Much of the time the only way I can stay honest to my practice is to set goals (metas) for myself. Generally my goals are lofty overall and then drilled down to tasks like complete two paintings in a week to prepare for meeting a curator. I realized that the other gallery was going to move slowly and my momentum slowed with that news. Like a student, I need a deadline and the force of the deadline to create creative pressure in the studio. It works for me. Not the best for my health, but it works for the arte.
In this particular piece I am starting a trilogy story about the love of King Edward II’s and Gaveston’s rumored love affair. The tryptic will be Gaveston (pictured here), King Edward II, and his wife the Queen. Another opportunity to discuss the closet we are often forced to live in when we are exalted by society…in order to be exalted. Often these stories end in tragedy, just like gay relationships in cinema history, because morality often leads to collapse of heros. Why? Partially because I want to bring attention to how we desire heros in our cultures, but we refuse to accept the complexity of humanity and sexuality as a part of that exaltation. What hypocrisy that we can’t accept our humanity. In particular this story plays out in LGBT stories frequently.
Honestly, I first became interested in the concept a little over a year ago after the election of Trump. The way he used language to belittle people and how quickly people cheered him on. It reminded me of the times I had been bashed living in Indiana for having the nerve to display my sexuality. By display I do not mean I ran around waving my penis shouting “I am gay!” No, just merely wearing my hair with highlights, earrings in both ears, or carrying a murse (man-purse). Things that to me were more an expression of creativity lead to violence against myself. Bats on the back of the head. Cross burning. Fights. Defending my life. And so, after the election of Trump the sentiments lifted those people and gave them a platform. And so, my work shifted to tell the stories which mirrored the rise and fall I myself had experienced. Even more so now after having survived a witch hunt against myself as an openly gay teacher at Ojai Unified School District. The previous year – teacher of the year – and then 6 months later accused of distributing porn to minors (my students). Evidence? Shotty at best. Effect? Dismantling my reputation, loss of my teaching license, and a redirection of my energies.
I don’t want to sound as though this is an expression of victimhood. Contrary. It’s an expression of strength. Yes I had to hire a lawyer to defend myself as the union refused to support me although they had not seen evidence (only accusation was enough to part ways). No. Position of power. They gave me 3 weeks to think about the situation and prepare myself for trial. I had time to review my history. LGBT history. To read James Baldwin. Find my center. Know who I am. I did all the things that lead to the awards and love of my students. The school is a context only. They treated the student’s complaint with more respect that myself. The student was right and I was a criminal. So I had nothing to lose. Well I had my job to lose, but it was not me I was losing. I was powerful in that moment. Centered. I entered the meeting with the lawyer for visuals. I needed them to understand right off I was there to take care of myself. They had already let me know they weren’t going to take care of me.
In the past I was less than eloquent in such situations. My emotions overwhelmed me and I responded from emotions. Like when I was held up in my own home and the LAPD accused me of soliciting the guy who did it because I am gay and that’s what gays do. Or when I was clubbed on the back of the head and the Indianapolis Police department told me I should take defense lessons if I intend to choose being a fag. So it was impossible for me to separate my history, the history of LGBT people, and what was happening to me. I drew upon all of that and made sure they had been schooled in the 2.5 hour meeting. I then left the meeting and said to myself, “Micheal you are more than this, so what do you want to do with that ‘more’?” I want to make art full time. 4 months later I am living and working in Mexico City DF prepping for exhibitions.
Note: Do you see what is new in this piece? Collaged newspaper. I have been wanting to experiment with this element for some time, but nothing was singing to me until yesterday. I saw that space open up and in the original photograph there was white paper. The white would of been too much contrast on the painting and have shifted the mood and composition severely. It seemed to me the obvious choice, so I began to experiment. Very satisfying for a tactile person like myself. It was fun to play with the glue and ripping paper for placement. I am happy with the texture created and want to play with this more in each of the 3 parts of the tryptic.