Later this week, (We Are) Obscured founder, Johann d’Nale, is attending the Homosurrealism* London event and will be displaying, among other things, Cock au Soleil #4 – here he interviews the zine’s founder, Arthur Dumpling…
How did Cock au Soleil start?
It started as a collaborative project to talk about pain with a gay sex point of view asking friends to share their views using an artistic language.
The work on display at Homosurrealism London is from your fourth Volume – tell us about the previous three editions.
Each edition, is a theme more or less obvious.
#1 was about pain
#2 was about hanky codes
#3 was about the vintage magazine Jean-Paul and (as) Saint Sebastian
Cock au Soleil – Vol.1 // Pain
Cock au Soleil – Vol.1 // Pain
Cock au Soleil – Vol.3 // Jean-Paul + St Sebastien
Cock au Soleil – Vol.3 // Jean-Paul + St Sebastien
How did volume 4 come about?
The wrapping paper issue was actually a project we had in mind for many years and the opportunity to launch a new issue during the Paris Ass Book Fair couldn’t be missed ! We hope people will use the papers!
Tell us a little about the contributions/contributors?
At first, contributors were friends who agreed to be part of the project. But from the beginning we have welcomed everyone who wants to share their creativity of gay sex/sexuality with an artistic language.
Do you have any plans for the future?
We are already working on a new issue for early 2018… but it’s still a secret. New contributors are welcome, feel free to email us.
How can people get copies or stay in touch?
During events where CAS#4 is displayed (kind of rare and secret), the best way will be to send us an email (unfortunately issues #1 to #3 are sold out)
With hatred seeming to be on the increase as nationalism and a lack of tolerance seems to be stirred around the world 50 gay/queer-identifying artists submitted some amazing work to an open call for written and visual works.
#fuckHate – the newspaper – is the primary output to this response – which is formed of a 32-page tabloid newspaper (29 x 38cm / 11.5 x 15″ approx). This has been printed in a limited edition of up to 100 numbered copies.
Alexandre Copes, Andrea Aste, Arak Edge & Tache69, Bari Goddard, Brendan, Bruce Rimell, Carmine Santaniello, ManBlu, Scrappyboy, Drub, Dylan Thibbert, George Krause, Gregory Forster Bourgoin, Gregory Moon, Hope L’Eye, Qaherabear, Jack Sanders, Javier Reche Garay, Jim Ferringer, Johann d’Nale (But I Like It), John Hopper, John Lee Bird, John Waiblinger, Jonathan Lemieux, Julian Evans, KJWFlawless1, Kevin Moore (Arteo Photography), Khristopher Khrist, Lenair Xavier, Luka Fisher, Manel Ortega, Matt Ryallis, Matthew Papa, Michael Church, Miguel Sanchez Photography, MikeSBliss, Pazsint, Nathan Anthony Taylor, Paul Sargeant, Rafa Maldonado, Raphael Michael Panayi, Robert Siegelman, Shannon Hedges, Stiofan O’Ceillaigh, Peter Jacobs, Trevor Brown, Vasco A Vieira, Wilhelm Vincent, Willem Bone
Anyone purchasing the print edition will also get access to an online gallery which will provide more material related to this and also record any future #fuckHate activity.
Buy a limited first-edition numbered copy of #fuckHate
The publication itself is £18 (excludes signed-for shipping).
Well, new year – new post – and new ‘column’. One of the things I’ve learnt while publishing articles for the group Obscured Press is part of a new direction for the blog – highlighting the other publications and groups who are out there spreading news of Queer/Gay creativity.
The first publication I’ve chosen to highlight is GLIMP! This regular monthly email is now in it’s eighth year and highlights some of what’s going on around the globe – I dropped Helm de Laat a line and asked him about his newsletter.
I started by asking how he collates the content…
…this is how my adventures in the land of Queer Art go. I come across an almost forgotten mail, look into a site or facebook group, find a cute pic –and go looking into the site of an Italian member of the Fetishfoto Jury, discover Wretched GingerBoy, try opening the Bearded Brutes Book by Mark Leeming etc etc. And the notes I make, the downloaded pics, etc. come back to me when the next deadline of GLIMP! approaches.
Meanwhile I drop a line here, find an e-mail address there. All end up in the GLIMP! mailinglists: GLBT papers and queer Zines, Galleries and Art collectives or organisations, and of course lots and lots of artists, art-critics, curators, interested and even a growing bunch of queer theorists.
