chance to erase me (hopefully).
What/who are you grateful for?
I’m grateful for a family who has always accepted me as an artist and big old queer/gender chaos machine. Despite being poor, they helped me realize my dream of pursuing art (it meant moving across the country at 16). I’m grateful for my partner and my chosen family members for being the love, light, and inspiration I always hoped to find in the world when I was younger. Most of all I’m grateful for me because I have always tried my best to follow my heart and be true to myself in a society trying to convince me to do the opposite. If I did not listen to myself and had not been brave regardless of how scared I was, I wouldn’t have learned to love myself as I am and set that as a standard for those around me. I would not be where I am today without faith in myself.
What does empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment can come in many different forms. Giving someone the language that reflects how they feel can show them that they are not alone. Being a part of a community with resources, opportunity, tolerance, permission to love yourself is empowerment. Whatever you need to help you harness the power inside you, despite society’s oppression is empowerment.
Do you have a personal mantra or quote that inspires you?
“Whatever you do, the only secret is to believe in it and satisfy yourself. Don’t do it for anyone else.” (Keith Haring)