|Stephen Gibson welcomes guests at his show opening PHOTO BY RINK
Magnet â the Castro social and health hub for gay and bi men - is currently showcasing paintings by local artist Stephen E. Gibson during the month of March. Gibson has described his work using a quote from the title character in the film Don Juan DeMarco: âThere are only four questions of value in life. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for? And what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love.â Magnet held an artist reception on Friday, March 2, during which this reviewer got to interview Gibson.
âHistorically for many men â gay men in particular â there is a lot of shame attached to their bodies and what they do with them,â Gibson says. âTo me it is much more spiritual with a beauty and almost sanctification. People should rejoice in their bodies.â He elucidates, âIâd rather do what youâre not supposed to do and feel good about it, so Iâm a little bit naughty - than feel bad about it and feel guilty, which doesnât produce much good for anybody. Guilt destroys self-esteem. Naughty is good.â He adds, âNaughty done well doesnât harm anyone else. All it harms is convention.â
Stephen Gibson, executive director of Magnet says, âIâd like to put to rest the rumor that Iâm an artist. In fact, there are two Stephen Gibsons in the room tonight.â He says, âI love his work and style â fun, playful, and erotic.â He adds, âI love the idea that our sexuality is sacred. We can be naked and have a hard-on and be sacred.â
âI think of myself as a sculptor who paints,â Gibson the artist tells Bay Times. âI see things with a lot of depth and height, pushing things back and pulling things out, with a lot of high contrast.â He says it is his own take on the Chiaroscuro method for applying value to a two-dimensional piece of artwork to create the illusion of a three-dimensional solid form. âBy the Ballsâ is a two-parter, with French model Sec in the first and Bobb in the second, both grabbing their own nuts with differing pressure. You can see Gibsonâs technique clearly in this pair â mixed media that begins with an under-painting directly on paper, building layers with transparent fabric and colors on top, resulting in sometimes six different layers that âgive an immediacy that is not real; itâs super-real; not literal, but with a heightened realityâ in the artistâs words to me. âIt is not flat,â he adds. In this piece he utilizes a transparent silk organdy with a very loose weave. Watercolor paper, he notes, does not take pastels well, so the organdy layering will accept the color better. You can actually see some of the fibers of the fabric sticking out at the edges. You can see how fair the hand is in gripping the balls, as opposed to how ruddy the dick is â because of this technique of contrast.
âSecâ is semi-rigid whereas âBobbâ is fully, throbbing hard. âDoggie Styleâ shows up those fabric textures nicely. You can tell this is a power bottom getting plowed, looking at his determined expression; and all we can see is the waist and cock of the top, who is almost superfluous in the scene. Notice that the composition is rather powerful with the diagonal across the page. âThis is not a passive phenomenon,â says Gibson euphemistically, regarding the pushy bottom. âYou can see who is in charge here.â He jokes about both men wearing jockstraps: âI thought they should be modest that way.âÂ Â
There is another pair hung there, âHard Upâ and âHard Down.â Wow, I just realized all the unintentional double entendres I have been using. Anyway, what one notices about âHard Upâ is the distinct shadow of the erect dick cast on the subjectâs thigh. Gibson said originally he was thrilled with âHard Downâ - the same subject with his erect cock held downward - but not so happy about âHard Up.â He said, âFrom an artistic point of view, I think the colors are really intriguing in âHard Down;â but when I posted the two online, everyone preferred âHard Up.ââ
The reason is likely because one can imagine oneself on his knees in front of it, readily accessible. The other version is a bit more closed off, he says. He added Japanese paper when he got it framed to give âa sort of ethnicity quality to it.â âJockâ could be so named because of the visible white athletic supporter on the modelâs fine derriere; but he said it could also be that the model is himself very athletic, or perhaps that is just his name. The hands behind him connote a semi-submissive. âYou Bet Itâs Big (Bobb)â is quite obvious in its title, which was a photo the model Bobb took of his privates and let Gibson run free with watercolor. I purchased âBobb in the Barn,â which is the same model, bare-chested with his torn jeans on, sitting on a bale of hay. It reminds me of those classic â70s porn flicks with the hunky, furry farmer about to undress and surprise some naive visitors.
Gibson says he loves to use blue coloring in everything from water to blue jeans. In some pieces he treats the jeans almost as if they are made of water. He says one piece is almost a landscape, where the manâs bush looks like a wild bush in nature, growing out of his crotch. Gibson likes to work with textures, both as fabric and paper surfaces for painting on and also as the brushstrokes of watercolor and ink. He really gets into detail with the smallest addition to a painting, such as the orange stitching in the Leviâs and little red tag on the back pocket of âPants Down.â
Gibson has an entire series of âsaintsâ paintings on display at Magnet, such as âHallowed Matt.â He says his favorite model is Matt, who is âan incredibly talented artist in Massachusetts.â They traded artwork and Gibson used Mattâs image to paint. Mattâs lover is in another saint piece side by side at Magnet, entitled âHallowed Greg.â Gibson points out the halos on each saint. âWhat kind of shadow is cast by a halo,â he wonders. âDo halos cast shadows? Are they a source of light or do they accrue light?â In these pieces the halos are partly reflections and partly shadows. He says he sainted these models because âthere is a virtue in their honesty and guilelessness.â He added, âMatt is so generous with his spirit and willing to live fully and openly.â Â
âMan in Surfâ is expressionistic rather than literal. Notice the liquid beads of water here and there and the bits of foam on the naked, smooth prostrate body. âTemperate Dipâ comes from his âskinny-dipâ series. Some models are dipping nude into tropical water, some are in freezing cold water, and some are mild â such as this one. You can see both the reflection on the water and the slightly distorted image underwater. The last painting on the far right wall is âGod is Love.â Originally it was meant to be a valentine to Gibsonâs partner Carlos. It is a Latin and
Caucasian guy, nude and embracing. More than that, it is, he says, a political statement and response to religious conservatives. âThis is about the whole Defense of Marriage Act and who should and should not be together,â he explains. âWhatâs wrong with any love? These two men are in love, and whatâs wrong with that, because God is love â so get over it, folks!â And might I say hallelujah and amen to that!!!
For more information on Gibsonâs work check out www.mesart.com/gibgbsn.