ArtWorks News

Recreating Identity: Check Out Jay DeFazio’s Inside Out

By Jay DeFaz
Self-portrait by Jay DeFazio

Northern Kentucky’s Jay DeFazio launched Inside Out: Greater Cincinnati last year to empower our region’s transgender community. 

“Transgender individuals re-create their identity from the inside-out,” Jay says. “We are all a work in progress. Like an artist, we are the only ones who can create our narratives, not the stereotypes and critics. The ultimate goal of Inside Out is to unify and connect the community of Cincinnati through the creation of positive self-image and shared experience of growth and acceptance.”

Launched online, Inside Out mirrors the 49-year-old’s own search for self-worth and connection, as he was assigned female at birth and struggled through that existence until he went through a divorce in 2011. After beginning his exterior transition, Jay began to experience parallels between artistry and being transgender.

To launch Inside Out, Jay applied last year to ArtWorks’ Jump Start: Fueling Emerging Artist Projects. His vision was clear—to focus on the creation of a self-portrait. 

“Art is a powerful connector, so Jay’s desire to provide a platform and network for transgender individuals was very exciting to support,” says Amy Scarpello, director of impact. 

So far, Jay has held several in-person and virtual workshops for individuals to create self-portraits with a variety of art materials: acrylics, watercolor, pen and permanent ink, marker, colored pencil, and collage materials like papers, embellishments and magazines.  

Self-portrait by Ashton Michael Lee

Each self portrait, once complete, is cut out and applied to the paper in any way the participant deems appropriate for their design. The goal is to cover the entire page, using any of the materials available, to create a visual representation of “self.” During this time, facilitators assist participants, ready to offer encouragement or demonstrate a technique.

As portraits are finished, they are carefully photographed for the online exhibit and cataloged. Participants are asked to write a statement about their piece or about their experience of creating it, which are also cataloged for the website.

“Exhibiting the work unites participants and celebrates their individual identities, connecting them publicly to the rest of the trans community in a very positive, celebratory, and tangible way,” Jay says. 

Self-portrait by Em Sanning.

Jay also offers each person the option to be photographed with their artwork and to record, either through audio or video, a short inspiring message to trans youth. These clips will soon be added to

ArtWorks Youth Apprentices, Celeste Leonard and Jasper Murphy, assisted Jay on Inside Out. The team was able to collect and exhibit a total of 28 portraits. His future goals for the project include expanding the project to a physical gallery and including the works of transgender people beyond the Cincinnati region.

Find out more about Jay DeFazio and his project by visiting and following him on Instagram at @jays_artstagram. Hear from Jay and the rest of the Jump Start awardees for who joined a panel at our March 11 Viva Voce Artist Conversation.

About ArtWorks

ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investments in creativity. The organization collaborates with community organizations and residents, businesses, governments, foundations and nonprofits to build creative works of art that bolster the region’s global reputation as an arts destination. ArtWorks employs professional artists who inspire and mentor diverse teams of youth, ages 14-21, helping them build 21st century career-readiness skills. These teams have completed more than 12,500 public and private art projects in its 25 years, including more than 200 permanent outdoor murals.