Thanks to my friend Mark and his excellent massage skills, I was able to pick back up on this piece again. My hand had gotten to the point where it was swelling and making it difficult to hold the pastel stick and other tools. It turned out to be somewhat of a benefit for me to have more time just living with the image. Generally I live with an image for 3-6 months before I dive into exploring what’s beneath the surface. I knew when I saw the original image on the streets of DF that this was going to be the next in my queer saints series. Why a second Joan of Arc? Well the first was from the streets of DF about 4 years previously. The strength of the Joan in that portrait was electric in color and intensity. But I painted that one during the Women’s March and the characteristics were of course related to that movement. Now a little over a year later we are in the midst of #metoo movement and I am back living in Mexico City DF.
So my influences visually have changed quite a bit. The color scheme is more closely rooted to my experiences here. The availability of images that contain so much textural exploration are immense. Examples of art and culture bleed into the streets and of course into my work. But more importantly is my connection to the story of #metoo.
About a month ago I started using dating apps after a long break of almost 3 years from the scene. I felt more grounded and ready to explore my desire to be in a relationship. I had a better idea of who I was, what I brought to the table, but more importantly, what I wanted from a partner. So I was playing the game to put myself out there. I was having a mixed bag of experiences punctuated by the often disorienting rejection. I was also being blasted by constant interruptions of notifications of men expressing their desires. Disorienting because in the US I’m just an average white guy with blue eyes, a greying beard, and tummy. I don’t get attention often. But ride the wave and see what happens.
I won’t go into detail about what happened, but it is enough to say that I found myself in a situation and I had a hard time getting out of it. Despite my clearly verbalizing I wasn’t interested and felt uncomfortable I could not project my body to move. I was frozen and surrounded by one particular man’s desire. I could not move but I kept speaking. It was over and I left. I walked the streets for a few hours unable to organize the events in my mind. I felt guilt, shame, and sadness at a level I had not felt in a long time.
It took several days for me to get a grip on the events as they had unfolded. I had to do a lot of writing. I had to call some friends and talk through it. I had to work it out in artwork. The first being this piece Dangerous Angel at huge scale. That helped. I left and went to a beach to sketch and write for 5 days. That helped. I started to organize my images and reflect on what story I wanted to tell. This image of Joan of Arc came back to me. I had to draw strength from those who were telling their stories to tell my own. See it’s not just about how men treat women, that is important, but it is also about how men wield their desire towards other men. I think in some ways it is more exaggerated in the gay community. Violence of men to men is often without the social filters that might prevent someone from going to far. We don’t talk about this because we’re fighting for the right to love another man, so shaming in sex culture is forbidden. History has done so much of it so our free ticket to sex in the gay community is sacred. Don’t shine a spotlight on a negative aspect of that freedom because it might bring the entire system down.
This image was an advertisement of some sort. Placed into the streets to draw attention to the clothes and stylistic beauty of this woman. She owns that and used the context to push her strength forward. She survived the elements of the streets and had been plastered over by other ads. Yet, she pokes through and stands out. She maintains her vision and power. In a nutshell, her powerful resistance is something I can relate to. I don’t want to be a victim of circumstance. I own my power and resist the stigmatism of a culture that supports rape. Rape of women. Rape of men. Rape of culture. Rape of humanity. I didn’t do anything wrong, but I will have to wear this armor as a badge.