How did it begin?
GLIMP! started as a one page e-mail once in while for the people who used to visit or show an interest in the art shows, I curated for Villa Lila, after the Nijmegen GLBT center closed. Meanwhile every month it find it’s way across the globe –we really are everywhere-. This month’s edition counted 19 pages (I must be mad writing it all) and had a circulation of just over 3000.
Everybody is invited to forward GLIMP! among their friends and from the people who mail me for a subscription I gather that that’s how most get to know GLIMP!
You asked “What’s the deal?” – what do I get out of it. Well imagine the ton of interesting mails I get every month. And once in a while I network a bit and watch new projects develop. And even the occasional commission comes along…
So GLIMP! is not only just fun making it also opens up tons of new perspectives into the queer art world. Just enjoy it and use it as you see fit. And we’ll see what comes from it 😉
Thanks to Helm for telling us about the newsletter.
To sign up for the English-language newsletter send an email and you can read more about him on his website (Dutch language).
Johann recently caught up with photographer and publisher, Eric Lanuit to discuss his latest exhibition…
Johann d’Nale: How did the subject matter for the exhibition come about?
Eric Lanuit: Uniforms have always been the subject of fantasies. Authority, power, heroism, strength, the aesthetics of the clothing and accessories, the enhancement of the male body – all these mixed feelings at the sight of a man in uniform awaken our imagination and strata of our homoerotic cultural unconscious.
Just a detail can arouse our excitement and desire. The uniform, yes, but also work clothes, regulation outfits, sportswear, fetishist outfits –the clothes and accessories excite libidos and the imagination though the promise of masculine sex. Sending signals of the overflow of testosterone, hot games of domination and submission and of exhibitionism and worship.
All these portraits are looking to the horizon of their goal. So proud of their outfit that enables them to do their job, their duty, their performance. So proud of their body that endorses the outfit or accessories of what they represent and so proud of the looks they generate from the attributes of their virility.
From athlete to soldier, worker to businessman, master to slave and from cowboy to sailor, they all proudly display the artifices of their conviction, their profession, their passion, or their sexual practice, arousing the desire of the unattainable beauty of the idealised male. How did the preparation go – and what reaction have you had to the works?
I was very happy with the prints – they are amazingly beautiful. I have chosen a smooth and very thick fine art paper that really gives the painting portrait effect that I wanted.
Regarding the hanging itself, this was not so easy because I chose to show three sizes (50x70cm, 40x50cm and 30x40cm) and of course there is some stronger portraits that I wanted to push. My friend José Texeira from P-ARTY helped me and we found what I hope is the best combination in the location.
I only received good reactions on the opening day, but maybe people don’t tell you when they don’t like it (LOL). What I can say is that people seem to understand my point of view on the subject and the fact I handle it in a very classical photography portrait way – which is not usually the case for uniform and other fetish topics. What is coming next for you?
I’m looking for galleries or places to show the ‘Uniforms and Fantasies’ series in Europe and in United States. I’m also working on a special issue of my gay art magazine Men Addicted that should be online beginning of November and will be participating in the collective exhibition HOLE curated by P-ARTY in Paris that will take place at KRASH and LA MINE from November 3rd to December 4th.
Thanks for sharing those words and images with us, Eric and the best luck with your future endeavours!
Hate is possibly one of the worst aspects of humanity, from mass to self hatred and everything between. It’s all born of irrational fears, of ignorance and an unwillingness to overturn prejudices and runs counter to the basis of most ideologies. And yet it is prevalent the world over.
Prior to June 12 I had started to relax – started to think at the advance we’d made. Surely activities in Africa, the Middle East and in Russia had angered. But, as with other aspects of life they seemed more distant, less ‘here’. But, when a lone gunman walked into a gay space in Orlando – like many I attend here and abroad – and arbitrarily took and ruined lives I had a sharp awakening.
I then looked at the world closer to me – have we really achieved the equality and acceptance we’ve been working so hard for. In law – maybe we’re close, but in society we’re still a long way short. And combine this with the impact of those years of us being aliens or outsiders to ‘normal’ society has had on individuals. “masc4masc”, internalised homophobia, negativity towards others outside of heteronormative life and the whole
This is an open call for queer and gay identifying artists to submit images or small works which can be represented on a single A5* page for publication in a zine format for sale and online viewing.
