This work by LA-based artist Rhys Ernst invokes the story of Lou Sullivan, trans man and AIDS activist largely responsible for establishing the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation. Cut with images of Ernst’s own examination of this figure and trans history, the video is structured by the search for and desire to identify transmasculine elders and an intergenerational exploration of gay transmasculine identity. Utilizing interview footage, excerpts of Sullivan’s book “Information for the Female-to-Male Crossdresser and Transsexual," VHS gay porn, and Grindr chats, Dear Lou Sullivan is a meditation on the life of the late trans man and AIDS activist that explores the bodily intersection of transmasculine gay and HIV+ identity.
Commissioned in 2014 as part of ALTERNATE ENDINGS, a program of seven videos that bring together charged moments and memories from their personal perspective amidst the public history of HIV/AIDS.
About the artist
Rhys Ernst is a filmmaker and artist. His debut feature film, Adam, premiered at the Sundance 2019 Film Festival, won awards at Outfest, Oslo Fusion, and the Mezipatra Film Festival, and was nominated for a 2020 GLAAD award.
He was a Producer and Director on Amazon’s Transparent and created the title sequence for the series. He was nominated for a 2015 Emmy Award for directing and producing the webseries Transparent: This Is Me. In 2016 he teamed up with Focus Features to create the online series, We’ve Been Around.
Ernst has shown work at the Whitney Biennial, the Sundance Film Festival, Oberhausen, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, The Walker and The Hammer Museums; he has won two Special Recognition GLAAD Awards as well as awards at Outfest, Chicago International Film Festival, the L.A. and the Seattle Transgender Film Festivals. He has been awarded fellowships from the Point Foundation, Film Independent’s Project Involve, Sundance FilmTwo, and the Universal Director’s Initiative. He was awarded the 2015 Point Foundation Horizon Award and the ACLU Liberty Award for his work on transgender representation in the media.
He received a BA from Hampshire College and an MFA from CalArts, and lives in Los Angeles.