This morning, I was interviewed on the local LGBTQ radio show, HomoRadio, which airs on WRPI 91.5 FM Troy, out of a station on the RPI campus. I was there to promote my Gallery show which opens next Friday, April 1st at the Pride Center (formerly, the CGDLCC). I think it went pretty well. Unfortunately, they don’t record their shows, so I can’t direct you to a place to listen to it (it was short and you didn’t miss much, trust me.) (“That’s what HE said.”)
However, in lieu of HEARING me speak about the show, here’s is a copy of the written interview I did for the CommUNITY Newsletter which will be out this week.
Who and/or what inspires you artistically?
It sounds cliché, but beauty inspires me. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but anyone or anything that catches my eye, brilliant colors, fascinating shapes, handsome faces, striking poses, incidental lighting and shadow…people, places, scenes, images…anything that makes me stop and take notice, especially if it fills me with joy or arouses emotion in me.
What artists do you admire and why?
For comic book Illustration, I am a huge fan of Alex Ross, George Perez and Phil Jimenez. I lean towards “realistic” (albeit sometimes hyper defined) anatomy and imagery and these artists do an amazing job of bringing two dimensional fictional characters to life on the flat page.
M.C. Escher is, hands down, my favorite graphic design artist. His ability to blend the ordinary and the surreal with impeccable attention to detail, and his ability to fool the eye and create motion where there is none has always fascinated and impressed me.
My favorite painter is Steve Walker. He is able to capture gentleness and tenderness between the men in his paintings and his body of work is a nice gay themed alternative to much of the erotic work out there, depicting men in casual intimate situations without crossing over into erotica. (Not that there’s anything wrong with erotica, mind you.)
Having said all this, I have to honestly say, anybody that finds their artistic voice and creates without fear, in whatever medium they are drawn to, inspires me. I believe creative people feed each other with their drive and desire to create.
How does your personal life influence your work, if at all?
All of my artwork is personal. I only draw the things I love or am attracted to. I have always thought of the male body as the perfect work of art, in all its shapes and sizes, and I never get tired of rendering it on the blank page. As a person who lives openly and embraces all aspects of my life and personality, my artwork is an attempt to expose some of what I love, figuratively and literally.
My love of comic book characters results from a desire to be more than I am. I love the characters and the confidence and ideals they espouse, the power they wield that I long for and feel I have never had. I am not a fan of the mundane or the commonplace, so anything fantastic, mythical and extraordinary titillates me. Continuing to draw these characters into my adult years is a way for me to hold on to the excitement, wonder and imagination of my youth. My life in all other ways is ordinary…art allows me to be extraordinary.
What, if any, are the themes that run through your work? Do you find yourself returning to certain motifs or ideas, and why?
I definitely try to express the sensual and the fantastic through my nudes and heroes. The one thing I do prefer is to have my art work be reflective of my sexuality: altering iconic male-female images to male-male images, illustrating the male form, creating gay heroes…I love to think that people see my work and know it is done by a gay man. I am very proud of (and highly support) being completely out and visible, even in and through my artwork. Some people feel their sexuality is only a small part of who they are; for me, my sexuality informs much of what I am. I would not be the person I am or create the artwork I do, if I were not a gay man. To demote it to some insignificant part of my persona would be disrespecting how it has influenced my personality, shaped my life and art, and how I experience the world. If my art is a reflection of me, it has to reflect my homosexuality or it isn’t really coming from me at all.
Describe your background – childhood, family, and growing up – where it was and how it influenced you.
I was born in Niskayuna, NY, moved to Phoenix, AZ, with my family when I was 1 year old, where we lived for 8 years, then moved back to NY where I have lived ever since. Poverty-stricken family, only gay closeted child among 4 other straight siblings, hard working mother, abusive alcoholic father, weight/self-image issues, health problems – I was your typical after school special waiting to happen. I was a good student but was picked on and harassed in school constantly for “being gay”, although I remained staunchly closeted to the best of my ability, regardless of what little good it did me. Basically, I spent must of life being what I thought everyone else wanted me to be to escape punishment and rejection.
I took a lot of the oppressive ideologies from my parents, community, school and religion to heart and buried so much of myself for a long time. When I discovered (super hero) comic books, I discovered a world that, although not inclusive of gay people at the time, was void of anything derogatory towards us. The colorful costumes, the abilities, the secret lives, the strong morals and desire to protect the weak and innocent… it all resonated me. I was always drawing superheroes and then began to sexualize my drawings (in secret of course) as a way to express the hidden thoughts and feelings I had. I’d draw ripped or revealing costumes, male heroes kissing each other and, eventually, I just started drawing the men completely nude as I embraced more of who I was and what I liked. I came out in college when I was 18 and my first really personal, original illustration, dealing with my coming out, remains one of my favorite pieces to date.
Art became a way for me to express the things I love without reservation or shame. (If you think being openly gay is hard, try coming out as a comic geek to your friends.)
