An Artist and Her ‘Beautiful Boy’

Madame StewartDeep Dish6 Comments

beautiful boy

In their intimate portraits, the photographer Lissa Rivera and her partner, BJ Lillis, are building their own fantasy world.

On a long subway ride three years ago, BJ Lillis decided to share something with his friend and co-worker, Lissa Rivera. Mr. Lillis, who describes himself as genderqueer, told her that he had spent most of his college years dressing, full-time, in women’s clothing.

But in the professional world, he’d lost his confidence. To help him regain it, she offered to take his photograph.

Mr. Lillis had never really seen himself, dressed as he wished, in a carefully made portrait.

“So much of identity is constructed from looking at pictures,” Ms. Rivera said in a recent interview. “Looking at photographs and looking at a film can really change who you are.”

The two have made dozens of images since, in a project called “Beautiful Boy.” An exhibition of the same name opens June 1 at the ClampArt gallery in Chelsea.

The first test images were shot in 2014 in Ms. Rivera’s apartment. She posed on her own, swathed in fabric from a neighborhood store, before posing Mr. Lillis.


“When we took the first photo,” Mr. Lillis said, “I felt like I’d never had my photo taken before.”

That impromptu portrait session stirred something between the two of them. Over the following months they became a couple. And when they returned to the project, they brought the energy of a new relationship to it.

“There’s a real kind of honeymoon period that people have mentioned in the earliest pictures,” Ms. Rivera said. You can see as much in “Boudoir,” from 2015, in which her hand appears, disembodied but tender, brushing Mr. Lillis’s hair.


The portraits borrow from early 20th-century fashion photography and classic cinema, where elegance can blend with the surreal. Ms. Rivera cites the early Vogue photographer Cecil Beaton as one of many influences.

The couple did as many as four shoots a week in their spare time. Some were tightly composed interiors, with props and costumes chosen by Ms. Rivera.

In another 2015 image, “Mirror With Jewels,” Mr. Lillis is reflected in a vintage makeup mirror, its frame draped with beads and jewelry, elements that help code his visage as feminine. But an almost imperceptible wave in the glass slightly exaggerates half of his face, making him appear less symmetrical than he is.


The image exposes an intimate moment between the artist and her subject. Ms. Rivera designed the image, but Mr. Lillis’s direct expression makes it connect with the viewer.

“The work really gives permission for women to look at women and for men to look at men,” Ms. Rivera said, “and for people to be nothing or anything or everything.”

They began to travel with the project in mind, finding more locations in Virginia, California and Italy, among other places. Ms. Rivera scoured hotel and Airbnb listings for the right kind of moody spaces. The images also grew larger in scale, taking in whole rooms and connecting Mr. Lillis’s poses to the setting, implying a narrative.


In “Motel, Virginia II,” Ms. Rivera wanted to call up the intrigue of a Hitchcock film, with the gathered tension in Mr. Lillis’s erect posture and his gaze — anxious or expectant? — out of the window.

For Ms. Rivera, working with her romantic partner was a revelation. “This is what Cassavetes and Fellini and Bergman must have felt like,” she said.

In other works, Ms. Rivera sought out locations with just the right atmosphere, places that tend to be at once glamorous and desolate.

Inhabiting these places is important in shaping her photographs, she said, “trying to imagine what it was like to be a woman during the time when these spaces were new. “

But Mr. Lillis is always at the center. He is often dressed gracefully, sometimes nude and always vulnerable.


In the most luxuriant images, Mr. Lillis’s expression is often pensive, with a tinge of sadness. The melancholy, he said, comes from “thinking about the reality of gender and different roles that people have been stuck in.”

But in surrendering his likeness to his partner, Mr. Lillis also found a path toward liberation. “I’m being myself in every one of these photos,” he said.


After three years of work, he added, the photographs could be seen as “an autobiography of our fantasies.”

“Our relationship was in some ways created out of taking these photographs,” Mr. Lillis said, “and the photographs were created out of our relationship.”

“Beautiful Boy” runs June 1 to July 15 at ClampArt, 247 West 29th Street, Chelsea; clampart.com. Lissa Rivera and BJ Lillis will give a gallery talk there on June 10 at 3 p.m.; they will also appear at the Mid-Manhattan Library on June 22.


Share this Post

Ready to start your training?

Submit your application today!

