featured gallery for January 2016
I get weak from the good stuff
There's a Yiddish word— it's a crazy sounding word, "ungapatchka." Too much of anything, in an unpleasing way. Inappropriate, over-the-top, not necessary. Like a lot of the best Yiddish words, it doesn't translate well and gets used a bunch of ways. It's tacky. It's gilding the lily. It's overdone and overly baroque. It's just too much— like Jerome Caja in drag. Like the Cockettes. Like most of my dearest femme friends of whatever genders. Like eyebrows on the matron of the house in Thundercrack by Curt McDowell and George Kuchar; like that whole fucking movie. Like almost everything I love. Fuck minimalism and the stuff that is what contemporary art should look like. Fuck other people's shoulds. With so many shoulds, how can anyone be an artist or curator?
And lucky me, I am an artist and curator. As an artist, I usually work in an ornate style with grotesque and sexual subject matter. For the Visual AIDS web gallery “I get weak from the good stuff,” I got to choose from art by predecessors and contemporaries who show me the way. Here’s a bunch of art that make me happy. I wrote what each work makes me think of and why I enjoy it. I guess I do have a should; pleasure and giving oneself permission to experience joy should be a huge part of our relationship to art.
Now, on to the show! The numbers below correspond to my responses for the art works above. I hope you enjoy:
1. We begin with the detail of a large scale painting installation from Queer Mysteries by David Cannon Dashiell. We begin with an orgy. There is a hierarchical structure and this is a medical technological orgy with aliens and people.
P.S. SFMOMA, you've got this in your basement. Dust it off, then show it off.
2. Patrick Angus is referring to himself, the viewers and the twinks on the screen in his painting's title, I Get Weak. Drink up!
3. The vulnerable twinks, the not yet jaded chicken Boys Do Fall in Love, but not with creeps who want you to pretend they are wise daddy with stuff to teach you. The boys who fall in love or don't always charge extra for that bullshit. The boy on stage is under age and the one in the red shirt and underwear, he is giving the beardo side eye because he is the not-so-gentle protector of the boy on stage with the white, white hairless ass.
4. Night Work: are they indoors or outside? My favorite kind of worker bees are sex workers buzzing night or day. They read people best and know the power of getting dressed - Airbrush. Spray and lacquer. Colors translucent, colors bold. I am (maybe Jack Brusca is too) the voyeur across the street in the filthy car.
5. Epic goddess of burlesque, Aurora by Scott Hunt. Giantess sharing her beauty with Night. The sleeping town will never know what it missed. It is not worthy.
6. Dance performance choreographed through drawing. Each figure seems immersed in the dance except the figure in yellow in Joyce McDonald's The Removing. She seems worried about her blindfolded friend.
7. Chloe Dzubilo reminds me of some of my friends who are in their 30s. Punk tall girls. Queer and differently loud. They'd shank a bitch if you mess with one of them or me and by bitch I mean a guy they don't like. He'd deserve it. Men are always asking for trouble, just like the one in Untitled (White Girl Ass).
8. There aren't enough paintings of people vomiting. I want paintings of Roman showers and I want them to be sexy. I'm pretty sure Joe Lewis wants to stop loving someone. Even though they make him puke, he is still in love. Or even though his love won't stop throwing up (and it's not a turn on for him) he is still in love; isn't that sweet? I think neo-expressionism often gets a bum rap. But this painting somehow makes my throat feel raw like I just puked too. Is it the colors or the brushstrokes? It's a mystery and this is the power of Art.
9. Terror Of Conformity is real. Remember, the norms are just as scared that your bad case of the weirds will rub off on them. I think Steven Arnold feared being around the norms, although it seems like he built a life surrounded by others of the particular kind of strange that San Francisco was once known for, a not so long time ago. The model has the qualities of a silent film star: glamorous make-up and dress, a bob and an intensity from body language coupled with giving a dirty look. I want to be her.
10. Lucretia Crichlow's Self-Portrait: Grief, is a contemporary take on a classical theme; Melancholia and The Penitent Mary Magdalene were once blurred. Alone on her rooftop, instead of Melancholia's skull or jewelry, Grief contemplates her view of the city and contemporary Grief doesn't judge like Durer and Ter Brueghen.
11. The 3 moments held in the one photo of Gia by Kia Labeija feel so right to me after Crichlow’s Grief. Look at Gia from left to right, she moves from Grief with her hand over her eyes, unable to face us, to comforting herself by cradling her cheek in her hand, to direct eye contact. Of course, if you choose to read it from right to left we are screwed. Don’t.
12. The wig and how it connects visually and thematically with the eyeshadow is what holds my interest in Bruce Volpone’s photograph Beautiful Face.
13. Kenneth Mitchell’s Sun Sisters depicts visually tangible friendship among women of color. The regal Sisters wear delights of our world: flowers, metal, leather, zebra print and the spider’s web. I am engaged by each woman and follow her gaze wondering if they are looking at the same thing and who said what last. What is the bright yellow background? I keep looking just because there are no answers.
