The Morean Arts Center has supported St. Pete Pride for years, but this is the first year they’ve actually hosted a Pride-themed art show.
The show features work from six local artists: Paul Leroy Gehres, Tucker Claxton, Nicolas Glenn, Saumitra Chandratreya, John Gascot and Melanie Posner. All work with LGBTQ themes, but each in their own style and preferred materials.
For Paul Leroy Gehres, the preferred materials were Liberace album covers and rhinestones. He bedazzled a series of nine Liberace album covers in his Covering Liberace series. As you can imagine, the album covers were already a bit, um, colorful, even before the rhinestones were added. But with rhinestones covering Liberace’s face, the covers are somehow even more fabulous than before.
I was never a Liberace fan (Elton John will always be my piano man), yet I was immediately drawn to these colorful album covers. When you cover up the faces, it’s suddenly all about the outfits, and Liberace had some great outfits — we’re talking gigantic white bow ties, silver capes and ruffled shirts. And while I have no intention of dressing like this anytime soon, I do enjoy them. It’s like the man woke up each morning, and thought to himself, “You know what? I’m going to wear whatever the fuck I want to today.” And then he did.
You’ve got to appreciate the boldness of that.
“Tired of your gender identity being confused because of your ability to handle big heavy tools? Ever feel like you’re butching up the place when you whip out your tacky tasteless equipment? Introducing the Soft Butch Queer Power Drill!” reads Tucker Claxton’s satirical ad.
Claxton uses a combination of ceramics and words to make fun of the stereotype that power tools are the exclusive province of straight, manly men. Claxton’s ceramic power tools, by contrast, are made for the “sissy” and the “soft butch” lesbian, because sometimes we could all use a good power tool. Don’t pass by these whimsical works of art without reading what Claxton has to say about them on the museum placards — that might be the best part.
On the more serious side, Saumitra Chandratreya, whom you may remember from Pride & Joy at MIZE Gallery, contributed a work of art to this show as well. This time, it’s a flag, dyed and pressed to read, “Still fierce.”
Nicolas Glenn contributed three acrylic paintings, each featuring a man’s torso. All of Glenn’s men are sexy beefcakes. “Pillow Biter” wears a tight shirt, his head held high and his arms crossed, defensively, across his chest like he’s guarding the place. “Bender” wears only a tie. “Brownie” proudly displays a killer V-line leading to a healthy bulge in short, tight shorts. These men are meant to be desired... but are they owning their identities, or simply just the types implied by their titles, or both?
But let’s talk about some sexy women. In “Mind,” Melanie Posner brings us a beautiful nude in oil paint, spray paint and collage on canvas. She sits pensive, her eyes closed, her legs and arms crossing her body in an attempt at modesty. Within her you see the faces and bodies of several other women, perhaps past lovers. Did her relationships with these women shape her into who she is today? Does she remember them fondly or are these recollections bittersweet? This is another piece which leaves interpretation to the viewer.
In addition to this fabulous figure, Posner contributed three portraits to the show. Each is a close-up of a woman’s face, with lifelike eyes and luscious lips in bright colors. Posner paints in vibrant hues, according to her artist statement, because she wants the viewer to feel “as colorful and striking as the painting itself.”
And finally, it wouldn’t be a St. Pete Pride show without a few John Gascot paintings. You’ve seen them at The Cider Press Café. You’ve seen them at Emerald Bar. You’ve seen them at MIZE Gallery. And now you can see some more of them at the Morean. This is great for me, because I love Gascot’s paintings. This particular show has five large Gascot paintings: “Liberty for All,” “Meet the Cast,” “Fantabulous Unicorn,” “Rainbow Brite” and “Pink Summer.” They’re all fun and colorful, as I’ve come to expect, but my favorite is still “Bearded Betty” at Emerald Bar.
Together, there were a total of 28 LGBTQ-themed works tucked into a corner of the Morean. I would’ve liked to see even more, but this was a good start.