In order to encourage inclusivity and a sense of belonging, the company I work for hosts an informal zoom call once a month where individuals give short presentations about passion projects outside of work.
I was encouraged to take the plunge and do a quick demo of my comics. I was terrified since, as you may have noticed, my comics are very queer and very adult–quite literally NSFW. And yet, there I was discussing them at work.
They loved it. What’s more, the theme of queer representation emerged as I was preparing my presentation. I included it, briefly, since it’s so central to my storytelling. Having a mere 10 minutes I didn’t spend much time on it. With your indulgence, I’d like to do so now.
If you feel I’m being a tad ironic there, you may be right. Though I do center on the queer and let everything else move to the periphery. The inverse of what happens in most mainstream storytelling. There’s no real process here. It’s intuitive, even unconscious, as I work. Up to this point, I haven’t set out with then intention of building a queer world in my comics, but that does seem to be what’s emerging. Over time, as the stories come and go, worlds built and sent off to live in readers’ imaginations, this will likely morph. I won’t try to predict how. Better to simply observe.
While it’s tempting to focus our attention on the work itself when discussing representation, that’s actually secondary, in my opinion. It’s the creators, not content, that should be the focus of our efforts at improvement. When you widen the breadth of who’s telling the stories, you’ll find more wholistic, novel, genuine, and organic representation. True equity comes from range of creators telling their own stories, and being able to take control of their work and its dissemination. Achieving better representation will necessitate a paradigm shift towards plurality and collective decision making and away from rigid hierarchies controlled by a small (usually white, cishet-male) in-group.
The world is too damn straight!
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Let’s wrap up with some baby steps.
Creators: engage in collective action to lift each other up. I’ve had the honor to participate in collectives of different shapes and sizes over the years and can say, with confidence, that a committed group of people sharing a vision and resources can move mountains.
Consumers: Kickstarter has become the world’s most interesting comic shop. Dive in and support the creators there. You know where your dollars are going and you can form direct, lasting connections to continue your support beyond a single project.
Cover photo by Joshua Hoehne.
What suggestions do you have for queer creators to lift each other up? Drop them in the comments below…
Life outside the studio may be on hold, but the art-making continues. I’m grateful for the manifold privileges of health, safety, and security that allow this. The last year held challenges for all of us, but it would be the height of ignorance and arrogance for me to complain without at least some acknowledgement of wide range of impacts the events of the year had.
Curtailing outside activity means more time in the studio which means more exploration. Currently on tap: further study of human anatomy and deepening my painting skills. I will continue to experiment with transparency vs. opacity through the less prominent medium of gouache. It’s got a lot going for it, despite being somewhat overlooked by artists. I find myself drawn to its protean nature, living in a liminal space between oils and watercolor.
While I play with light, I’ll await returns. The return of spring’s light and warmth, of course. I also hope gentler temperatures and longer days in the Northern hemisphere will co-arise with fandom gatherings, selling in person, browsing by touch, and all the surprise discoveries of the bazaar. Whether by karma or disposition, it is in these contexts that I feel I do best–not the rapidly swirling and chaotic kaleidoscope of the digital realm.
Alas, also visible on the horizon are looming economic storms. Those storms tend to bring serious cultural fallout. The first and favorite target of the austerity champions is always the artists–not the arts, mind you, but the artists themselves. How will queer expression, particularly of a sexual nature fare? I don’t know and I vacillate between hope and despair. The despair of yet another round of the same tired arguments. But hope, yes hope, because we saw this last year a dramatic awakening, of renewed calls for true, and long overdue, social justice. I hope deeply this year sees the return of the tide of justice, too long out, that truly lifts all boats.
A little book filled with big…
Ambitions! Yeah, that’s it, big ambitions. It is, in fact, a fabulous collection of art ambitiously exploring a wide variety of male beauty and sexuality. My own Beloved and God #1 is included, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the company it’s keeping between these covers.
We like to think that walls are solid, permanent, that they endure beyond us. Some do, and some don’t. We feel much the same about our art. Same here: some does and some doesn’t.
When a work of art is deeply integrated into its space, when it is the space—a mural for example—then its fate is the same as that space. So, say a mural is created inside an office. It lives in that office, with the workers carrying out their lives and work in its gaze for five years. The vicissitudes of the world intervene and the office is abandoned.
Once an office is abandoned, it rests for while. Its stains and monuments, dings and detritus, offering distant, mysterious echoes of prior inhabitants. Then it’s picked up again and remade. And the first step of remaking is, usually, destructive. Alas, our mural, silent but colorful resident, comes to an end.
Dear reader/viewer, I present some digital echoes of that mural I helped create five years ago and is soon to be no more (perhaps already no more as you read this). While its physical presence is gone, I hope our memory will give it some bit of life and continued reality in the years to come.
Join me in raising a glass to a work of art created with love, by a group of people coming together, trying to make the world a better place, and then moving on—to make new art and find new ways to make the world better.
Untitled mural, 2015
12 ft. x 15 ft., acrylic and found objects
In the former offices of New Music USA, New York City
August 1-9, 2020
Visit my gallery!
The ‘Rona isn’t done with us yet. Not by a long shot. So, our friends at Doable Guys have moved the art show originally planned for this summer online. I’m thrilled and honored to be part of the show, selling no less than six original paintings.
We live in a society that teaches us to compartmentalize the erotic. Pack that sh*t up, lock it away and only let it out when it’s “safe”. While not all of our challenges as a society stem from this dubious advice, it’s fair to say we’d be a lot better off with an attitude of celebration instead of this faux-celebacy performative BS we’ve got now.
And here’s a whole art show celebrating the erotic joy of the male form and the artists who play with it.
From The Beloved and God Series
Some ancient myths, some Tom of Finland, mix it all together for this slightly surreal confection that explores the intersections of love, worship, and power.
From the Handful Series
In our erotic moments, just as in all of our interactions, we speak a lot with our hands. Here we have a bit more abstract exploration of the nonverbal messages we send each other.