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The Gallery Features MCC Student James Tegan’s First Solo Art Show

By Alexander Lewis
On April 13, 2017




The first solo art show, titled "You Think You Know Me," of MCC student James Tegan’s opens on April 15 at 5 p.m. at The Gallery in Metuchen. There will be light refreshments served with a casual dress code. The paintings will remain on display for two weeks after the opening night.

    The show will feature a selection of 12 mixed media paintings on canvas and paper.

“It’s mostly going to be paintings [in] different sizes, acrylics, [and] some charcoal,” Tegan said.

James Tegan is a writer, poet and visual artist, from Metuchen, NJ. He was born and raised in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Tegan is a graduate of Edison High School and is pursuing a degree in Fine Arts at MCC. He’s an art instructor at Pinot’s Palette, Manalapan and also hosts painting parties for adults and children at Cai’s Cafe in Metuchen.

“I use my art to raise awareness [and] reduce discrimination in the LGBT community. Also for mental health and addiction,” said Tegan, “The theme [of this show] is my transition because I’m transgender. A lot of the painting have that theme, of my journey of coming out, and some pieces are just related to the LGBT community.”

Tegan discovered his passion for art almost accidentally, and initially believed that he wasn’t meant to be an artist. “Over the years, I started kind of dabbling,” said Tegan, “Painting on tiles, actually, very small tiles. And then they were getting attention and so I just kept doing it. It felt like I needed to really express myself on a much bigger level so the canvasses just kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Fear and substance issues plagued Tegan’s start as an artist. “Before I got sober I would paint and destroy my paintings cuz I was so embarrassed by [them]. Even if they were abstract I felt that people could really see what was going on in my head.”

“Once I got sober, the courage comes along with that,” said Tegan, “This was an opportunity that I wasn’t even sure I was going to go with. [But] you can’t say no to life, you have to just try it.”

Tegan said, “Don’t be afraid, don’t ever compare yourself to other people. Nobody can paint the way you can. Nobody can do what you can because you have your own specific [vision].”

“My pieces aren’t all specifically transgender. I’m normal, I have an everyday life just like everybody else. There are people like us in the community. We’re here. We’re your neighbors, we’re your family,” said Tegan, “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, whether you’re transgender, whether you’re an artist. Whatever it is, who you are or what you do, don’t be afraid to do it.”

Fear can have lasting repercussions if left unchecked. “I went through thirty-six years of not understanding myself and thinking that I was crazy I didn’t know what the word was to define what was going on with me. Once I figured that out I [thought], ‘Oh, my god. I’m normal.,’” said Tegan, “If I could help one other person not have to wait 36 years to feel ok enough to speak out or to know [who they are]. That’s how I learned about myself, through somebody else.”

Tegan also had some advice for those who are thinking of transitioning.

“I think the most important thing is ‘don’t jump.’ Once you have an idea, you have the rest of your life to go through this. As soon as I found out I went and changed my name, I started hormones as fast as I could. I wanted to get surgery,” said Tegan, “The flipside is, we don’t think about how it’s affecting other people. I didn’t. Talk to people, make sure you have the support first. There are a lot of groups online, on Facebook. The Pride Center in Highland Park has transgender support groups there. Get all the support you can, talk as much as you can and take it very slow.”

The Pride Center can be reached at 732-846-2232 or

For fellow art students and aspiring artists everywhere Tegan emphasized the importance of discipline and daily practice.

“Doing something every day, even if it’s a little five-minute piece or five-second sketch. Do it every day, keep a journal,” said Tegan, “This way you can look back every day and when inspiration hits you have stuff to work with. You can always revisit it later, and you may see something there, you can always fix it. When you have a journal, you can [also] look back and see how far you’re coming along [as an artist].”

MCC and school in general plays a big part in Tegan’s success. “Going to school does make a difference, take some courses. I started coming for art and it all just started flowing. I’ve had a really great experience at Middlesex,” Tegan said, “It’s important to do things for yourself, not for everybody else. Once you’re doing it for yourself, following your course, whatever it is you’re feeling, it’s just going to go smoothly.”

To get hormone therapy for his transition Tegan used to have to drive all the way to Philadelphia, but there is a new clinic, PROUD Family Health, open in RWJ Somerset. They specialize in hormone therapy, HIV care, and counseling. Call 1-855-776-8334 for an appointment.

For those interested in Tegan’s art, go to or email


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