* This Article Was Written For The Online Gay App Hornet.
As the editor of the art publication, BloPop Magazine, I have come across some wonderful and thoughtful artists who have become well known in the popsurrealist and lowbrow movement. Even though much of my focus has been in artists who define themselves to be part of this movement, I have also come across various new contemporary artists and illustrators who do not necessarily fall into this category. Even though much of my work consists of searching for fresh new artists, I always come back to certain artists who I have favored in the last few years. It just happens that three of these particular artists happen to identify as “queer.” I chose three new contemporary artists whose art styles are very different from one another yet their work all resonate on an existential and human level. Even though identifying as gay men does not rule their profession or their work, it has influenced some of their art and career. I would like for you to get to know the works and talents of Dan Barry, Jon MacNair, and Anthony Hurd.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Jon, Dan and Anthony a few questions about the nature of the pop surrealism and the lowbrow art movement and the acceptance of their work in galleries that have been known to exhibit many popsurrealist and lowbrow artists. In addition, I posed some questions about the nature of “gay-driven” artwork in the gay community and where their work fits in gay popular culture. Here is what they had to say:
The Popsurrealism/LowBrow movement has not been celebrated in the gay community as much as artwork that focuses on queer concepts. Often when an artist happens to be gay he can be classified or described as a “gay artist” – someone who works with the male form or with gay themes. Do you believe that the gay community has yet to embrace a new contemporary art movement? If so, why do you think this is?
Jon: I’m not sure I know the answer to this one. In general, if people aren’t attracted to art, it’s because they either don’t appreciate it aesthetically, don’t understand what the artist is trying to convey, don’t relate to the idea or themes, or just don’t agree with them. I can’t imagine that there are no people in the gay community who would appreciate pop surrealism/low brow art. If the gay community as a whole hasn’t embraced this art movement, my only guess would be because there is not enough for the community to feel they can relate to in the art, from a personal perspective.
Dan: Although not the majority, I can think of several artists considered to be included in the pop surrealism/lowbrow world whose artworks reflect queer aesthetics, themes and concepts. I know several collectors and pop surrealism/lowbrow art appreciators who are part of the LGBTQ community.
These terms for art and people are helpful at times for description. However, I do not feel it necessary to think of, or categorize, artworks and artists in these terms. People make the artworks that they want/need to make. Art collectors/appreciators like the artworks that speak to them. Art serves different needs for different people. Perhaps there is truth to the notion of certain gay communities celebrating artwork that contains more overtly queer subject matter and concepts. The art world is broad and it is only important for individuals to focus on that which is important and meaningful to them.
Anthony: It’s hard to answer this, so I’m trying to do it as thoughtfully as possible. I can’t really speak to what the community has embraced, I don’t know that I’m really out there enough in the community to know, I just live my life. I have several collectors in the LGBTQ community, but it’s really not a focus of mine personally. I just came to terms with labeling myself as queer artist recently, and yes, I don’t relate to the gay themes or male form in anyway, but I figure if I’m going to affect any change it starts with accepting myself. My work indirectly is a reflection of everything that makes me queer. My past, present and future, my long-term relationships, my horrible break ups, my sexual escapades, and my quiet nights at home with my partner, step daughter and pup. The rise and fall of all my accomplishment and all my biggest failures is built on the back of a life in queerness. Growing up in the skateboarding world, playing in straight edge hardcore bands, every life I lived in the closet and every life I lived outside of it, it’s reflected in my work as my emotional being. I think to embrace any form of art is and individualistic move. No community needs to necessarily concern itself with such things.
Art by Dan Barry
I am seeing more artists that identity as gay or bisexual taking center stage in contemporary art movements. In many ways, I feel that a large body of their work is emotionally driven with much internal conflict. Do you feel that among your queer brethren your voice is heard in the manner that you would like? Is it important for contemporary art movements to connect with the gay community as a whole?
Jon: Yes, I feel like my artistic voice is being heard to the degree that I would wish. However, my ambitions and motivations to make the art that I do, might differ from other artists that label themselves first and foremost as “queer artists”. Art has always been a big part of my life, starting as a small child. Being gay has also always been a part of my life. The thing that my art and sexuality have in common is that they have both been influential in shaping the person I am today. However, neither has never been the primary thing to define me. I wouldn’t specifically label the art that I make as having dominantly “queer’ themes, but it would be untruthful to say it was completely devoid of them because my art is so personal and often deals with themes of self-reflection, family relationships and lost love. Because of my overall dark aesthetic and the otherworldly environments I depict, it’s easy for these emotional themes to get overlooked. I enjoy this aspect of my work though. Viewers that are in tune with certain emotions might see exactly what it is I am saying with my art, like an invisible message that is suddenly visible. Others might simply be drawn to the world I create or relate to the overall tone and mood, even if what is happening in the piece remains a mystery. I do think that artists who identify as gay or bisexual are of great value to the gay community. To me, making work that speaks to any minority group is of value. In making this work, people find connection, strength, comfort, and often empathy in a world where it is easy to feel isolated or alone.
