Everything You Wanted to Know About Why I’m Always Angry* (*But Were Too Afraid to Ask)
Writing about art is nice. I do it from time to time. I like it.
But it’s not a chicken or the egg situation, is it? We know what came first and it wasn’t the critic.
There’s a reason for that; Art is the spark that lights the powder-keg of dialogue. The artist is the first brave soul to cross over the threshold of silence and drag back something shocking and stunning,and complex for us to admire, or despise, or ignore. We, the onlookers, left in artist’s wake, are a cacophony of discussion and scrutiny and praise with words that would never have been spoken otherwise. Art is a catalyst.
And so, what follows isn’t as much a discussion of the work, or the Artist—although much kudos and admiration go out to Matti—but of that act of casting light into the shadows. Creating something where there was nothing, just so the people can talk. And believe me, the people will talk.
Why? Because the art in question falls under the same designation I have my entire life. It’s gay as fuck. I’m not just talking about queer art, as in art created by a member of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ family, but art whose subject matter, meaning, and essence is literally gay as fuck.
And this is where I already start proving my point. Because if you’re still reading this you’re the type of person who isn’t alarmed, offended, or disturbed by the notion of homosexuality or the overuse of vulgar four-lettered words. And, let’s be honest, the people who hold repugnance for gay people, want to limit our rights, criminalize our lovemaking, harm us, kill us … these people aren’t scrolling through fucking urban arts festival blogs looking for insight on the nature of humanity, OK?
But what they are doing, is blending in. They’re walking beside you in the parking lot, cashing you out at the grocery store, watching your kids at daycare, in our schools, at city hall, the hospital … It’s a reality I’ve known since I was old enough to lisp. They will always be there.
And that is why we need urban art; because it is out there in the open. Not hiding in the insular and ultra-safe bowels of an already accepting internet community. It’s there. In plain sight. Hiding behind nothing. People will have to encounter it.
And when a hateful murmur surfaces, other voices will rise. There will be the voices of the people who have loved us, and fought with us, and cared for our cause, time and again. There will be new voices joining them, too. And tired, but unflinching, there will be our voices. And we will show them that art has drawn a line in the sand. They will have to decide if they side with it. They will have to decide if they agree with its message. With its existence.
I’ve grown to accept that a lot of people don’t agree with my existence. Just by living and breathing I will offend until death or some unforeseen straight-conversion plague takes me. And to be honest, I’m not always brave about speaking about this part of my life.
But now there’s this mural out there in my community and, thanks to an artist, a small part of that weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
Also, total sidebar here, but I’d like to mention that the mural design is of two male torsos. Like, they aren’t even touching, or kissing, or anything. Sure, there’re some nipples … but I practically have to watch straight people fuck every time I see an ad for body wash, so I fail to see how two male torsos are somehow going to derail your child’s sexual development. I’ve been consistently bombarded with straight propaganda for 33 years and I have never given a shit about how kissably-soft “her” skin will be in my entire life. So, relax.
But this is all hypothetical rage, mind you. This is me making an assumption about the people in my community based on 30-something years of seeing it firsthand. Still, nobody, as far as I know, has put forth any official complaint or condemnation of Matti Lehtela’s mural. The reality is actually far worse than that …
The Nickle City, never shy about wearing intolerance on its sleeve, promotes a new kind of hate, not just for homosexuality in art, but for art itself. First there was the enormous and unexpected public backlash against the RISK/Panoramic Properties project at the old St. Jo’s. Then there was the surprising denunciation of public art by Sudbury.com. All of this just adding to the chorus of condemnation being sung by half of city council and their plutocratic golden-boy for the past five years.
What all these people don’t seem to understand is that public art’s usefulness goes far beyond anything they could fathom.
Change is slow, OK? Nobody knows that more than oppressed people. But we have tools at our disposal, and the most awesomely powerful of them all is art. Art is how we get you—is “normies” too pejorative?—to hear our cause. So, when some newspaper editor, or city councillor, or arrogant land developer calls bullshit on art, what they’re really calling bullshit on, is progress. On debate. On enlightenment.
Art is the first thing we look at when we try and figure out an ancient civilization. Art is why we know about our past. It’s why we know about ourselves. And it’s our window to the future. After all, we were painting cows on cave walls before we were ever milking them. (I think. I didn’t actually fact check that, but it feels right, you know?)
So, when you attack art, you sort of attack my future. You declare war on my ability to express myself, enjoy myself, or even defend myself in a beautiful, peaceful, creative way.
Dissent is all around us, art lovers. Keep your ears to the ground, voices loud, and eyes always open.
This piece was brought to you by gay rage, the word “fuck,” and me, Maty Ralph.
Paid for in part by the Lobby to Supress Hetero Soap Commercials.