Okay. No more beating around the bush. No more dancing around it. No more pussyfooting, shilly-shallying, sidestepping, jiving, or hemming and hawing. No more equivocating, dodging, or evading. No more stonewalling. I am not going to give you the runaround. I am just going to say it out loud. I’m gay. That’s right. You heard me. I’m queer. Queer as a 3 dollar bill. And by queer, I mean curious, eccentric, extraordinary, fantastic, far-out, freakish, grotesque, kooky, odd, off the wall, outlandish, peculiar, ridiculous, strange, singular, uncommon, unexpected, unusual, way-out, and weird. I also mean I’m a homosexual. But more importantly, I mean I am an artist. I firmly believe that my gayness, my queerness is what made me an artist and designer. It is what frames my artistic output. It is how I developed my particular set of aesthetic sensibilities.
I can not really explain the why of it, but I know the how of it. From early childhood, I have had an extraordinarily sensitive, visual understanding of the world. I have always been visually hungry. I make make sense of the world through how it looks, and how it is designed. Toy blocks, Lincoln Logs, LEGOS, Barbie, GI Joe, sewing, gardening, macrame, candle making, tie-dye, ceramics, drawing, painting, acting, theater design, tuba & flute, sculpture, glass blowing—the list goes on and on. I was always making. Always using my favorite tools—my hands. Always observing and trying to visually figure out the world and make it better. Prettier. More stunning. But also, familiar and safe. Habitable. I was also looking for a place or space where I belonged, where I would be accepted without judgement.
From the time I was a young boy, I wanted to reshape and redesign the world I inhabited. For some reason my gayness made me hyper-sensitive to art and beauty in all its forms and manifestations. I was enchanted and obsessed with it. I would see things that others never noticed. I felt emotionally attuned in ways that were not gendered as masculine. My interests were not the usual interests of American boyhood. I was sensitive. I was performative. And, oh god, did I love a show or an old black and white movie. (Thanks to my sister Diane! And thanks to my film sisters Bette, Joan, Katherine, Lucy, Marilyn, Greta, Ginger, Liz, Marlene, Vivian, and Judy, too! This statement wouldn’t be gay enough without a nod to the these queerly beloved movie icons.) I was fascinated with beautiful old things, things with a history and a story—feminine things, domestic things. My queerness made me a collector of old, unusual, and forgotten things. Things that spoke to me of lost beauty, of the strange and grotesque, of the peculiar and unusual. They also resonated with how I felt about myself and my place in the world—estranged, peculiar, out of time and place. I sensed some kind of latent magic in these objects or some kind of connection with the history contained within the object. I sensed both their connection to the past and their relevance to the present. I wanted to hold this beauty. To own it. To preserve it. So I collected—at junk stores, flea markets, auctions, estate and garage sales, and e-bay——always with the thought in the back of mind that I would make something new with these beautiful found objects. That they could, and would, be reborn. And they were eventually reborn in the displays and decor around my home and in the work that I made for over 20 years. Work made almost entirely from my collections of found objects.
My queerness also made me stick out. I paid for my perceived differences almost daily in school. My love of the arts was only one more piece of damning evidence of my queerness, and the taunting at school would only make the divide greater. I was other. I was not wanted. I did not belong. And oddly enough, as awful as it was to be constantly singled out—as not good enough, not masculine enough—it never occurred to me to try to fit in. I couldn’t do that and be true to my self. And truly, it would have been too unbearably boring. (Plus, I knew instinctively that there was something better for me if I could just survive high school and escape from my hometown.) I was punished for my difference, and I was punished for refusing to conform. But my love of the arts also saved my life! It was the one place where it was acceptable for me to show my artistic sensitivities. It set me on a lifelong journey to understand and heal what I thought was broken in me—an attempt to feel whole, to connect. This sense that I was other, that I was not whole and that I was broken, lead me to the study of meditation and the healing arts. Which facilitated the revelation that I was not broken—not anymore than most people. There was nothing to fix. Nothing to be at war with inside. It was just a matter of acceptance. Acceptance of my self. All of it —the good, the bad,and the ugly and what was beautiful, too!
So, I took what I had learned about energy, presence, and consciousness from meditation and the healing arts, and I brought it back to the visual arts. There is not that much difference between the two. The first artists were shamans. These shamans were artists and healers with the ability to change people’s consciousness. So, by extension, artists are like shamanic healers who possess the same the ability to change people’s consciousness. You have to admit that being an artist is a pretty queer career path—to try to work, think and wrestle with the abstract concepts of being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space and to make something out of them. And then, by creating this something—this art—thinking that you can make a change or a difference in the world through it. It’s crazy! It’s ridiculous. It’s verges on the insane. It’s queer.
In truth, I have rarely met an person who identified themselves as an artist who wasn’t a little curious, eccentric, extraordinary, fantastic, far-out, freakish, grotesque, kooky, odd, off the wall, outlandish, peculiar, ridiculous, strange, singular, uncommon, unexpected, unusual, way-out, or weird. To be an artist is to be queer. And I love that, because these artists are my people. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So cheers, my queer artistic peers! Cheers!!