Size: A5 *210mm x 148mm / 8.3″ x 5.8″ – tall/portrait format.
Minimum 200dpi – full colour or mono.
Written submissions of up to 300 words also accepted.
Work to be supplied via email (5mb max) to butilikeitphoto [at] gmail.com
Deadline: 31st October 2016
A selection of works may be made for the print and online editions.
Any artists who have work included in the print edition will be offered a copy at shipping cost only. The online edition will be published on this website.
This is a not for profit publication – any profits made will be donated to NoH8.
Promoted by We Are Obscured and will be Published by Strawbleu Editions.
Fine art photographer, Matthew Papa recently completed a MFA – Johann caught up with him and found out a little about the experience…
Johann D’Nale:Why did you undertake the MFA in the first place – what were your aims and expectations?
Matthew Papa: In the early 2000s I went back to school for design at Parsons. While in the program, we were encouraged to use our own photographs for our assignments. When I was younger I had been a very keen photographer but as I got older it somehow got pushed to the periphery. So this foray into design rekindled my love of photography. I knew immediately it was what I wanted to do but I was in the middle of a design program and it wasn’t practical at the time to try to make the switch. Since 2003 I have been working as a designer but all the while pursuing this goal of transitioning to photography.
I decided to do the MFA for a number of reasons. I think the major one was being able to concertedly focus on my practice and develop it. Also, I was seeking a community of equally committed people because as an artist your relationships are one of the most important things you can have. The program at ICP-Bard is very intense with a focus on critical theory and experimentation. It was good for me because I didn’t have a formal art history background, although I did study philosophy as an undergraduate. When I started the program, I was really open to being challenged and trying new things.
How has the experience informed or enhanced your practice?
The experience definitely informed and enhanced my practice. For one, we were encouraged to experiment with new forms and challenge the notions we had around ourselves as artists. I worked with video for the first time, as well as appropriation and employing archival images from my younger shooting days. Also, the study of critical theory about contemporary art, in particular ideas around conceptualism, helped me refine what I was interested in and how I wanted my work to function.
How did ‘Song to the Siren’ go? What were the reactions of those who attended?
My solo thesis show went really well. It was great to see my work printed at the scale I imagined, as well as seeing the pieces finished, mounted and framed. There were a lot of people at the opening, including many of my models. That was really gratifying to have them come out to support me. I think people found the work both beautiful and challenging. The nude male is still shocking or alien to many people but I think it is important for these representations to be in the world. Unfortunately the show was only up for three days after which another student takes over the space for his or her thesis. It was a huge amount of work for such a short time.
We Are Obscured looks at gay and queer identities – can you explain a little about how your work touches on this?
My work specifically looks at the middle-aged gay male experience. My generation experienced our sexuality primarily through the specter of AIDS. Many of the men in the generation above me were lost to the disease. In doing the work, I realized that younger men have a completely different experience of their sexuality since AIDS was perceived largely as a manageable disease for them, and now with PReP, preventable. In the work, I’m exploring relationships between men and how we navigate intimacy. Often I am working with strangers so there is a heightened sense of vulnerability and awkwardness that can heighten a connection.
Finally – where now for you? What plans do you have for the future?
Just this week I submitted my thesis book for printing. We are all required to write and design our own books that live in perpetuity at ICP. It feels like a significant accomplishment and required an intense amount of focus. I have a few more weeks of classes but my immediate plan is to try to unwind a bit so I can process this two year experience. I had considered applying for some residencies but ultimately decided to delay that for now. I’ve heard from people that it is important to give yourself some space the first year out and I feel like I can understand the importance of that. Doing the MFA has been incredibly intense and rewarding but I feel like I need some time to digest it.
My immediate goals are to find a studio space outside of my apartment, perhaps sharing with one of my classmates. The community of artists in New York is rich and deep and I plan to cultivate my role in it. I also would like to teach so will start looking for adjunct positions as well as proposing classes at ICP. I will continue to design but plan to turn that practice towards artists books and helping other photographers realize their own book projects. I knew being a working artist wasn’t an easy path. There are no guarantees and most artists struggle. I will seize on the momentum of finishing this significant body of work by trying to get it seen. One particularly exciting thing this summer is a group show with my classmates at the Camera Club of New York curated by Charlotte Cotton.
