In Butch Heroes. Brodell offers a series of twenty-eight portraits of forgotten but heroic figures, each accompanied by a brief biographical note. They are individuals who were assigned the label “female” at birth, but whose gender presentation was more masculine than feminine, who did not want to enter into heterosexual marriage, and who often faced dire punishment for being themselves. Brodell's detailed and witty paintings are modeled on Catholic holy cards, slyly subverting a religious template. Brodell did extensive research for each portrait, piecing together a life from historical accounts, maps, journals, paintings, drawings, and/or photographs, finding the heroic in the forgotten.
Ria Brodell is an artist and educator based in Boston who has had solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and whose work has been featured in the Guardian, ARTNews, the Boston Globe, and New American Paintings. Brodell is a part-time lecturer at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.