Why Queer Art is Relevant

It might seem somewhat self-serving for me to try to make the case for homoerotic art produced within the Gay community (as opposed to the corporate marketing of barely clad sports figures and whatnot). Then again, who is in a better position to address the issue than someone like me who has made a living in this particular field for over twenty years? So if my assessment/argument seems tiresomely biased… well, just take that into account if you feel the need to respond, correct or refute my basic premise.

MICHAEL KIRWAN, Uncut (Detail), 2012, Markers on paper

We as a tribe have existed for thousands of years. Our existence was mostly isolated and necessarily secretive because I imagine that from pretty early on there were elements in society (religious outfits in particular) that abhorred the idea of certain people willingly disregarding the biological imperative to procreate. Queers weren’t following the rules. Queers were actively defying the authorities that determined the “proper” way to live and thus we were relegated to criminal status for exercising our sexual autonomy. We plied our trade in the dark, becoming experts at lying and deceiving in order to survive.

I’m talking about hardcore Homos here, not the Straight guy who occasionally assents to a blowjob in a rest stop or the men who by virtue of circumstances (early cowboys, miners, trappers, sailors, those at all boy/men institutions, prisoners, etc.) had little or no access to women and enough privacy and libido to engage in casual sodomy. We, the real Queers, who define ourselves by our attraction and desire for other men [just an aside here, I speak only for the male population of Homos unless I specify otherwise. Lesbians are capable enough to describe their own views and positions] are a separate and special division of the human race. Once we understand and accept that the cultural insistence that “boy meets girl” doesn’t apply to us, we are given a gift. From an early age (in most cases), we realize that what is taken for granted as “true” is fluid and we can and do question all the other assumptions that society demands we uphold unconditionally. We are armed with the knowledge that they lie or are ignorant; that their interpretation of morality are man-made constructions; and that we must adhere to a level of self-reliance several degrees above what “normal” people require. WE know our truth and are fortuitous enough to glean other “big picture” truths about the world, about human psychology, about social manipulation, and how those who claim the authority to control our behavior are our enemies.

What differentiates us from them is sex. We are HOMOSEXUALS. It’s not the color pink or Judy Garland or decorating skills or our gentle natures that divide us from the breeding population. We suck cock. We get fucked. We go prowling for other horny men to engage in Queer sexual activity. We study the crotches of other males on the bus. We are regularly looking for opportunities to exercise our faggot imperatives. That is our defining characteristic. That is who and what we are. It is what connects us and the graphic representations of our “life” give us all a measure of strength and confidence that for hundreds of years was denied us. You know who originally stole our imagery? The Catholic Church. They controlled the art and the myriad examples of naked and near-naked men usually depicted in situations of helplessness. St. Sebastian was an iconic “gay” figure for centuries, writhing in pain/pleasure while tied to a tree and pierced strategically by arrows. The Catholic elite sold their entire “faith” on the portrayal of Christ, almost completely naked and nailed to a cross. It’s no wonder fags were always drawn to that institution, spending their entire youth staring at the crucified Jesus and being indoctrinated with the belief that this man loves you and needs you to love him, fervently and forever. Of all the episodes attributed to Christ’s life, why did they select this part of the fable to exploit? There are no statues of John Kennedy with a massive hole in his head or old, fat Elvis collapsed on a bathroom floor. No, the Roman Catholic Church from almost it’s inception decided to market their organization using Homoerotic themes to lure in it’s target audience, and possibly to fill the ranks of it’s hierarchy with Queers who were unparalleled in their skills of manipulation, creating illusion and orchestrating behind-the-scenes power coups.

I got a little off-track there. The point was that for the last sixty years or so, we Fags have created and disseminated our own artistic vision of ourselves and did not have to rely on sources that might inadvertently show some cock or muscle or Queer affection in a different context. The iconography of Tom of Finland absolutely unified the Gay community to the extent where the Gay Liberation movement was possible. We suddenly had a sensory commonality that was exclusively our own, not patched together bits and pieces from the detritus of the Straight culture. It’s important that we control the language that describes us. It’s important that we produce the visual archaeology of our existence. It’s important that we retain our own voice, our own power, our own unique sensibilities.

So, please help keep people like me in business. The Gay-porn, print magazines have mostly dried up and now there are hardly any commercial venues open to people who create Gay erotic artwork. I know of at least eight very good artists who have had to get out of the business because there no longer is a reliable industry from which we can derive adequate incomes. If we are not doing it anymore, some corporate entity who has never been on his knees covered in cum from multiple sources somewhere in a park at 4:00 a.m. will be tasked with telling the world who we are. Do not hand over our self-identification to folks that might not have our best interest at heart. Buy Gay art books from tlagay.com, and other similar outlets, but I would suggest getting it from a Gay bookstore —they too are dying out and we really need to support ALL Queer businesses), go to Queer film festivals, dine at Queer-centric eateries. The more independent money we have invested in our community, the better off we will all be when the Straight people decide to vilify us again in the future. And that will happen. When times get tough, scapegoating weaker sectors of society becomes a blood sport. As so many of us disperse out of the Gay ghettos into new territories in an effort to assimilate and be “just like them,” we are weakening our safe havens, our communal identity, and ultimately the core essence that provides whatever protection we might have in a decidedly hostile world. Buy original art. Of course I’d like to have hundreds of collectors from all over the world determined to own scads of Kirwan drawings, but there are plenty of other artists that also need the funding, the accolades, and the financial security to continue telling our own stories. Our identity is based on our sexuality and we need those representations to affirm and express our very being.

Hang a drawing of some cocksuckers at work on your wall TODAY!

Gay Pride, my brethren, Gay Pride. Nothing else matters.

Michael Kirwan

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Tom of Finland: From Gay Icon to Mainstream Sensation

In the beginning, he drew them simply for his own pleasure. But in the nearly eight decades since Tom of Finland began creating them as a young man, his boldly erotic and hyper-masculine illustrations have grown evermore popular, and proven astoundingly enduring.

Long iconic and even formative for American gay society, Tom’s well-endowed and sexually charged imagery is now hitting the global mainstream, and it’s resonating with new and surprising audiences — like women, transgender men and even art connoisseurs in China — along the way, even as it finally turns the artist himself into a household name in his native Finland.

“Tom of Finland” press conference during 66th Berlinale International Film Festival on February 14, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Andreas Rentz / WireImage for Helsinki Filmi

In New York this Sunday (April 23), a new Finnish-made and eponymously-titled Tom of Finland biopic will make its much-anticipated debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie, directed by Dome Karukoski and starring Pekka Strang as Tom, traces the artist’s life from young adulthood as Touko Laaksonen to his underground success as an expat erotic artist in America. Squarely geared toward mainstream audiences, the film has already been a major hit in Finland since its release there in February.

“I’ve been working on embedding Tom into the Finnish culture for 25 years, since he passed away,” said Durk Dehner, president and co-founder of the Tom of Finland Foundation, and himself one of Tom’s most frequent models. “It was his last wish that I would do whatever I could to let him be known and appreciated in his own country, because he was already being appreciated elsewhere.”

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