***DISCLAIMER: CONTAINS NUDITY***
All the Creative Potentialities within “The Mask”
Certainly “The Mask” is a very familiar and intimate concept for any Queer boy or man negotiating the terrain of the heteronormative, homophobic world into which we are thrust. This use of “The Mask” as a tool to pass as normative, in a world that threatens us with social disapproval and even physical violence, becomes a mechanism for survival. Yet this seemingly repressive act of hiding of the self, also contains the germs of great creativity – after all building this mask for one who finds himself outside the tropes of standard masculinity and heterosexual desire requires a significant amount of creative performance.
For many of us Queer boys, as we mature and grow in self confidence and step out of the closet, these skills we have developed in initially masking ourselves now serve as incredible impetus and tools to construct new performances via our selves and our art. My own art is motivated by my desire to create a physical manifestation of my fantasies and desires, my romanticized idealization of male beauty and tender embrace. No longer do I need, or wish to hide, but I have harnessed all of those creative performance skills necessary to my young self’s survival, to now create what I really want to be and see and show. All those creative skills and energies used to create a self protective mask have now been freed, and any masks I use or see become a self liberation!
I believe the most interesting aspect of my work is my source material. Almost my entire body of work has as its source material images I’ve appropriated from gay pornography. In working with these images, I layer them with my own photography and in that way “mask” their origin and re-appropriate them to satisfy my own desires and present a new way of viewing these men. I often use images of “Mother Nature” to overlay and integrate into the original “porn” image, thereby in my eye, feminizing and softening them, and ascribing to them a certain tenderness. In my appropriation of gay porn images, my gaze has shifted from a single-minded focus on their cocks and where/how they were being inserted, to their faces, and to actions of touch and embrace. This was a rather profound “re-seeing”, and has totally reshaped my viewing of, and relationship to gay porn. My viewing has now most often become an aesthetic experience – one in which I am looking for source material for my art and something I want to “say” with it. It has also given me a new sense of perspective towards who the men in these images might possibly be, and what I think about them – they have suddenly become human as opposed to being objects. I want to say something beautiful about who they are and this gift of seeing that they have given to me. I often ask myself, would they appreciate how I’ve presented them? The whole process has unleashed an old romanticism in me that I had long ago lost, and I feel a gratitude towards these men that is quite emotional.
As for example, “Masking” and “Tenderizing” an orgasm captured video frame, over-layering it with an image of nature:
Well, because it’s a fucking awesome project and I want to be part of it! Seriously, I’ve been exploring BALACLAVA.Q since early in its inception. Exploring the work of the included artists has both inspired and influenced my thinking about my own work and this whole concept of “The Mask.” Some of the artists I was well familiar with, and some completely new, but all of them have had something profound to say to me and made me think more deeply about my own work and the directions I want to pursue. It’s given me some very new ideas and perspectives and helped me solidify some of my own. I love this concept of constructing alternate personalities, alternate ways of being – the work is so varied and exciting, and so very Queer!
So of course, I want to share my own work and share in this sense of radical Queer community. I hope that my own perspective will be stimulating to others as well.
*(one of my few pieces where I used a live model instead of appropriated porn)
.John began his artistic endeavors towards the end of his 5th decade after excitedly discovering that digital tools finally provided him the means to translate the visions populating his imagination into physical form. Possibly he is an accidental artist, but now that he has found his medium, he continues to explore how to best represent and share his inner vision. As a self identified ‘Queer Artist’ his work is primarily focused on his own relationship with male beauty, and romanticizing a Queer sensibility.
All images were kindly supplied by the artist.
Please contact the artist before using them.