“I think recently the world has become a dark, corrupt, dangerous place to be. I wanted to do something totally unapologetic. It is what it is. It’s pop. It’s bright and fun.”
Mark Leeming and the playful, glamorous and subversive nature of his Bearded Brutes series has in a remarkably short space of time transformed from a small personal project into a social media sensation.
With enthusiastic international press coverage from including Out and GUYSLIKEU plus a growing fan base for the portraits, we recently met up with Mark to talk about all things Brutish.
Richard Glen: So tell me how Bearded Brutes began?
Mark Leeming: My bread and butter is commercial photography. I do things like food, hospitality, restaurants. But every now and then I want to cut loose and do something different. That keeps me sane to be honest.
When you’re working for clients, you can be a little bit creative but you can’t go too overboard.
So initially this was a project just for you then?
Yeah, it wasn’t for anything in mind or anyone. I just wanted to try something different.
I’d seen these glitter beards popping up last year and thought they were cool Then I thought I wanted to do a few portraits for friends.
So I did two or three for friends and then when I posted them I got a lot of likes on Facebook, a lot of comments and I thought I wanted to do more. It grew from there.
…and then something that started off as a personal project was adopted as something that was commenting on queer identity and masculinity? Were those levels intentional?
I’ve been involved in the drag circuit a lot over the past year or so and it was something I’d never really submerged myself into. I’ve become really good friends with a few performers on the scene and it unleashes a different side of you.
For someone who is creative anyway, drags don’t give a shit. They are as creative as they want and they portray these beautiful creatures and I was in awe of it. And I wanted to do something like that, something where there is no real set rule. A bit of it was pushing that femme masculine boundary. And just because you’re a drag queen you don’t have to shave your beard off. Why not keep the structure you have now and add to that? I quite like that bit of a genderfuck thing.
Why I love this series is that it is a real celebration. You mention genderfuck and I really get a strong sense of these portraits been very much a perspective on masculinity and all the brutes being very confident and comfortable in their own skins.
With every brute, I tap into them. Even things like asking what their favourite movie is or favourite colour. What inspires you. Or if you could do anything in the world what would you do. I pick out little things they tell me so with every brute there is a thought process behind it. They are all very individual, even down to the colours I use in them.
I could have done something where I made one look like Marilyn Monroe. Or one like Garbo or Dietrich. That to me is a bit too drag because so many drags do great impersonations. I wanted to create almost a caricature of themselves, a pop art version of themselves. I wanted to carry on the drag a little but make it very personal.
The one thing that’s made me carry on doing them is that every model I’ve chosen, and some I’ve not known so it’s been a bit suck it and see when I meet them, have all been so passionate about the project. I’ve been lucky enough to pick these people who are such lovely lads and they pulled off the creativity.
I must say I am a bit jealous as you have had some fabulous models!
If there was someone I was working with who didn’t have that spark it would show in the pictures.
And everyone looks like they are having a ball in the photos. I guess though that a lot of work goes into each one.
When I shoot them I always do a multitude of poses and in the edit it’s what I feel works. I’m quite fast when I shoot them. The make up can take three to four hours and the shoot itself takes fifteen to twenty minutes.
And all the make up you do yourself?
I’m still learning! When I was 16 or 17, I wanted to do special effects and prosthetics. As a kid I’d turn my mum and dad’s kitchen upside down. There would be flour, eggs and paint everywhere. I drove them up the wall. But they proper supported me.
I came from a background of special effects make up and then I studied film and photography at university in London and it drifted a little bit. So the make up is all part and parcel.
Is Bearded Brutes the first time you’ve done work that is queer-centric?
Yes. Not for any reason. I think the timing is right. I’ve put myself out there a lot more the last few years. I used to be more of a wallflower. I’d love seeing all the shows but never dream of doing it myself. As much as I wanted to, I always held back. I wondered if I’d be good enough.
But now I think I don’t care and it’s been exhilarating doing it.
