Fifteen years ago, my grandmother and mentor, the potter and artist Rosalie Namer departed the physical plane, leaving a great void in my life. Many of you know how significantly Rosalie influences my art practice and aesthetic orientations, my gender expression and self-styling.
Rosalie was a woman both of and before her time, and while she never quite arrived at an explicitly feminist identification, her approach to life was characterised by self-invention, the breaking of boundaries, and the creation of her own contexts. This included changing her name no less than three times in her life; she famously insisted at 5 years old that she be called Rosalie, not Roslyn, her birth name.
It is through Rosalie’s influence that I have come to perceive the sculptural nature of identity, and the potential that names have in defining one’s reality. The courageous work of my trans and non-binary friends, the experience of my ancestors whose names were misspelled or reinterpreted by Canadian immigration officers, and the generations of name-changing artists and writers also show me what is possible, what I might permit myself.
Through a series of recent transformations in my life, including a deepening of my personal and artistic proximities to Rosalie, I have decided to change my name to more closely align with hers. From today onwards, I have renamed myself Benny Nemer. The spelling of my name deviates slightly from Rosalie’s, but is pronounced in the same way: rhyming with proclaimer in English, éphémère in French, or angenehmer in German.
I would be happy to tell you more of the stories behind Rosalie’s name changes and my own. Perhaps the next time you and I meet. Until then, I hope you will accompany me through this transition.