Sissify.Com is alive! i can feel the pulse of your heart and the heart of the Staff every time i log on. The passion that You and the Staff put into this program seems incredible to me. i can feel… Read more “sissy robyn”

Having just managed to get up the courage to join your website, it is already clear that this sissy should have done so a long time ago, already you have made he.r wonder why s.he was so nervous. With so… Read more “heather-louise”

This gurl thanks the Superiors of the House for allowing he.r to be here, and enjoys the company of everyone here. S.he want the Superiors to know that s.he is here at anytime to serve as required of he.r and… Read more “danigurl”

Thank You for accepting my application and allowing me the privilege of entering the interior of Your site. It has indeed had a profound effect on my psyche. i view myself as transgendered, and i have been progressing along the… Read more “jamie”

This is the greatest find to date. Thank you, Superiors.

This worthless little sissy-slut-wannabe is dropping You a note to let You know what a fine job i believe You are doing with Sissify.com. i had already mentioned to Mistress Jennifer how much i enjoyed the Site and Your continued… Read more “christine”

This sissy is with You now for off and on 3-4 years and slowly but surely she gets Your program and discovers her true nature. In the beginning she was just a sissy on occasion and at “certain” times. But… Read more “sissychelle”

i wish to offer my thanks for your website. It has helped me start down the road toward being the girl i know i was meant to be. Please know how much i appreciate all that your service does for… Read more “kara denise”

I would like to thank you for a great web site. When I first found it, well it was like receiving a gift. I wish you had been around when I was younger.

What a beautiful web site, with so many contacts and active chat going on. My frilly lacy panties always get very moist under my maids uniform!

This sissy is infinitely grateful that you have welcomed her into the House and given her a safe haven among like-minded people. Although she has only been here for a short time, she has made tremendous progress in her deep… Read more “sissy fraenzi”

It seems the House of Sissify has loosened the ground up beneath me and im descending, in free fall, accelerating by the vast gravitational attraction of Femininity.

This sissy is finding this site to be more and more exciting, stimulating, enlightening and educational with each visit. This sissy is just discovering the value in contacting other members and discussing concerns and insights. This site is doing more… Read more “barbie”

The House of Sissify has encouraged me to be the real me and experiment with all sorts of idea’s. Before I started I would rarely dress up, now I can’t go a day without wearing at least panties. I would… Read more “Jess”

It has only been a week but what a week this site is awesome and the Staff is so wonderful to deal with i am an older sissy and sadly my wife could never know. that’s sad because our life… Read more “lola”

i just wanted to express my gratitude for accepting me in Your sissy training and hope i can learn how to be a better sissy for my Wife.

The unworthy apprentice sissy writing this has written You many times asking for help. You have always made he.r life better. The House has been the very foundation of he.r life. Thank You again for Your efforts.*curtsey*.

i would like to thank you for the information and amusement Youve given me. This really is a mind teasing site. informative, educative, seductive and fun at the same time.

i want to be a flower i want to be pretty and delicate delightful to look at but easy to bend and easy to break i want to make a real Woman happy through my service and devotion and poor… Read more “lauren renee”

Once again I would like to say how honored i am to participate with the House. it is and remains the coolest, most smoothly moving and most together website I have ever encountered in my EXTENSIVE cruising on the www.

Joining The House has been the best thing ever for this sissy. It has been about a week since joining and already sissy feels a tremendous turnaround in the way she feels and acts. she most certainly feels more feminine,… Read more “bobbiegirl”

It so comforting to be a member of this community, (you are all my sweet sisters) to know this sissy is not alone, in my exploration into what it is to be a sweet pathetic sissy, who’s only desire is… Read more “sally”

I just want to say i love this site. It’s perfect for a sissy like me to learn to be better but also allows us sissies to chat and mingle with other sissies. This is a great way for us… Read more “alanaa”

I have to say what a truly wonderful site this is. It has come like a warm comforting glow that has started to lift me out of a world of darkness. Many thanks to the wonderful Staff at The House… Read more “bobbiegirl”

i can not tell you how much i am enjoying your sissify site. Seeking to be trained as a sissy slave is my greatest adventure. Thank you so much for being out there for little panty slaves such as myself.

i am so happy to have found your site, my Master sent me here. i am looking forward to becoming the perfect sissy slave, trained for the pleasure of others. Your site has given me real hope of achieving this… Read more “sissy slave domonique”

I just wanted to thank you for having such a wonderful service. I have been looking for years to find someone to help me make this transformation. Again, let me say thank you.

