Our QUEER 10 series features quick and dirty interviews with a queer artist. 10 questions. 10 answers. 1 queer voice.
Patrick Smith is a painter originally from New Jersey, just 20 miles outside of New York City, He curently lives in Lexington, Kentucky. Here’s how Patrick describes his work: I paint portraits. Previously I did larger works on canvas with lots of glitter and hardcore-toxic-industrial paints (you can see these on my TUMBLR), but now I work on mini painting on paper (you can see these on my INSTAGRAM). Swanson Contemporary, a gallery in Louisville, Kentucky, represents me. My next solo show opens April 1st, 2016.
BEARDED FRUIT (BF): What’s your “when I knew” moment, or the experience that allowed you to connect yourself to “queer?”
Patrick Smith (PS): My first many sexual encounters were queer and then I was in a fairly straight relationship as a teenager. After that ended, I went through a pretty massive period of partying, keeping questionable company, etc. Anyway, eventually the people surrounding me began going to prison and right then my art career began to take off. I made some changes to my lifestyle and began taking both romantic and non romantic relationships more seriously and before too long almost everyone who I knew was a queer person.
BF: Tell us a bit about your creative life and the work you do.
PS: My creative life involves lots of obsession and relentlessly chipping away at “the problem”, trying to push “the frontier”. I work a lot. My attitude is that it takes tons of work to make very small progress and good ideas happen rarely. For subject matter, it comes very naturally to me. I don’t let that get too contrived. I use my instinct. However, the fabrication of my work is the result of loads of obsession, practice, and studying. I am inclined to obsession, it happens with everything: playing chess, playing tennis, cooking, etc. However, painting is the only thing that I really understand. I could cook you something impressive, but if you started asking me questions about why I used a certain ingredient, my answers would get superficial very fast. With painting, I can tell you exactly what happened.
BF: How do you see your work as “queer?”
PS: My work is queer because the people who go to my shows are overwhelmingly queer. I think there is a big difference between a queer-artist and an artist who makes work for queer people. I recently went to a concert that was suppose to be queer. The headliner was this band “The Internet” who I had never heard of. I got really dressed up in this pretty red-dress and had a cute purse covered in glitter, etc. I was the only cis-male in a dress at the whole thing! And i got really mad, because obviously I had been duped by the promoters. And someone told me that “The Internet” has a queer singer. Well, I don’t fucking care if they have a queer singer if their music doesn’t appeal to queer culture. Because it clearly can’t be very queer if you have a giant show and I’m the only male-bodied person in a dress! The opposite happens at my exhibitions.
BF: Who do you see at the forefront of queer creativity right now? Who’s doing the work that most inspires?
PS: There actually aren’t many queer painters who make interesting work. I don’t understand it. Astro Twitch (instagram.com/Astrotwitch) is fantastic. Kitty Stryker, who does everything, often kills it. Mykki Blanco’s blows me away. I did set design for a show of his once and I was completely star struck. He is everything. Gotta love Mirah. And lastly, Tricky (musician) who actually did a great song with Mykki Blanco. I’m not sure how Tricky identifies, but he seems pretty queer to me.
BF: In terms of the queer community, where are we the most beautiful? Where are really getting it right?
PS: I think the queer community has pushed ideas about consent in the right direction. I’ve heard many insightful thoughts on this topic and the non-queer community really needs to catch up. Consent is an all encompassing term, it can be anything from blowing cigarette smoke in someones face to sexual encounters. Queer events make me comfortable because for the most part I trust that there will be some kind of sober-space and there will be a critical mass of intelligent people. I’m sure that plenty of people have had bad experiences at queer events with regards to consent, but I’m proud of the progress that has been made. Straight environments aren’t even close. It’s really awful. Also, lets take a look at pornography for a second. On one hand you have 50 Shades of Grey and on the other hand you have anything that Kitty Stryker has done.
BF: In terms of the queer community, where’s our blind spot? Where are we most in need of work?
PS: The queer community needs to realize that if they want a “Queer Event” then it has to be something that normative-straight people won’t want to go to. Everyone has been flipping out about all of the college-party-kids at queer events these days and I understand how much that sucks, but we have to double down on the stuff that those people don’t want to see if we don’t want them there. If a queer event is nothing but music, drugs and alcohol, and dancing, who do you think is going to show up?
BF: What was your coming out experience like?
PS: I didn’t have a day where I “came out”, I have always been rather open about having an alt-sexuality and no one has ever really cared or been surprised. I chose to identify as queer because it seems appropriate. However, if someone coined a new term that suited me better I’d call myself that.
BF: How does “queer” define who you are as a person?
PS: Queer is a very broad term, but it somehow describes one so accurately. It obviously describes someone’s sexuality, but going beyond that queer stands for intelligence, rationality, science, art, and beauty. It’s modern. One should strive for these things.
BF: What should I have asked you? What’s the answer?
PS: Q: What do artists need from their community, but often don’t get? A: Artists need materials more than anything else. Most arts organizations have massive administrative costs and I’ve rarely seen one give out grants for materials. I have a website where people I know give me $90 a month for materials and it’s made such an impact on my work. $90 a month isn’t a lot of money, but I’ve been able to save it up and buy so many super cool vintage frames on eBay and my new body of works looks infinitely better because of it.
BF: Leave behind a bit of hard-won queer wisdom that’s got you where you are.
PS: Do nice things for yourself and do nice things for other people. I love the queer community’s attitude toward self-care. Take a bubble bath. Exercise if that’s your thing. Eat great food. Whatever it is, treat yourself nicely. I try to do that with my work, but for other people. The reason to paint and not take photographs is because when a painting is done well it’s much more beautiful. I paint people, but I don’t airbrush them to make them more normalized, I create a likeness of them out of a beautiful medium. Anything can be a beautiful medium if you attain a certain mastery of it. For me, it just happens to be painting.
On Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/patricksmith859
On Tumblr: http://patricksmith859.tumblr.com
Support Patrick’s work on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/PatrickSmith?ty=h