|Artist Jok Church and his friend Keer the Klown at Magnet art reception
Because September is leather month, it is appropriate that Magnetâs artist of the month is cartoonist Jok Church, a longstanding member of San Franciscoâs leather community. Church is the author of six best-selling books and the creator of the CBS TV show, Beakmanâs World - shown locally on Channel 36. He is a longtime gay activist reaching back to the 1970s and his work with underground radio. His art explores the relationship between curved lines/circles and straight lines. These studies create mandalas, or in his case in this exhibit with all male models, MENdalas. In Hindu and Buddhist iconography, a mandala is a concentric configuration of geometric shape, each of which contains an image or attribute of a deity. In Jungian psychology, it is a symbol representing the effort to reunify the self. The mandalas can be healing. Church has congestive heart failure and only recently recovered from a quadruple bypass in July â his recovery due in large part to his circle of friends who gave him support. Many of these friends are shown in his works of art.
Churchâs mandalas are digitally printed on stretched canvas and are offered as a benefit for both Magnet (the well being and health hub in the Castro for gay and bi men) and the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy. The entire purchase price goes to those nonprofits with the artist receiving no funds whatever from any sales.
âYou never know whatâs inside a circle, because the value of pi is unfathomable,â he tells Bay Times. He believes there can be magic within circles. âMandala construction is about finding different ways of reconciling the differences between curved lines and straight lines,â he elaborates. âIt has taken me years to figure out how to do this,â he confesses. âI have some computer files that are several gigabytes for each work.â
Viewing from left to right on Magnetâs gallery wall, the first, âRosebuds in Bloom (Full),â is not a mandala. It is a vase full of roses that are actually red rectums turned inside out. âTom Twirls and Plays Rightâ is a mandala of Bay Timesâ own handsome contributing editor, Tom Kelley and his tattoo. âThe concentric circle has so much energy, it is bursting outward and inward at the same time, wildly rotating,â Church explains. âDaddy Kendallâ is a leather daddy to Church, even though he usually bottoms. âRacing Outwardâ is a mandala of leather veteran expert Race Bannon and leather cuffs. âHe is reaching into something and looking off to the side,â Church says. âHe knows how to pose for the camera.â
âLâPornette avec Prong et Camouflage et Grands Pneus Noirsââ is broken French for a porn star of a small stature, Steve Cruz, in camouflage and a big prong emerging from a circle. âHe is a butch bottom,â Church relates.
âBuilding Whipmanâ is Andrew, a friend of his, which was purchased earlier by Senator Mark Leno, who had stopped by Magnet earlier.
Notice how the handles of the whips work into a continuous circle. âSelf Portrait with MENdalasâ is the artistâs personal rendition, with many of his friends forming tiny rectangles to make up his face and body in mosaic. It has to be seen both up close and from afar to be fully appreciated. âKicked into Higher Orbitâ is a friend of his back in Ohio with whom he shared a coming out experience. Notice the yin and yang shown in an infinite number of ways and achieving balance. âMichaelsâ Whirledâ depicts many more than one Michael (thus the plural and the pun in the title), who is his loving partner.
âHumble Servant of the People and Their Microphonesâ is Donna Sachet in her typical red dress, doing what she does best as an emcee at a microphone â over and over and over in a circle. Standing out vividly is an old fashioned mic from the â40s.
âLeather and Faeries and Fucking, Oh Myâ is not a mandala but a sort of comic strip featuring radical faerie Harry Hay and the term of âberdacheâ as a gay shaman. Itâs about who you are and what your job as a berdache is â making magic in the universe