The House of Sissify is the best site that this sissy has found. she has spent hours in it just reading and learning. This sissy humbly thanks all the Sissify Staff

Thank You, House, for being there so that us closet “sissies” have an avenue to express ourselves. This service is invaluable to us sissies so that we may express our sexuality.

This sissy just wanted You to know that although s.he has never been involved in an educational experience so personal, this is exactly what s.he needs. You and your Staff must be geniuses. When s.he stumbled into the Sissify site… Read more “robyn”

This sissy is sooooooooooo glad to be in the community. she is learning so much and hopes to get much more training to be a better sissy slut, she loves to submit and please and talk with her sisters.

Thank you again for everything that you do. You may never know how important you are to the members of this site.

WOW I have to say,.. That although I do not participate in this particular lifestyle,.. (being far too dominant in set in my ways to desire such an experience) I feel you deserve enormous kudos on the design and layout… Read more “ishmael”

I hope that I am not an intrusion to say that you have created a terrific website. I just wanted to express my admiration for you. You must receive lots of e-mails like this so I will trouble you no… Read more “gwenn”

I wanted to thank you for the insight into TransGendered Persons. As a Psych student doing a thesis on Gender Issues In Counseling your information helped to clarify and reify my own position with regard to gender identification psychology. I wish… Read more “Todd”

i would like to take a minute of your time to thank you for your Sissify web site. Closet queens like myself have a real meeting place for information, meeting other sissies and accurate information as it pertains to sissydom.… Read more “enrietta”

The House is there like a beacon in the darkness.  You have done, and are doing, so much for the community and this sissy is very grateful.

may i request permission to speak freely from the heart? upon finishing chapter one of “Girlfriends” by Vicky Tern……oh, my, God…Mistress, i just don’t know what to say. oh my God, this really is home! God in heaven i’m going… Read more “danielle”

Thank You all so much for providing such a lovely home and training ground for sissies. Please allow me to help in any way You deem appropriate. This sissy looks forward to many hours of training under Your guidance. The… Read more “trish”

This sissy doesn’t know what sh.e would do without The House to come to. This sissy has been so much happier after sh.e joined and has met a lot of sissy sisters that sh.e can relate to and confide in.… Read more “stacey”

A short note of thanks for providing a complete community for sissies, a place of refuge and resource from the harsh world, and the House *genuinely* seems to hold sissy’s interests at heart: no exhorbitant joining fees = loyalty for… Read more “hayley”

This submissive sissy congratulates you on this fabulous website. s.he admits that at first i was wary and looking to see where it was another rip-off – as most of us are used to. However, your fantastic – with all… Read more “patty jane”

i would just like to thank all the wonderful Women who have created this site. This little sissy has found a place to feel pretty, safe and secure. i look forward to learning more and more about becoming a Woman.

i think this is the best site on the internet and it is an invaluable resource for all sissys. it is an honor to support this site.

This site is SOOOOO cool. Very well done & intelligent. Great graphics & a great staff. I even met someone & we are going to get together soon thanks to the International Sissy Network

The House of Sissify is absolutely the best sissy site on the web. This sissy has learned so much since joining. The advice and support are wonderful. s.he has learned how to love, honor, obey, and worship h.er Superiors and… Read more “stephanie kimberlie prince”

Just in passing – your site is an absolute inspiration, a joy to giggle through. The endless parade of those 1950’s tucked and bobbed pink-petticoated good-little-housewife cartoons is both mood-lifting, delightfully nostalgic in a delightfully non-serious way, and strangely gratifying… Read more “missy messy maso”

This sissy has just finished he.r second month with House of Sissify! I am amazed at how friendly and helpful everyone has been to this new sissy! Jamie is on chat almost every day for an hour or so catching… Read more “jamie”

I instructed my sissy, amandacecilia, to join your wonderful site a few days ago after I did a brief perusal here myself, with instructions that she show me anything she felt especially useful or insightful here. Needless to say, the… Read more “Mistress Monique”

It was really great to know this site. i have obviously missed a lot not getting onto this site before. your suggestions will definitely make this slut a better maid and keep her Mistress happy and satisfied forever. this whore’s… Read more “diana”

i have only been a member for a few short days and have found myself wondering why i hadnt joined much earlier. Truth is i was very scared and worried to face my sissy desires. Now i find those fears… Read more “sissy cindy”