14. All Girls Together: there is a lot of togetherness when there isn't even alone time on the toilet. David Abbott understands female bonding. Whether trans, drag or cis this is friendship and there are things that need to be dished about right now. No, it can't wait. All eyes are on the girl on the can. They all have their own fashion thing going on whether they are done dressing or not. Bathroom chats and getting ready together is one of the best things about girl time. So are cocktails.
15, 16. I selected 2 very different pieces by Greg Maskwa. I agonized over which works to include. His dirty illustrations are like comfort food. At Center for Sex & Culture where I work, Larry Townsend's favorite niece (Tracy Tingle) gave us his art collection. Townsend wrote over 20 books including the Leatherman's Handbook, had a column in Drummer, and published gay BDSM stories with illustrations and photos he commissioned in magazine format. Townsend would have loved Maskwa’s kinky drawings of men (and maybe did; here’s hoping). It’s significant that Maskwa also drew bisexual leathermen and leatherwomen playing together. This is rare and precious. More please. All drawn scenes of piss being forced down someone's throat as it is poured from a combat boot have a special place in my heart (a more common motif than Roman Showers).
17. George Dinhaupt's photographs usually have an element of mischief. And this one does, while at the same time it is so tender and intimate. The bright light is ethereal. It shines down from 'Above' with a caress to highlight the tops of George's arms and another man's ass. The composition is vaguely formal. I imagine some items were cleared from view.
18. I selected Banana by Maxime Angel Starling when I noticed there are quite a few bananas in the VA registry. This was around the time I realized there are at least 6 cocks too – the kind that crow. Banana is a beautifully rendered hybrid of something that does not exist in nature. but Starling makes it so. Her drawings in graphite and sometimes ink are so beautiful and delicate. It is rare to see artists take their time with cheap and often recycled materials (tracing paper, cardboard, newspaper) like she does. It feels right with the grit of her content and highlights the ephemeralness of the pale graphite without them getting schmaltzy. There are a lot of yummy, messy video stills in her registry too; check it out.
19. 20. The animal hybrids from Dyke Rowntree's sketchbook drawings are just so pretty. I do have a thing for the hybrids. Not cars. I wish there were more information on him (like how he got that first name) and I wish I could hold his sketchbooks. There’s the ballet dancing cow snake woman with a magnificent dick and the happiest (possibly trans) dragon of them all because there are plenty of sexy bits and an extra long tongue.
21. I love mermaids and my daughter is one. I'm also a sucker for lots of details. For something that keeps providing pleasure as you look, like a Mark Bradford or Hieronymus Bosch. There are little jokes in the text of Anthony Smith’s the Vixen Virgin Mermaid of the Sargasso Sea 5, plus a gorgeous dark royal blue that feels like the sea and nighttime in a lit up city and suits the imagery just fine. Small objects maneuver like a pedestrian weaving her way through traffic—the painting feels like its elements do not stay still.
22. The Ritual by Michael Mitchell reminds me of all the gorgeous paintings by Eric Fischl of adolescent boys and grown up women in bedrooms with thought out compositions and exquisite lighting. The exquisite lighting in an intimate setting, the dynamics of age play and witnessing potentially predatory behavior is both disturbing and yet spellbinding like a gaping peach of an asshole.
23. I feel like we are supposed to pretend that scenes like Asphyxiation by Marc Lida don't get our cunts wet and our dicks hard because it can lead to death. It looks like that is what will happen in Asphyxiation. A nice choking can be a wonderful thing. Like Roman showers, erotic asphyxiation is another thing I don't see painted enough.
24. Curt McDowell's watercolor, Robert and Loretta, would be really dull without Loretta. Also, I had the same kitchen table when I lived with Gravity Goldberg in the Lower Haight.
26. From Jerome: After the Pageant by Thomas Avena and Adam Klein (Bastard Books, SF) on the painting Bozo Fucks Death as told by Avena:
Jerome admits, "I did this after I found out I was positive.”
"So you identify with the skeleton?"
"Yes... I'm a hole. I like to be filled..."
I thought the clown is powerful and in control of Death. He has the skeleton by his scruff-less neck. The clown enters Death's room without knocking.
27. The Birth of Venus in Cleveland by Jeroma Caja is one of my favorite self-portraits of all time. A queer, femme take on an old theme. I love how the idyllic surroundings of Venus' birth as painted by Boticelli get replaced with less grand elements. This is attention to detail: the Large oyster shell is replaced with a plastic kiddy pool, the picturesque seascape is replaced with an ordinary backyard (white picket fence, clothes on the line), the classically beautiful goddesses bringing Venus exquisite fabrics are replaced by a homely cherub and anthropomorphic, green lady sperm taking her a ratty towel or sheet (what they lack in beauty they more than make of for with personality). The same Virgin Mary with smiley face is in the upper right hand corner of this painting and Bozo Fucks Death. We all deserve a wonderful creation myth to start our story.
It's not often I get to share what I think about something important to me to a big group of people. I hope this gets you more interested in some of the lesser-known artists in the Visual AIDS registry. I believe they deserve more attention to their messy, sordid, beautiful, stunning and elegant art.