Coming from a small and closely-knit family, my philosophies about art and life markedly changed in the early 1990’s as a result of the tragic losses of my mother to cancer and several friends to AIDS. I began doing volunteer work for AIDS research organizations and as an artist, became interested in examining the public’s perception of the Homosexual community. I decided that there was a need to communicate a positive message about my community and to show, in turn, how all communities were universally linked. The legacy of compassion and understanding left to me by my mother and friends impelled me to use my artistic abilities to make an appeal for understanding, tolerance, and respect between all minorities.
From 1993 through 2003, I often used the installation format to present my drawings and paintings. The subject matter of these images primarily explored men’s relationships with other men—focusing on shared struggles, friendship, and love, often within a religious, spiritual, or historical context. I set a stage to test and expand viewers’ reactions by enclosing these provocative images within installations that appeared to be such recognizable structures as churches (Sanctuary, 1993, The Detroit Institute of Arts), houses (Little White House, 1993, Revolution—A Gallery Project, Royal Oak, MI), and even a garden temple, among others (A Folly, 1995, The Detroit Institute of Arts). In particular, The New American (1996, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor) duplicated the house in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting, enclosing images that examined the American family from a Homosexual perspective—a true departure from the traditional viewpoint expressed in the historic painting. As part of this series, I also ventured into projects influenced by my residency work in Spain and Italy. One of these, titled Il Portico (2002, Detroit Artists Market Biennial), consisted of a portico wall hung with a group of drawings investigating themes ranging from religious strife and prejudice to such concepts as the afterlife and the cloning of myself (“Double Entendre”).
In the years spanning late 2002 through 2008, a shift in subject matter occurred, and I began exploring themes of mortality, death, and the hereafter in more of my work. In retrospect, my reaction to the crises in my father’s life, during this same period, seemed to manifest itself through such drawings as “La Gloria,” “Magus,” “Los Penitentes Diptych,” and even “The Ibis Diptych.” In order to provide some insight, my father suffered a stroke in 2003 and had to move from the home he and I shared in Detroit. His slowly deteriorating health and eventual death from Alzheimer’s, in March 2008, took a toll on my sister’s and my health, as well. He left an inheritance that enabled me to obtain health insurance, beginning in September 2008. In October, I was given the startling diagnoses of Physiological Myoclonus and Tourette’s Syndrome, and in the months since then, it has been no understatement to call this a new chapter in my life!
Despite how closely interwoven my art and my struggles have been, I can honestly say that I’ve been fortunate in receiving grants from the state of Michigan, the NEA, and several private and public foundations. I’ve also had the honor of attending and lecturing at national and international residencies, and participating in numerous group shows. My thirteen-year tenure with the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project’s annual “ArtWorks for Life” auction has been extremely fulfilling, as well. In addition, I’m blessed to have my beloved sister, Sharon, and dear friends, Babette and Bill, in my life.
I’ve always been proud of my Michigan heritage. My goal has been to reach an ever wider and culturally diverse audience, and I’ve continued to exhibit primarily in Michigan, in non-profit spaces which are more accessible to the public (e.g., The Detroit Institute of Arts). The meticulous technique that people have come to expect from my work is influenced by the Northern and Italian Renaissance masters, the French Neoclassical painters, and the Pre-Raphaelites.
Virtually all my statements have concluded with the sentence, “As a Homosexual, I have striven to give my history the sanctity usually denied it.” It’s still a relevant line, having a breadth of meaning which, hopefully, continues to resonate in my work. I must also state that I’m presently seeking to give my history the sanctity I often feel I’ve been deprived of by Fate, and I’m searching for far more answers now than in any other time in my life.