I am nothing if not an emotional exhibitionist.
What a dramatic title yes? Well that’s what it feels like being separated from my paintings the adorned my studio for the past year in Ventura, CA. I miss my babies. They are in the gallery there living and breathing without me. I would see them every day in my space and they gave me a sense of accomplishment and reminded me where I was when I painted the piece. Who was I? What was I processing? What argument was I engaging in with myself?
I am nothing if not an emotional exhibitionist. I’m going to have that printed on t-shirts and sale them (copyright 2018). It’s true though. My work is my outlet. It is my expression of all the things I am going through. A filter from my head and my heart to the surface of the paper I work on. If politics are in my mind then politics are processed. Like this series Anuncio I did in direct response to the language Trump used during the elections. It reminded me of growing up in Indiana where it was ok to verbally and physically abuse those who did not fit the mainstream mold of society. I was bashed so many times before I knew I was homosexual for being homosexual. For me the reality was that everyone was homosexual but no one talked about it. So I did not talk about it and assumed we all shared this same magical secret. It only took a few baseball bats to my head and friends being killed before I obtained the clarity about how the world was going to treat me. I treat all advancements in gay rights as temporary, because I have seen the bad side of humanity and realize all it takes is a guiding voice to allow the ignorance to rise back to the surface and be acceptable as normal again. Trump is the catalyst for such people. Demonstrated daily in the NYTimes. For all of us to see and many of us to forget what happened to LGBTQ, Jews, Women, and others during WWII. We act like it is so far away and we forget how likely history is to repeat itself.
Last summer, after 2 years of self imposed celibacy to spend time with my art, I painted this series about my experiences with gay dating apps like Scruff and GRNDR. I came out in a time without computers or cell phones to be the intermediary in potential relationships. I remember sitting in a cafe reading James Baldwin and being approached by a cute guy who had read the book. We talked about the book and I shared my photography folder I was carrying around. That guy is still my friend today. Now I have all these numbers transposed from the applications to my cell phone. There are threads of conversations buried in archives. Many of them compared side by side would reveal the pattern. Introduction, photo (generally a body part). Loose conversation on general topics; Likes, dislikes, stats, location, body type, general experience, maybe the weather, a banter about schedules, and then silence. They would fall down in the linear fashion of whatsapp or messenger to be forgotten and reborn when desires simmered to the top again. Usually they would just fade. All these pieces of technology in between an actual meeting created a sense of desire wrapped in loneliness. Isolation. The desire builds in my mind and becomes a fantasy mixed with random chunks of reality. I think I am connected but I feel so alone. Suddenly celibacy seems reasonable again.
This is a complex piece for me. I created this piece with the explicit intent of commenting on the repeal of DACA, but it is mixed with one of the more traumatic events of my life as well. In October of 2017 I was going about my business as usual. Teaching graphic design at a high school and one class at middle school. I enjoyed the work and it complimented my studio practice. It was hard to monitor my passion for each and not work myself into an illness. The year previous I had obtained teacher of the year for innovation and suffered 3 bouts of flu and 1 of pneumonia. I refused to give less to my studio practice or my teaching work. I knew the risks of being an openly gay teacher in a small community. All it would take is one student to derail my career teaching. That is what happened. A video lecture I had created prior to my start at the school had a blip. A blip of a series of small icons in my trash that showed men naked from the waist up. Imagine how small that had to be as an icon in a low resolution video? Imagine the leap to take that pixel image from simple nudity to full on pornography? Well all it took was one angry student about their grade, a screen shot, and clearly prejudiced administration. I was called in, had my computer taken (prior to my arrival – a violation), and then put on administrative leave. Over the three weeks I was not shown the evidence and the administration (specifically the Superintendent) engaged in violating my rights. I was guilty of a crime by association. Proven by my union which refused to offer me representation based solely on an accusation. By the time I got to the trial meeting I had hired a lawyer. It was clear no one was interested in protecting my rights. And without going deep into the dialogue of what happened at that meeting, it is enough to say that I had picked up my James Baldwin and other activist writings to prepare myself. I did not respond with emotion but with a factual history of discrimination and context of hatred it takes to elevate a student complaint to this level. I ultimately decided life was too short to fight to regain my reputation and resigned from my position. I realized that my sum of experiences and my value to the world extended so far beyond what was happening to me. I was living my life for the wrong people. I decided what would make me happier in my life and moved in that direction. Mexico City.
Ok…that’s enough for today. I am going to hash out some more of this on my patreon.com/ChromaticExplorer page for my subscribers there. 🙂