We’d love to thank Mark for taking the time to talk to us – for more you can visit him at his website or on Facebook and get ready for an exhibition of his work ‘F**k the Close Shave‘ at Kosmonaut, Manchester (UK) from 17th March
Often compared to the New York scene of the 1980s, central to the city’s current success is Cha Cha Boudoir – the hugely influential monthly club night. Its reputation is built not only on innovative performance but also a strong, iconic visual style. Glenn Jones aka Wretched Ginger Boy, the artist behind the club’s artwork has become known an important chronicler of the scene and is about to launch his debut solo exhibition.
Richard Glen: I know you are a graphic designer by profession but where did the interest in chronicling the Manchester alt-drag scene begin?
Glenn Jones: I was a freelance illustrator and there was a period of time where I was working on a lot of projects that were top secret and weren’t to be released for several months.
I needed a little project for myself just to go straight into my portfolio and I didn’t have to worry about waiting six months to release it to the public. At the time Rupaul’s Drag Race was massive and I was very into it. I had the idea of drawing all the winners in one piece of artwork – in a ‘Disney Princess’ homage style.
I thought it would be cool to do and quite relevant in pop culture relevant – so if I then posted it on Facebook and Twitter I might get a few likes.
I’m guessing you got more than that?
The day I posted it was the day Bianca Del Rio won the show and she was the last one I did so I posted it up and that was literally the start of my art career. It was mental. It went from 25 followers to 250 followers in five hours.
Had you had an interest in the drag scene before or did it all come from Rupaul’s Drag Race?
It all started with the show. Everyone has preconceptions of what drag is. I did. But that show opened my eyes. There were certain characters I could relate to. I’m an artist, they are artists. Things they’d gone through like bullying, I could relate to that.
So it was as much the human stories that drew you in?
Yes, very much so. And it’s because then you realise it’s an art form and this is how they express their art. I gravitated towards that.
I only intended to do one drag piece but it got such a big response that I was thinking “there’s something in this”
So from that first piece, how did chronicling the Manchester scene come about?
People started talking about my work. When the drag race people were over I would go and see them and give them a canvas, which was cool because they got to know me.
Michelle Visage from the show was hosting an event a couple of years ago and it was a night when she was judging queens on stage.
From the Manchester scene, Cheddar Gorgeous, Anna Phylactic and Grace Oni Smith were performing lip synchs. I thought for a long time the US queens were a lot more advanced than the UK. So the night I saw Manchester’s finest perform was amazing because I realised the talent we have here.
And this was about the time when the drag scene in Manchester exploded and started getting attention and a lot of press – and especially the club night you do the artwork for.
Cha Cha Boudoir is very much the driving force. It’s always been a bit alternative, very dark and theatrical based.
The actual place for me within the gay scene is a home for everybody. When you look at the people that go there, it’s no one type of person. You’ve got twinks, bears, lesbians, trans and they all just mingle and they’re all friends there to watch these amazing dark performances.
And now you are known for chronicling the performers of this scene. Do you feel a responsibility? Especially as it sounds as if many have become friends.
Yes, I would never want to do them a disservice.
I do feel my work is a part of it now. With Cha Cha I’m there to represent the brand and it’s got to be quality. The team who run it put so much work into every show. Each one takes months and I have to match that level of input.
So you constantly have to raise your game?
I’m like that anyway as an artist and I always want to do better than I’ve done.
The drag queens in Manchester scene are my muses and they always think outside the box, which makes me think outside the box.
I did notice that you seem to have a very varied range of styles in your work?
I’m quite a chameleon. I worked for Hallmark Cards for twelve years and you work on every type of card there can be. They push you to go beyond your normal boundaries.
When I see a style I need to break it down to figure out how they did it because it’s a way of proving I’ve got the skills to do it.
So tell me a little bit about you exhibition.
It’s pretty much a retrospective. It’s a mix of Cha Cha posters and individual portraits of some of the queens. And there is work in there than I have always wanted to display together.
I had to really whittle it down to my best and I wanted to make sure I represented different queens and make sure there is a nice mix and feature as many as I could.
I’m hoping this is the first of many.
So are we – thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to Obscured, Glenn.
A short introduction where we catch up with photographic artist, Dirk H. Wilms, to find out about his latests exhibition…
Please tell us a little about the exhibition and how it came about (any new pieces or retrospective, all self/auto portraits? any specific themes?)
