I first started thinking about this when I was teaching middle and high school art. This girl had a Playboy Bunny shirt on and she was in seventh grade — I thought, oh, this is going to be a weird conversation where I have to send her home. But before I tried to talk to her about it or asked her to change, I asked her, what do you think this means?
She said, “It means cute! Cute and fun.” I said, do you know that it means more than that? Do you know that there are other associations? It was this weird thing where I was trying to get her to say it, and she wouldn’t say it - but maybe to her, it’s all it did mean.
That got me thinking about all of these shorts that were so popular: “Juicy” and “Pink.” I thought, those are implicit; what if you made them explicit? What if you made it kind of, it is what it is. The first time, to my surprise, there was very little reaction to it, in public. And I almost think the same man who complained about them in the gallery wouldn’t complain about them in public. They would be under that veil of, “oh those are cute,” or, “oh, it’s not my place to (say anything.)” Because no one says anything in public, even though the language was the same.
I started to really think about this line of how something can start out as being empowering and then become self-sexualizing and self-objectifying and the weird line between those two things.
Matti McLean once hated his body so much that he stopped eating in his last year of high school.
Now he’s advertising the beauty of the human form by transforming it into a work of art.
Through the Human Canvas Project, established last year, McLean uses his paint brushes to capture both his subjects’ figures and personalities.
Using music, discussion and individual colour choices, McLean tries to tap into each person’s individual character and use the body as the canvas it’s painted on.
McLean, also an author and actor, says his art shouldn’t be confused with ordinary body painting.
“One of the biggest things that body painting tries to do is disguise the body, while I’m trying to show who the person is behind the paint,” McLean said.
McLean’s subjects begin the creative process by picking out a playlist of ten songs along with up to five colours they like. McLean then gets to work bonding with his subject before applying his trademark swirls, strokes, and dabs showcasing what he calls the subject’s inner beauty.
Subjects are sometimes hesitant to display their bodies, McLean said, adding he understands their reticence all too well.
The artist struggled with his image and sexuality in high school, ultimately leading him to abuse his body and drop 45 pounds in six months.
“A lot of gay men struggle with eating disorders, I didn’t like who I was and took it out on my body,” he said.
McLean overcame his self-esteem issues and began the Human Canvas Project as a way to document his close friends and the way that he saw them on the inside.
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Transitioning can be as difficult as it is liberating, and perhaps an especially fraught journey for someone with the glare of the spotlight on them. But as fans rally around the singer, they show how rock can embrace difference. Though sometimes stereotyped as a realm of swagger, testosterone and machismo, rock also has history of producing characters – including the Cramps’ Lux Interior, David Bowie, Prince and stretching back to Little Richard – who offer testimony to its capacity for encouraging fluidity, all having subverted ideas of gender norms to wild, thrilling success.
…But for all the machismo of rock, there’s also the angst, pain, rage and joy that comes with those crashing, distorted chords – its a medium that both closeted and open-but-oppressed trans men and women may find themselves drawn to, especially as teens, navigating their way through a period where society does its best to hammer us into conformed sexual and gender ideals.
Award-winning choreographer Sean Dorsey creates visual poems hinging on universal narratives of love, heartbreak and the desire for community. His dances seamlessly stitch together past and present, hope and history, personal intimacy and social context. His newest production, “The Secret History of Love,” is an epic work that chronicles the ways LGBT people have built relationships throughout history, under circumstances when it was required that they remain inconspicuous. The result is a rollicking, stirring treatise on the enduring language of the heart.
Dorsey notes that the two-year journey to create “The Secret History of Love” has been life-changing, and not just because of the huge national scope of the project. “Working intimately with the life stories of LGBT elders - people who by their courage and bold acts of love in decades past made my life today possible - has been humbling, moving, profoundly inspiring.”
LGBT lives are so often deleted from the annals of mainstream history, and even family albums, so Dorsey’s work has been largely invested in preserving this history and celebrating its legacy. “There is an urgency to this work. … People will see in this show that these stories are so incredibly alive and relevant, and I hope they will be inspired to seek out more stories.”
Dorsey’s archival research is incorporated into the show, featuring everything from language on a handbill for an “illegal” queer speakeasy to nicknames and terms of endearment from more than 300 LGBT love letters dating to the 1600s. He also conducted recorded interviews with LGBT elders, which form the heart of the show; this tapestry of oral histories has resulted in “a wonderful arc through the decades,” he says.