text & photography by hunter Armistead
A Frame of Film,
A Line of Words,
Capture the Creative Culture of Our City
Artist, Hair Designer
Put on a “Happy Face”
I knew I had to feature Dori Pechianu when I saw her nude drawings on Instagram. They remind me of Japanese erotic art—except for the heads. On each of her immodest bodies, whether male or female, is a macabre happy (or unhappy) face or a mask. Or they are simply headless. The lines are very strong and the work both beautiful and sad—the same sadness and artistry of Diane Arbus, the famed photographer of the fringe, the freakish, and the strange.
There is indeed a well-founded melancholy in Pechianu. She is a survivor of a very repressed ultraconservative upbringing in Woodlands, Texas, under an autocratic Romanian father and a compliant mother. Her “coming out” at 16 was more like being outed by her parents, who found out she had a girlfriend. She was then promptly sent to a conversion therapist, but the traumatic experience only broadened her exploration of gender, sexuality, and identity. She’s had a mix of boyfriends and girlfriends since.
The tidal wave of denial and repression of her sexuality by her parents is a major component in her art. Pechianu is a woman for whom her relationship with her body has been a really long journey—she feels there is “still a lot of societal shame just for being female.
“Every day is a struggle to keep it together, not to get overwhelmed,” says Pechianu. But she continues to push her causes and journey in her art and lifestyle. “What I am doing is stuff that makes people uncomfortable, and me too, which is why I feel I need to make it.”
The most interesting thing about Pechianu’s work is that she doesn’t know why she draws the happy faces. “I am discovering through art what to contribute or what I can say,” she explains.
As a 22-year-old with her sexuality on the table, Pechianu finds it rough being a self-avowed freak in Nashville. “I don’t remember the last time I saw a nude at the Art Crawl. Sexuality is so human and so a part of life. It needs to be in the conversation.”
My bet is her monologue turns into a dialogue.
For more on Dori, follow her on Instagram: @doripechianu