My American Dream (Marlborough)
Lance, 2013 Oil on linen 20 × 12 inches each
Lance, 2013
Oil on linen 20 × 12 inches each

Andrew, my husband, asked me to create these works, as he felt at one point that I needed to "lighten up and let my hair down," so to speak. This is of the Eighties gay porn star Lance, from an issue of JOCK magazine, the first gay porn mag I ever purchased (along with a Rolling Stone and Wall St. Journal, in which to hide it, on a trip to NYC at a local magazine stand!). I was in college, at a time before the internet and even the accessibility of video, in the Eighties, when to go to a gay movie house at my age seemed egregious and very scary, and it was the first time I had access to seeing any material of non-subjugated, "sissy archetypes" of stereotyped gays in a homophobic culture. And of course the first time I was able to enjoy seeing men objectified in a similar manner as women were in men’s magazines, created for a gay male audience. Lance in particular was a standout, and represented an ideal at the time, and I looked at these pictures more than many others in my life, but hadn’t for years when I painted this diptych, which represents the actual layout of the spread in the magazine. At Brown, we would discuss the politics of painting, of people like Degas who would "cannibalize" his female subjects, by having them pose in torqued, painful positions (I always think of Bettie Page bondage photos when I see them—just imagine little bits of rope tying their feet and/or hands together and you’ll see what I mean), usually posed from the back, where they can’t see Degas painting, as he consumes their flesh by painting them in their pain as he paints their representation on canvas for all to enjoy. I’m exaggerating, but maybe only a little, as the guy was also an anti-Semite and so on—Toulouse Lautrec by contrast, although he is painting prostitutes, seems to really respect and have high regard for his subjects. They may be sex workers (as Degas’ dancers in their day also sometimes were), but lounging around, conversing and thinking—their heads and gestures are more important sometimes than their T and their A. So in any event, I didn’t want to replicate the misdeeds of art history by objecting people when I first started seriously painting during and after college, but coming out as a gay man, and being of a certain testosterone fueled age, and truly thinking about the power of agency in identity politics of the utopic space of porn—seemingly, romantically, one of the few liminal places where a gay man could literally celebrate and "perform" what it intrinsically means to be of this sexuality, without fear of judgment or subjugation. I began painting and drawing porn stars from these magazines, especially Lance (and a few of his costars) as they were meaningful to me. They didn’t seem to be forced or be having a bad time, in fact, they had smiles on their faces, seemingly relaxed and happy to do their job that was perhaps as much about pleasure (and friendship, if you believe that Leo in Leo and Lance, his most famous movie, was his real-life boyfriend) and sharing their pleasure as anything else. In their films and photos, it seemed you could see their faces, and hypothetically get a sense of who they were as people, who happened to take their clothes off—-more naked, as John Berger might say, than the objectified "nude." I also thought I was reacting to art history, where much of modernity was created by painter fellows who got inspiration for their avant-garde antics from bordellos—not to forget the most famous painting that changed art history is Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was, among other things, about five prostitutes. What if a gay man painting men instead of women? It was fun to go back, although elegiac, as Lance did die of complications due to AIDS, as many of his cohorts did, performing too unsafe sex in an ignorant age as men were dying all around them without knowing exactly why. And nostalgic too for my youth, as I listened to music of that time as I was painting, romantically my favorite then and now the Smiths, who so lyrically and movingly married form and content, words and music to sing of pathos and real life hope, dreams, and fears through the incredible binary of beautiful music. I love to micromanage more as I get older, but enjoyed channeling the joie de vivre spirit of earlier years, loosening up here as I painted, but not without the spirit of Lance and his friends perhaps permeating the foliage surrounding him. Although he is placed low in the Last Judgment sequence on the wall, I would like to think of course he ascends, and is up there with James Dean in a Tree and enjoying himself all the more in his non corporeal existence.