The exhibition has been created by the German AIDS Service Organization in Weimar to showcase the major area of my work I’ve been concentrating on for the last 15 years – my self-portrait series “A Kind Of Absence”. It shows 40 pieces of my black and white works, including many images never shown before. The series is an artistic documentary about living with HIV and AIDS, which I began in 2001 shortly after my HIV diagnosis. With this I wanted to make my fears and nightmares visible to those who care to see.
Please tell us in a little more detail about one or more pieces which deal specifically with gay/queer identity.
I think, my whole work is about queer identity, my identity. But also about sexuality and mortality. Everything is inseparably connected in my work.
When and where is the exhibition; does it include works for sale?
The show runs until December 9th 2015 in “Gallery Markt 21” in the center of beautiful German city of Weimar and all shown images are for sale.
Do you have any other news (or new works) you want to tell us about?
I will continue to work on my series – as I have given myself the order to be accompanied by the camera until the end. I imagine a few surprises in the next year, but it’s too early to talk about.
There’s an inborn fear we have about sharing our issues. A little secret of our own that eats us up from the inside and brings us to a point where we can no longer handle it. We long to tell someone but hold back all too often from doing so. What are we afraid of? Rejection? Looking like a fool? Being judged, perhaps? Or perhaps that sometimes we might lose the identity we have built for ourselves if we deal with it and no longer have it?
With a kind of anonymity social media has made it much easier to say “I’m having a shit time of it right now.” A little mention of a problem on Facebook or Twitter posts or support groups and support comes in from those you love and quite frequently from those you have never even met. We use this forum effectively, almost unafraid – we can’t see the faces of the people who disapprove and mock us. We only see the ones who have chosen to give us a virtual hug – and that helps us.
I deal with my own brain all the time, a deep-rooted self-loathing for my personal appearance has troubled me and shouted me down for well over half my life. I don’t have a huge problem talking about it, I am however very picky about who I have the conversation with.
Secrets and Lies came about because I posted a photo of a man with a bag on his head that read “Beware: I’m Ugly” on it. The comments poured in about how I shouldn’t put myself down etcetera. It wasn’t my photo – or me under the bag – so I was able to brush off those comments. The sentiment, though, was exactly right for my frame of mind at the time.
It was the reaction that inspired me more than the photograph. The fact that people read a sentiment that rang true for me and it caused some kind of thought process that made them upset or angry that I should think this way. I wanted to give others a voice to share their secrets.
The lies really covers two aspects, one is about the lies we tell about ourselves – to protect us from others or cover up our secrets – but also about how easy it is to lie on social media. How easily we believe something written on a status by someone we’ve never met. We have no idea what is truth and what is reality sometimes, we have no choice but to take what we read at face value.
So I put out a call on Facebook with my thoughts and ideas and asked people to volunteer their secrets and lies, one of each to be precise. One hundred brown paper bags were dispatched to fifty different people with the instruction to write a secret on one bag and a lie on the other, on the reverse side they were to write an ‘S’ and an ‘L’ – so I could tell them apart.
I was amazed how quickly I built up a list of people who volunteered to take part in the project, and was even more amazed when the bags started returning. Some of the comments could make a person weep. I asked for people to be honest with their secrets and they were. I am incredibly grateful for that. The lies were also well thought out – some amusing, others shocking. The people who volunteered certainly put some thought in to it.
I guess the point of it is that I want people to think about others in a different way. Not to judge someone who’s having a bad day, dealing with something from their past or with some kind of mental illness. These bags could be from anyone – that guy you stood next to at the train station this morning you thought was a bit of a cock, that woman smoking a fag whilst pushing a pram, that old man weeping into his cup of coffee. It could be any one of us and most of the time we will never know. We’ll never know because we don’t ask. Sometimes we don’t ask because we know there’s something and we don’t want to deal with what the answer might be. Sometimes we just don’t think about the fact that we don’t really know the people pass on the street, and sometimes we don’t really know the truth that some of our best friends keep hidden from us.
First turned-on to the amazing imagery of Krys Fox when a social media buddy started sharing images with Johann D’Nale during the photographer’s last UK tour in 2013. Shortly after this Johann found the amazing Hallowe’en photos Krys created – and continued to enjoy them as the project continued. Having met Krys on a recent trip to NYC Johann thought he would be the ideal interviewee for this time of year…
Johann D’Nale: What got you started with your Hallowe’en extravaganza?