Have you had any formal art training or classes? Did that help or hinder you as an artist?
I have been drawing since the age of five and am mostly self-taught. I always assumed (as did everyone) that I would grow up to be a professional artist one way or another. I attended college and majored in studio art and illustration with the hope of becoming a comic book penciler or illustrator of some kind, but found my goals and interests to be incompatible with the schools curriculum and my advisor’s goals for her students, so I did not complete my art degree and left the program halfway through my second year. It actually discouraged me from pursuing an art career any further, as I was not that confident in my work as it was, and being chastised for my goals kind of took the wind out of my sails and shattered whatever belief I had in my talent and any hope I had for pursuing a career in art. Gradually, as friends discovered my creative side, they began asking for artwork for a variety of projects: posters, in
vitations, t-shirts, murals, programs etc, so I began to do more illustrations and artwork as gifts or gratis for my friends. This re-instilled my desire to create and I realized that I was still (and could continue to be) an artist and do artwork, for my own pleasure and the enjoyment of others, even if I was not being paid for it. Ultimately, I discovered that I enjoyed the freedom of being able to create what I want, when I want and how I want without the constraints of deadlines or parameters set by other people. I realize now that the kind of artist I am is really the only kind of artist I could ever have been and drawing for my own joy and entertainment is what matters most to me.
What do you think the purpose of art is in the world? What is the purpose of your own art?
I believe art is freedom and choice with no boundaries. Our lives become weighed down with the daily, mundane chore of living and surviving and art gives us the freedom to step outside of the “have to” and play in the “want to.” It gives us a voice to reveal our thoughts and opinions, passions and fears, to try to convey the world we live in and or the world we want to live in through imagery and design. There is no topic that cannot be explored, no emotion that can not be shared, no idea that can not be expressed through art – it is unconstrained honesty.
My artwork is the hardest part of me to share because it is one of the most revealing things I do. I am pouring myself into creating something that others will see and have or express opinions about; it is extremely personal and special to me and is, therefore, the most vulnerable to scrutiny and criticism.
It may be easy for some onlookers to dismiss my art as just simple drawings on paper, deem it good or bad art and walk away unmoved; but every image is something I created with my time and effort and it is a piece of me, so it means a lot more to me and I internalize the reactions to it. That exposure is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
What are your proudest accomplishments, artistic and otherwise?
My art has remained hidden away in my home for most of my life. I draw at home, then usually tuck my work away into a folder or portfolio where few people, other than my husband and a few friends, see it. So I’d have to say, to date, my single proudest accomplishment, artistically speaking, was “going public” and showing my work, en masse, for the first time in 2007. (November 3, 2007 during a First Friday “Bear Art show” in Albany at Rocks’ upstairs makeshift gallery.) All my friends and family came out to see it and I was excited beyond words. However, I never cease to be humbled and proud when I see my art work hanging in a friend’s home or place of business, to see a friend wearing a T-Shirt with my logo or a friend’s wall at home with my artwork painted on it. They honor and flatter me by displaying my work.
Besides my art, my proudest accomplishment is my marriage of 11+ years to my husband, Jeffrey, who has encouraged and supported me in all my endeavors.
What is the medium of your artwork, and why do you work in that medium?
I illustrate almost exclusively in pencil, pen and ink on various paper and board. My male nudes tend to be in pencil, my hero work inked and colored. These are the tools I feel most comfortable using and in control with. I’ve dabbled in paint (watercolor, acrylic and oil) but pencil and ink is where my comfort lies. I tend to work with smaller images and find it easier to capture the detail I desire with these tools. The exception is when I am painting a mural on a larger scale (for baby nurseries, classroom walls or store front windows) then I work in paint, for obvious reasons.
What is the title and theme of your show, and how did you originate, develop, and execute it?
I’m calling my show “Superb Men” as I have chosen to spotlight the two most prominent types of work I do: super heroes and male nudes. As I am a man of extremes, it seems fitting to do a show combining imagery that could be considered diametrically opposed to one another: fictional men clad in colorful costumes on one end, realistic men unclad, in monotone, at the other end, with a few pieces falling somewhere in the middle. Simply speaking, it is the type of work I normally create and enjoy. Unintentionally, I seem to have just naturally planted one foot in each world: the real and the surreal and each subject matter represent my love for male imagery in both worlds: the real and the fictional. I am not a professionally trained artist and am relatively new to the gallery world, so I hope my amateur framing and display techniques won’t detract from the point of the show: to share with the public the images I have rendered in the hope it will entertain, inspire or invoke some kind of emotion.
What are you currently promoting and/or working on?
I am adding to a series of male-male altered images taken from classic male-female imagery, imagining what the world might have been/would be like if we could have seen or could see images that appeal to and represent same sex romance, love and couples. I am also working on more “Bear” themed male nudes and imagery, the Bear Community being a community of men I find myself most at home among and the type of men I feel are least represented in the art world.