The House provides endless pleasure to everyone.

just wanted to thank you for allowing the pansies and sissies of this world to serve such beautiful and domineering women as yourselves–i only wish i could get my wife to do this but her idea of kinky lifestyle or… Read more “a happy pansy”

This sissy wishes sh.e had found ‘The House of Sissify’ sooner. You provide a special haven for us sissies and, without You, no sissy would be able to truly complete he.r sissy journey. This sissy has only joined recently, but… Read more “brandie love”

You have an excellent site. It is the most professional adult site I have visited. Most sites come off sort of sleazy (pardon the pun) because they promise something they don’t really deliver. Your whole system seems honest and straight… Read more “maggie”

This site is so cool. All of the lovely photos are inspirational to this sissy’s development. The personal stories help this sissy to believe that anything is possible.

You All have my respect and appreciation for this little nook of the world. This is truly a bastion of knowledge, empathy and love where it seems so lacking outside these ‘walls’. Having been through thick and thin with these… Read more “chloedance”

Once again I would like to deeply thank all the Staff of Sissify for just being there for me and others like me. As I am more or less confined to my house (physical problems), and this service is one of my… Read more “justina”

This sissy must confess that the House has changed and enlightened he.r life. Becoming a sissy is not a dream any more. It’s reality. She just needs Your excellent guidance and work. Hard work that is rewarded not only with badges and helpful… Read more “megandelux”

Thank you so much for providing us with your wonderful website! I was feeling so lost and lonely, until I discovered you. I am so eager to learn more about your happy community. In the mean time, I promise to… Read more “freddie”

The House sure feels like home, so glad to be a part of it all!

I have found more relevant info on this site than the rest of the web put together.

Once when I was about 7 or 8 I accidentally wet my pants in public. Upon seeing this, my Aunt (who I was staying with for the day) took me back to her house, had me undress and put my… Read more “little mickie”

This sissy is so fortunate that Madame Stewart has allowed he.r the privilege of joining this fabulous site. Although a member of the House for a relatively short time, s.he has learned so much and is making progress toward becoming… Read more “chanel lacy”

Thank you so much for your wonderful Sissify.com. i have been enjoying it for some time now. i especially enjoy the little stories that follow each day in the wanking schedule…… my collection of panties is growing day by day.… Read more “cindysilk”

This sissy has been so happy since finding The House of Sissify, it was a pleasure to be able to be able to give back a little after receiving so much. Truly without all of the hard work and love… Read more “bree ann”

I’m one of your loving, grateful sissies…..You have given me the gift of knowing I’m not alone.

This sissy wishes to thank her Superiors for providing the opportunity for learning. This sissy is so happy at being able to learn how to be a better sissy.Thank you for providing such great insight, and for allowing this sissy… Read more “sissy michelle”

i just wanted to drop a line to say that Your web-site, “The House Of Sissify” is an artistic masterpiece (mistress-piece?) . .. it is alluring, entrancing, enchanting,exotic, exhilarating, breathtaking, mystifying, and sanctifying. Every page opens ones mind, heart and… Read more “michaela”

It is now almost three months since my Wife and i have begun reading your site, and it has made a radical difference in Her approach to my feminization. She has decided, much to my humiliation, that i must be… Read more “sondra”

…and i must say that Madame Stewart is right, even in a distance of 3000 km, She made it possible to make me impotent.

Thanks for the chat room You have provided for us sissies. The help from my sisters has been wonderful.

my Wife has ordered me to write You again and tell You how much She enjoys Your site and the ideas it has given Her. She says She never realized how nice it would be to have a sissy maid/slut… Read more “kelli ann”

sissy jimmie wishes to humbly say thank You for sissify.com. This site has become sissy’s refuge. sissy can be free here. sissy can find sisters here. sissy loves he.r sissify site. sissy visits the House every day. the house has… Read more “jimmie”

…I would also like to add, that i am gaining quite a bit of information from your site, and thank you for a well constructed web site that is very informational, and is providing quite a bit of insight into… Read more “Pat”

spreader

Discussion?

  1. síne

    This is lovely. i’m especially taken with the two blues – the blue dress looking out a window and the blue nightie, looking down at the bed. Very beautiful.

Something to share sweetie?