Krys Fox: The ’31 Days’ series officially began in 2012, as a cure for post-exhibition depression. I had just returned from an exhibition in the UK and it had taken so much outta me that I felt sad, and needed a big project to work on. The idea of recreating horror scenes had originated a few years before during the whole Sarah Palin election scare. A good friend of mine, the actor Guillermo Diaz, wanted to shoot a collaboration with me where we wrote all of Palin’s fucked-up slogans on his body and then we hung taxidermy and a shower curtain and did a black and white Psycho shoot of Diaz wearing her glasses holding a butcher knife. That actually started me thinking what a cool idea it would be to shoot ALL of my favorite horror movies with a twist. I was just scared of how difficult and expensive it would be. Finally in 2012, the seed resurfaced and I just jumped into the project head first.
Can you further explain the concept behind it?
I love horror and sci-fi films so much, but the genre is a pretty ‘straight’ world. So, the original concept was to recreate favorite scenes of scary movies; but switching the genders of all the characters. Letting the boys play the archetypes of the virgin, the whore and so on and then letting women take on the roles of psychos, killers and those in power. I try my best to shoot with pretty much no budget and rely greatly on donations of props, locations and stuff like that. Over the years it has changed and now I cast gender-blind, but there is always a queer element to the images.
The main goal was to create at least 31 different movie stills and post one-a-day on all my social media platforms with a little blog/story behind why it was chosen or telling some behind the screams (sic) stories about it’s production. It was like a present to people out there like me. Weirdos who didn’t feel represented by genre they love so much.
I think this is your fifth year – how do you keep up the enthusiasm and where does the inspiration come from?
This is the fourth year, but the films to homage for year five are already chosen and being story-boarded!
I honestly love creating these images so much… it’s fun for me and my models and for the fans out there. Other horror enthusiasts – they feed me their excitement and it keeps me going. These marathons of shooting are really hard and they wipe me out. I have five images left to shoot this year (out of 42 in total), and then I’m taking a month long nap.
The inspiration is the films. I have a sort of master list of all the movies I’d like to shoot, there are hundreds of titles, and then I re-watch them and sort of go through the list figuring out what I CAN shoot, what I’d LIKE to shoot, and what needs more money or more time.. And go from there.
The series keeps growing cause it KILLS me when I want to shoot a certain film, but can’t for one reason or another. I store that idea in my mind and stew on it over the year until I figure it out. Several films didn’t make the first year which were some of my favorites, and it bugged me so much, we did year two (2013) just to include them – like ‘The Thing’, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.
Next year is already being worked out because of the same problem. Certain movies are so hard to conceptualize, since a moving image and a still image require different pieces of the same puzzle. I’ve got a lot of the big monster movies (‘Godzilla’, ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Cloverfield’, ‘King Kong’) left to shoot and we are gonna plan a monster week next year just for them!
How has your approach to the different years varied?
Each year has been slightly different for sure. Year one was the killer. It was basically produced in real time. I shot 33 film tributes in 26 days. Little things like losing a model would be huge ordeals. I’d have to recast something – shooting the next day and then shoot, edit and post it within hours. Many days the image for the day went up minutes before midnight.
I tried to keep ahead of schedule and shoot multiple movies in a day, but due to the differences in the films chosen, that too was hard. Going from a 1930’s set film to something from the 80’s requires a brain shift and completely different lighting and camera techniques.
In Year one also, the weather went from hot summery weather to freezing in a day. So things like ‘Jaws’, where I shot in the actual location (the ocean), were forced to wait a year. The biggest issue in year one was Hurricane Sandy. She hit a few days before Hallowe’en – I remember shooting my last three images the day of the hurricane. I’d shot ‘The Shining’, then went to a different location and shot inserts for ‘Halloween’ and a ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ shoot. By the time I finished, trains and buses were shut down and I walked across Brooklyn to get home. It was scary but it was COMPLETE.
Year two (2013) I started shooting in the summer. I even shot a few overseas on my second UK tour (‘Misery’, ‘An American Werewolf in London’); but that year I got sick for a while, then started working two day jobs to compensate for what my UK trip cost. Time became a problem. Again it ended up being a real time scenario where I shot as much as I could on days off and the series was completed with a day or two grace period.
2014 is the year that wasn’t – it only consists of six images. Life happened.
