Modernity can be a bitch. You have so much knowledge of the past, so much going on in the present, and so much hope for the future: it’s hard to really balance your thoughts and project something that is “you.” It’s a double consciousness that plagues us all in 2011, irony ruining (or bettering?) us.
For LGBT men and women, it is a constant battle to reconcile masculinity, femininity, culture, aesthetics, camp, kitsch, and intellect–while balancing modernity. In that, a conversation is being had in the art world through music, visual arts, writing, and even blogs to explore the intersect of modernity, homosexuality, and camp. We’ve seen musical acts like Xiu Xiu, YACHT, MEN, Beth Ditto, and Hercules & Love Affair talk about this, Blake Wright‘s drawings are talking about this, the Gayletter guys are highlighting art happenings for this, Raja on Ru Paul’s Drag Race is talking about it, and even young Tumblrs like “XXX1990” and “MoppingIsStealing,” which–of course–are both not safe for work, are in the talk as well. This conversation is a direct result of the 2000 era hipster and the uprising of what Robert Lanham called “Maxwells” and “Carpets” in his 2003 tongue-in-cheek observational novella, The Hipster Handbook. This talk is ongoing and, with gaiety being en vogue, it is not going anywhere.
Enter, Sam McKinnis, a Connecticut based artist whose paintings and other artwork are speaking loudly in this conversation. McKinnis’ work infuses the lifestyle of modern twentysomethings with a knowledge of pop culture and the gay male gaze, all portrayed through his oil paintings, graphite drawings, and mixed-media pieces. A lot of his pieces represent a lust for the subject (for example, the last image: “True love (Josh)”), while others are a fantasy created in a disco wonderland (for example, the first image: “ABBA picnic”). These paintings enter the aforementioned conversation with tall, gaunt figures in fashionable clothes. They all are being watched, beloved and exaggerated. They all have a sense of play to them, be it an ear bouquet on a self-portrait (second image) or a desire for Jil Sander (third image). McKinnis is a rising star in the art world, but also is a voice to listen to in the unique dialogue being had in the LGBT community.
If you too are falling for this work, you can also check out McKinniss’ fun blog, where he talks about art, what he’s into, and even the parties he has been attending lately. You can also check out an interview with McKinnis conducted by East Village Boys.