QUEER. SULTRY. SUMMER. (2023).





QUEER. SULTRY. SUMMER. (2023)
Digital colour images
Dimensions vary



ARTIST STATEMENT


QUEER. SULTRY. SUMMER. captures many LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies I connected with during my time as an Artist-in-residence at the Tom of Finland Foundation, June–September, 2023.

Having been raised in a foster family, my fascination with 'place' and 'belonging' is evident in most of my artwork. To me, the concept of 'home' transcends mere physicality... it is a potent tie, akin to a wolf pack, a tribe, a posse. The TOM House beautifully embodies this essence.



SOLO EXHIBITION + BOOK LAUNCH


“AROUND THE HOUSE AND IN THE GARDEN,” Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles, September 14–October 1, 2023.

Twenty-two colour images displayed using fabric and transparencies, alongside a book launch event for my second monograph, “NOW THAT YOU’VE GONE AND COME BACK.” 

The exhibition was curated by Rick Herron, Jonathan David Smyth, and José Tinoco.


Installation shots by Champ Daniels. See more here.



BETWEEN YOU AND ME (2019–2020).






Between You and Me (2019–2020)
Digital colour images
Dimensions vary



ARTIST STATEMENT



Between You and Me (2019­–2020) is a series of nude self-portraits inspired by finding and reconnecting with my birth mother.  Each portrait is an expression of myself and of a certain key figure from my life.  In addition to my birth mother, these include my late adoptive father, a fiercely independent man despite being born with part of his left arm missing; my foster sisters, who survived years of domestic abuse and trauma, and who were my biggest champions growing up; and my biological father, whom I have never met but am nonetheless intrinsically connected to.

Before re-meeting my biological mom in my thirtieth year, I’d never encountered a direct physical resemblance between me and another person.  After we met, I found it nearly impossible to not see her face when I looked at myself in the mirror.  This led me to think about the idea of family in its many configurations; how other people can mentor us, deter us, and how shared circumstances and stories can affect and shape us as individuals.  While considering my own past events, I also felt the need to create a project that simply documented how I feel inside today: more strong, present, and open than ever before.




CABBAGE TREES (2016).






Cabbage Trees (2016)
Photographic prints
Dimensions/types vary



ARTIST STATEMENT


When I was a kid in Northern Ireland, we had a small palm tree at the front of our house.  In the wintertime, most of its leaves would drop off, and they were so long and rigid that my sisters and I would pick them up and play sword fights with them.

After spending time away from Northern Ireland, and seeing real palm trees in America, I realised my dear palm wasn’t a relation at all.  It is actually part of a group called Cabbage Trees or Cordyline australis, usually found in New Zealand.

Even though they are thriving in gardens up and down the Antrim coast, most people in my hometown don’t know what these foreign plants are called.  On a short return home, I decided to document each cabbage tree I came across on my daily outings.




TWENTY-EIGHT (2016).






Twenty-eight (2016)
Unique digital colour prints
4” x 6" each



ARTIST STATEMENT


Having applied for permanent residence, I spent 2015 unable to leave America.  In May 2016, green card in hand, I traveled home to Northern Ireland for twenty-eight days.  The trip was challenging and slow, and on the thirteenth day I had a minor operation.  A quick outlet was documenting my face daily at various passport photo booths.  



SOMEWHERE IS ALWAYS SOME PLACE ELSE (2013).






Somewhere is Always Some Place Else (2013)
Digital colour print
20” x 30"



ARTIST STATEMENT


I used this air mattress as a bed.  When the time came to throw it out, I felt compelled to use it in my artwork so that it didn't just exist as this sad, depressing thing.  In this photograph, the mattress is not an affliction on my life, but a life raft, an aide.

This photographic work is a sister project to Flat Line (2013).


© 2023 Jonathan David Smyth. All rights reserved.