Dan: For as long as I can remember I have been an explorer, a collector, an image-maker and a storyteller with a self-revelatory urge. My artworks have always been a reflection, and ambiguous journal, of what is happening in my life, thoughts and surroundings at any given time.
Recently while cleaning out my studio, I came across two 20+-year-old artist statements, one from 1994 and the other from 1996. Both reflected where I was at as a young gay man and artist who came of age in the first decade of the AIDS epidemic. My artworks at that time were influenced by my own personal acceptance of what my life may hold as an adult gay man, as well as the related social and political issues of the time. In hindsight, these works were also a reflection of desire and sexual repression. At the time, I had a lot of anxiety around sexual experiences and intimacy. In my mind I had drawn a parallel (connection) between sex and death. And I had yet to find myself in a committed, loving relationship.
More recently, over the past ten years and today, my artworks continue to be an emotional response to the world around me. Although left purposefully ambiguous, it is my intention to provide enough signifiers of meaning and an emotional charge, hopefully allowing the viewer to derive their own personal meanings. One recent collection of artworks, “Wistful Wanderings,” was created in 2017-18, a period full of loss, transitions and anxiety. These works also chronicle my daily personal response to the general climate of dread and chaos found within recent world events.
Three years ago I left my corporate job, working for the same company for 20+ years, in order to be a full-time artist. Today, I do not think of myself as a gay artist, but rather an artist who happens to be gay. My artworks contain less of a “gay” narrative and rather a more universal “human” one.
Anthony: I don’t think it’s specifically important to connect with the gay community in general. If someone is drawn to the work, that’s awesome, but it’s usually just part of the back story that I’m gay/queer. While I do run with the label “queer” I don’t have it partially important for the LGBTQ world to recognize me as such. I just want for any other weird gay guys out there to know that we’re out there, and we’re in all different scenes and worlds and it’s safe to say who you are.
Do you have a particular series of work, past or present, that you feel very connected to? Can you tell us why this series is important to you?
Jon: I created a body of work for a solo show last spring that dealt with feelings surrounding the death of my mother. She had only passed away two months prior to starting work on this series, and everything I was feeling was very fresh. I think it helped me acknowledge her loss in a way that was somewhat cathartic, and helped steer me more toward acceptance. I found that I thought about her a lot during the making of these works, wondering what sort of a dialogue we would have had if I showed them to her.
Dan: The artworks from my Wistful Wanderings (2017) and Passing Time (2017-2018) exhibitions are most meaningful to me, as both collections memorialize a specific recent period of time in my life.
Anthony: I wouldn’t call it a series but the large paintings I started and finished after my last break up we’re particularly emotional for me. Titles “darkest night of the souls eternal journey”, “rebirth”, “the collapse of grief”, “eternal flame”, and “the veil of impermanence” were all very important pieces to me as I worked through the grief and pain of the end of an 18 year relationship. When I poor my emotions into it, it leaves a last impression for sure. These pieces really helped me understand myself better and leave something behind when they were completed.
Art by Anthony Hurd
Jon MacNair’s illustrations have been exhibited in solo shows at Antler Gallery in Portland, Oregon and Stranger Factory Gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Dan Barry has exhibited solo shows in such galleries as Vinyl on Vinyl in Manila, Philippines and La Luz de Jesus in Los Angeles, California. Dan Barry will be featured in the next issue of BloPop Magazine.
Anthony Hurd’s paintings have been part of notable group exhibitions for such galleries as Wow X Wow and Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco, California. Anthony Hurd was featured in the first volume of BloPop Magazine.
BloPop Magazine will release its next issue Volume Three on Halloween, October 31, 2018. Volume Three will feature works by various pop surrealist, lowbrow, and new contemporary artists. For more information on BloPop, visit the BloPop website.
To learn more about these three wonderful artists, visit their websites at www.danbarryart.com, www.jonmacnair.com, and www.anthonyhurd.com.
Follow On Social Networks:
Dan Barry: Instagram, Facebook
Jon McNair: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
Anthony Hurd: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook