HOMORIOTQueer Culture Makers pt.1

Project Claude was lucky enough to talk with the very talented HOMORIOT. He is our first feature in our ‘Queer Culture Maker’ series, which gives an in-depth look at queer contemporary artists from all walks of life. We chatted about his artwork, life in the US at the moment, and all things homo.

Tell me about the room you’re in?

I’m in a sprinter van currently.  I’ve been on the road since March 13th when the pandemic shut down California.  I decided I’d be better off getting out of LA and into the wilds of America.

What is your average day like at the moment?

It depends on if I’m stationary or on the move.  I’ve moved a few times since March.  I started in the desert just south of Joshua Tree.  I was there until the end of April, drove up through Arizona and into Utah, to the Grand Teton, on to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.  I’m back in Utah now and stationary for a couple of weeks in the Wasatch National Forest.  I wake up in the morning, make some coffee, and listen to the news.  I read, go for long walks and meditate.  A couple of times I’ve checked into hotels along the way when I’m desperate for a shower or if I feel I need to watch the news in real time.  I stayed for three days in a hotel in Salt Lake City so that I could keep up with the George Floyd news and participate in the first few days of protests there.  

How would you describe your work to someone that hasn’t seen it?

As for the HOMORIOT work, I would describe it as Homo activist street art.  It’s typically black and white graphic imagery that is unmistakably gay and in your face.  

How has your art evolved over the last few months with the current pandemic, and more recently, the riots all over America?

Honestly, since Trump’s election my “homo activist” work has felt secondary to the work I’m inspired to create in response to the far right movement in America. The George Floyd protests have further illuminated the white nationalists tendencies of the right wing here and have lit a fire in me.  My work at the moment is completely focused on calling out the neo-nazi right-wing police-state of Trump’s America.

You’ve said Prop 8 was the catalyst for your street art – how do you think the queer community has evolved since then?

In many ways we’ve moved into a new paradigm.  Obviously, gay marriage is legal and in most states there are anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ+ people.  The Pete Buttigieg campaign for President marked a tremendous milestone in gay visibility and acceptance.  Trans rights, while still woefully lacking, are part of the national dialogue which would have been unthinkable 15 years ago.  But there are still challenges across the spectrum.  One thing that frustrates me is our tendency to bash each other within the movement.  We’ve accomplished a lot together, but I see micro groups within the Queer Rights movement splintering off, pointing fingers, calling names, and shaming each other for past grievances.  I understand where these voices and opinions are coming from, and they have every right to be heard and acknowledged, but we still have so much to accomplish.  Queers are still a minority within this society and we need to be unified in our pursuit of progress and refrain from vilifying each other.   

Words like “riot”, “insurgent”, and “anarchy” are part of your brand. What is the general response from the queer community to your artwork and message?

The response to the work has always been 100% positive and encouraging within the community and among allies.

Have you been taking to the streets at midnight recently?

As I’ve been traveling through various cities along my route,, I’ve thrown up some HOMORIOT work.  But during the current situation here in the States with the George Floyd protests and the larger ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, I’ve felt a stronger pull to focus my activism and street work toward that cause and message.  

Your work of two masked men kissing is iconic. Was it a design you were working on for a while, or something spontaneous?

I had been working with another image in the beginning but it was very graphic and sexual in nature.  I wanted something more nuanced for my icon.  The kissing duo came to me pretty quickly and I think I came up with that design in one evening.  It was originally a block print and from the original it has been refined a couple of times over the years but not much.

What is your favourite thing about street-art?

My favorite thing about street art is that it is accessible to everyone.  It is egalitarian.  Art throughout history has had gatekeepers.  Pre-internet, average people had very little access to art unless they were in a museum  or taking an art history class.  Today, you can be in almost any city in the world and find dozens of wonderful and inspiring murals of varying subjects and in a myriad  of styles.  At the same time you can see legal and illegal graffiti, political art, pop art, iconography, profanity and pornography through stickers and wheat paste posters.  Street art has given ART to the world.   

What is the biggest artwork you’ve produced?

I did a mural in downtown Los Angeles that was 80 feet long and 10 feet high.  It was a performance/endurance piece I did as part of a festival.  I completed it in thirteen hours.  Another large piece I did is a mural at the Tom of Finland house in Los Angeles.  It’s 30 feet long and 9 feet high, and is a part of the permanent collection there.

Who is your biggest artistic influence and why?

Keith Haring is of course a major influence.  I don’t think it would be possible to be a queer street artist and not be influenced by his life and work.  I also get a lot of inspiration from the work of Raymond Pettibone.  I love the punk rock aesthetic and his storytelling and graphic illustration.  I also love that he’s a fucking weirdo and I aspire to be a fucking weirdo too.

Is there any artists you would like to collaborate with?

I like this question, but it has me stumped.  I would love to do a film with Bruce LaBruce or a marathon performance piece with Ron Athey, or an opera with ANOHNI or virtual reality porn with James Bidgood.  

How will you be celebrating Pride this year?

I don’t know actually.  I think most events in the states have been cancelled.  I’m headed next to Dallas.  If they have some Pride event there while I’m in town, I may go but this year it might be a good idea to forego Pride for protest.  Hopefully, there will be many, many, many years of Pride to come but this moment seems like it calls for something slightly different.

More of HOMORIOT’s incredible work is available at http://www.homoriot.com/

Instagram – @homoriot

Twitter – @thehomoriot