I had a full time day job that demanded my soul. My husband also feel extremely ill and needed my care for most the month and I also had my first solo exhibition in Manhattan (for a different long running series called the Styx Series) at the beginning of October, which also took a lot of attention.
So this year I started shooting earlier and taking my time with the project. I also have added a more complex lighting scheme, we have way more fancy props and locations and actual props from some of the productions which has been amazing.
Can you choose the image you’re most proud of from each year for us – and tell us why?
That would be so hard. Different images stand out for different reasons. Some I’m just amazed that I pulled ’em off! Some are sentimental favorites – I like to cast my models in recurring roles, switching their characters around from year to year. Sort of like my own horror company of actors. In doing that, it becomes cool to see certain subjects grow up, and evolve – at this point, the series feels like a family project.
In year one, I’m proud of my ‘Frankenstein’ image of Joey Arias. It’s become my trademark image – and is by far the most popular; the likeness is uncanny. But I also love my ‘Cujo’ image from that year, cause it’s my husband and my chihuahua, Annie, and the shoot was hilarious. She’s a mean rescue dog but she loved the corn syrup blood so, getting her to look “scary” was next to impossible, and we just laughed the whole shoot.
I’m very proud of the realism of the Jaws shot from year two and that’s my favorite film, so it’s special.
From 2014 I’d say ‘IT’. It features my best friend and frequent collaborator, Wren Britton, who is a genius jewelry designer (Purevile) and it’s a creepy awesome shot.
This year, my favorite keeps changing. It’s kind of whatever I just shot. I get really nervous before all these shoots, so editing the images and seeing that they work makes me so proud. So far, I’m obsessed with the ‘Crimson Peak’ shot, and ‘the Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ shots (which, at the time of the interview, haven’t been posted to the world yet) but there are some real good ones left to shoot so, I think the finale will be my fave this year – as long as the shoot goes well… we’ll see!
Aside from them being a great promotion – do you do anything else with the images – are they on sale, for example?
Year one’s images were made into DVD covers for two exhibitions and sold as limited editions. They had the stories I had posted daily inside the jewel box, and were blood splattered and matted with vintage horror videocassette tape. A shot from each previous year has been chosen and is on display (and for sale) at an exhibition I’m part of in New Jersey at Gallery U. The exhibition is up now and is called Something Wicked This Way Comes. There are plans for a coffee table book and touring exhibition of the total series, but that can only happen when I finally stop making them – and I don’t know if I can!
There’s a weird intrigue between queer artists and the horror genre – what attracts you to it?
I’m not totally sure to be honest – and I’m actually kind of a horror snob. I find a really good scary movie to be so rare, but when I like one I love it. I tend to like psychological horror films and slasher films the best. I like being scared – it’s almost a turn on for me. I do not particularly like being grossed out. Gore doesn’t do it for me. Give me ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘Halloween’ or ‘The Shining’ any day over the torture porn films.
I also find that my taste in horror changes as I do. Often I talk about that when I wrote about the movie I post. I shoot a lot of movies that I loved as a kid, then I re-watch it to brush up on the shoot and find it hasn’t aged well or isn’t good to me anymore. Or vice-versa. I used to hate Rosemary’s Baby as a kid, for example – I thought it was so boring. Now I watch it every year and love it more and more and more.
Obscured looks at how gay men change and adapt identity to suit their own needs, and environment – how does this apply to your own work?
I think my work is all about transformation – no matter what the series or concept. It always has been. I’ve been showing my work to the world since 1999 and that’s always been the through line. I paint people, put masks on them, ask them to take on a role. A good friend of mine, that actually first encouraged me to show my secret art to people, once said that I give people the ‘Krys Fox Effect’ – I bring people into my world and mind and try to show them what I see in them when I look at them. The photos are physical manifestations of my emotions and of the way I see the world and its inhabitants around me.
Hallowe’en is nearly upon us – which, I guess, means you’ll be moving on to something else – what can we anticipate from you in the future?
I have a new photo series that has a little seed growing – it’s based on the end result of one of my homages from Year Four. But it’s still germinating. Some pretty huge things have happened the last few weeks that are going to change a lot. I know that sounds vague.. Let’s just say, things are going to finally start moving – I have always wanted to make films, and it looks like that’s happening!!
Anything else you want to say to the Obscured readers?
Thanks for reading this!
And HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!
The following is a selected gallery of Hallowe’en images through the years: