CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Director Fia Perera’s Paul & Trisha: The Art of Fluidity is a profound education on the life and art of the British surrealist and abstract artist Paul Whitehead and Trisha Van Cleef. For those not in the know, this is one person with a two-person gender-fluid soul. At 77 and living in Ventura, California, Whitehead’s distinguished career as a painter, graphic designer, writer, and musician is wide open for all to know, study, and, above all, enjoy in its creation.
Whitehead’s resume as an art director includes Time Out and John Lennon, along with founding the Eyes and Ears Foundation and its Artboard Festival. Said fest allowed artists to showcase their work on billboards. In addition, he made numerous iconic album covers for celebrated bands and musicians, including Genesis, Credence Clearwater Revival, Van der Graaf Generator, and Peter Hammill.
Whitehead is brilliant, engaging, and always living beyond the dailiness of life in a higher state of mind, which is intellectual and curious. For himself, he had few issues with being binary, which allowed Whitehead and Van Cleef to be gender-fluid as one body and flourish. However, this existence proved a problem for others. Making extremely relevant points of discussion on how women’s clothing is far superior to men’s, and it’s just as simple as wanting more beauty in one’s life, Whitehead began cross-dressing and exploring gender identity during the 1960s.
“…Paul Whitehead and Trisha Van Cleef…one person with a two-person gender-fluid soul.”
In 2004, embracing his binary existence, Trisha Van Cleef debuted to the world, saying, “God gave us free will.” So, inspired by artist Marcel Duchamp, this alter ego was created. Even though Whitehead’s wife accepted Van Cleef’s emergence, it ended their marriage. Paul & Trisha: The Art of Fluidity offers viewpoints and revelations on how the ability to justify this life is completely understandable if not a 101 course in acceptance of how a person may evolve — it’s a higher existence, especially for an artist, but not easy.
A tough road to choose, Perera reveals the challenges and joyful moments both souls celebrate and endure. They especially flourished in the commercial and elite art world, where Whitehead and Van Cleef broke down barriers for others living in a similar existence. There is no question that the element of surprise and illusion is one of these two relished in a binary life. It’s about embracing confidence and finding that space of peace within.
Perera presents the subject matter with great dignity and purpose, revealing how the art of two people in one body can be pretty significant as a man and a woman through interviews with both Whitehead and Van Cleef. In their surroundings, the filmmaker is able to explore the evolution of each one’s art and persona. While Whitehead may have created the largest mural in the world in Las Vegas and a Guinness Book of World Records accomplishment, Van Cleef found another area of enlightenment where the film finds its grounding.
Paul & Trisha: The Art of Fluidity is fascinating, especially since the subjects are such intriguing individuals. The director creates a very candid and understandable story, offering an in-depth experience of the evolution of the artists with a great deal of artwork and amusing anecdotes. This goes well with archival materials and flurry of imagery, as well as the fun reenactments.
Paul & Trisha: The Art of Fluidity premieres at the 2023 Cinequest Film Festival.
"…fascinating, especially since the subjects are such intriguing individuals."