We live in a time in which toxic masculinity continues to run rampant, and in which sexuality continues to be demonized. When it comes to models of loving and living as a queer person, it often feels that there are two options- the politics of queer sexual liberation, of new conceptions of relationships and intimacy, or homonormative, assimilationist politics.
My work for this thesis explores this range, and aims to work against toxic masculinity and the shaming of sex. I think about the abusive relationships I’ve experienced as connected to larger systems of violence—systems which threaten our sense of self and complicate our relationship to our own bodies, as well as to those of others. It is in the face of this alienation and despite these challenges that I am emboldened to speak to my identity and experiences as a queer person. My work for this thesis includes a series of drawings and paintings depicting groups of naked men gathered in a variety of couplings. Bright chalk pastel and oil paint are employed to heighten the sensuality and the fantastical nature of these communal scenes. In the represented situations, it is unclear exactly what brings everyone together.
These paintings serve to complicate existing representations of queer men, and more generally the history of how men have been depicted in painting. I aim to create humanizing and celebratory images of queer intimacy and sex, of men connecting, being vulnerable with and caring for one another, and challenging normative modes of relating. These works deal with my search for community and connection as a queer person, and the attempts to create spaces in which we can embody our politics. These spaces are crucial, despite their flaws and shortcomings. And with the pressures placed upon us, it is more radical than ever to take the time to locate care, presence, and touch, and to create environments in which to gather.
I have been interested in what it means to identify as queer, and examining what it means for me in relationship to my painting practice. This has entailed what one might expect: a search through history to contextualize my experience, looking to contemporary queer painters, as well as an examination of myself and my experiences of love, sex, and intimacy. What follows is an attempt to weave some of these explorations together.