>Superb Men

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Sean Breen – Artist Profile – April 2011
Romaine Brooks Gallery on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 9:24am

Written by Alan Bennett Ilagan

Everybody wants to be a superhero. Whether it’s the ability to fly, the power to bend steel, or simply the art of looking good in unforgiving lycra, it’s the dream ideal to which we each aspire in some way. Beyond the anatomical bulges, the rippled muscles, and the square-jaw perfection of the typical superhero, the one thing they provide to all is inspiration. Sean Breen is putting that inspiration on display at his first solo exhibition, “Superb Men”, at the Romaine Brooks Gallery in April 2011.

“My love of comic book characters results from a desire to be more than I am,” Breen explains. “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… 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.”

“When I discovered 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 [with] 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.”

Breen’s confidence is apparent not only in his subject matter, but in the way he lives his life: “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.”

It takes a strong and secure individual to own his sexuality so proudly and openly, and that is what Breen has done since coming out at the age of eighteen. There’s something of the superhero in that – during an oppressive time, coming from an unaccepting family, and faced with a fearful world, to live unabashedly as a gay person is often an act of defiance, and sometimes it takes superhuman strength and resistance simply to survive. Yet even superheroes have their weaknesses, and for Breen that may be the idea of presenting his work to the world.

“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.”

Sean Breen will be presenting his exhibition, “Superb Men”, at the Romaine Brooks Gallery on Friday, April 1, 2011 from 5 to 9 PM as part of Albany’s 1st Friday Events. The Romaine Brooks Gallery is located on the third floor of the Pride Center at 332 Hudson Avenue, Albany, NY 12210.

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