Monday, May 4, 2015

My Superhero Sweetheart: An Interview With Artist Felix D'Eon

I have been quietly stalking Felix D'Eon's website and Tumblr page for months. His erotic artwork in various vintage styles caught certainly caught my eye. But what kept me coming back is the sweet sincerity with which he illustrates the subject matter. For me, Felix's art transcends erotica. There is an honest sense of love and fondness between the men involved. It's playful and flirtatious, even romantic. For the most part, these are depictions of men falling in love and exploring their feelings for each other. It's insanely heartwarming.

According to his website bio, Felix was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, to a French father and a Mexican mother. At a very young age, he and his family moved to Southern California, where he spent most of his childhood and adolescence. He attended college at the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco, and subsequently lived in San Francisco until 2010, when he returned to his native Mexico. He now live in Mexico City with his mini schnauzer, Caperucita Satori. While home is now Mexico, he travels extensively, and has lived at various times in Florence, Tennessee, Bangkok, Oahu, New Orleans, and in various cities around Mexico.

He has exhibited around the United States and Mexico, and his work is carried in stores and galleries around the world. His work has also been published in a variety of magazines and in other formats, most recently appearing on the cover of "The Advocate."

This statement from his website explains his work far better than I ever could:
Felix is enraptured by various art-historical styles, such as Edwardian fashion and children's book illustration, golden-era American comics, and Japanese Edo printmaking. In his work, he attempts to make the illusion of antiquity complete, using antique papers and careful research as to costume, set, and style. His goal is perfect verisimilitude. He subverts their "wholesome" image and harnesses their style to a vision of gay love and sensibility. D'Eon treats vintage illustrative styles as a rhetorical strategy, using their language of romance, economic power, and aesthetic sensibility as a tool with which to tell stories of historically oppressed and marginalized queer communities. By painting images of queer love, seduction, sex, and romance, the gay subject is stripped of its taboo nature. For unlike artists such as Tom of Finland, whose work is a celebration of the outlaw status of queer sexuality, d'Eon's work seeks to normalize the marginal, and place the heretofore taboo subject at the center, through the use of the rhetorical styles of the historically empowered and mainstream. In the artists work, the illustrative imagery of the past does not cease to be wholesome through the inclusion of gay sex and sensibilities. He simply expands the notion of what wholesome is, erasing shame and celebrating desire.
Thankfully, Felix was kind enough to clear a little room in his busy schedule to do an interview with us. We encourage you to also explore the more erotic side of Felix D'Eon's art by visiting his Website, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and buy yourself a few prints at his Online Store!

Q: You have wonderfully paid tribute to so many different genres of vintage art. Is there any style you feel intimidated by?
Felix: Yes; I often fantasize that I will make paintings that look like 1950’s pin-ups, but of handsome men, of course. The style of the original pin-ups is very labor intensive though; they are mostly painted in oil on canvas in a fairly large format, and I find the idea of tackling it a bit intimidating. My paintings are usually in watercolor and small in scale!

Q: How important is it to know the history of a particular genre?
Felix: Very important! I want my work to feel very real; its important to me that the verisimilitude of the piece be exact, so that the viewer, even if they know better, feel that they are looking at a truly antique image. This cannot be accomplished without understanding the original genre very well.

Q: Do you remember the first time you created gay themed art? What did it depict?
Felix: I was on the swim team as a teenager, and painted my fellow team-mates in the nude (when they were willing) or in their speedos. So I guess I started at 15 or 16? I suppose even earlier than that I was copying male nudes by the old masters, for the pure pleasure of gazing and lingering upon their beautiful forms. Its been all uphill from there!

Q: What can you tell us about the OH! (The Party for the Dirty Gentlemen) series?
Felix: They were the fliers for a gay party that was thrown by friends of mine in San Francisco; it was a wonderfully dirty party, where boys danced in jockstraps and sex happened on the dance floor. Sadly, they ended quite a few years ago.

Q: Erotic content aside, what is the strangest complaint you have received?
Felix: That I didn’t paint enough Russian underwear. More Russian underwear! 

Q: You have lived all over the world. Which country do you feel has the most room for growth in terms of accepting homosexuality?
Felix: I don’t know how to answer that. Most countries I have been to have islands of liberality and islands of deep conservatism. Mexico (where I live, and where I am from) is perhaps one of the most liberal places I have ever been, at least, in Mexico City, but elsewhere there can be a great deal of homophobia. Thailand, where I used to live, is very accepting, yet if you are an effeminate gay man you cannot become a doctor or a lawyer or any other “serious” profession. Malaysia, which I might have thought would be at the bottom of the list of countries I have personally visited, because it is a muslim country, turned out to be much more accepting than I had anticipated, revealing, instead, my own prejudices! I met a great many people there from Oman, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia, none of whom judged me for being gay. I say we should all work on the issues within our own countries, as no place I have ever been has such a great track record.

Q: You illustrate a fair amount of superheroes in compromising
positions. What comics did you love as a teen?
Felix: I didn’t like comics! I associated comics with straight nerdy boys, and was far to insecure about my tastes at that age to allow myself to develop an appreciation for the genre. I only discovered a love of comics as an adult, and really, what I love about them is the aesthetic of golden age comics and their strange wholesomeness which is so easy to subvert! When I did discover comics, my favorite was Love and Rockets, about Chicana Mexican Wrestlers.

Q: I also noticed you make up a new phony publishing house for each of your comic book covers (IE: Sweetheart Comics, Nancy Boy Comics). Do you have a favorite invented name?
Felix: I think I might be partial to Nancy Boy comics. I rather enjoy outmoded gay slurs and labels. (Sister of Dorothy! Nancy Boy!! Light on his toes!!!) They are so silly, and fun to embrace!

Q:  What artists/illustrators do you currently follow?
My favorite gay illustrator is Fyodor Pavlov, who makes darkly romantic images, also on vintage themes, and whose project is quite similar to my own. Among my favorite artists are Kara Walker and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. I love Yayoi Kusama, for her performance pieces from the 60’s, which inspire my general approach to life as an artist in the 21st century, which I live as a spectacle and as an experience that is itself a form of propaganda. I am influenced by William Kentridge, whose dark cartoons depicting the tragedies of apartheid in South Africa illustrate the way visual art can be used to expose and illuminate our shared and painful heritage. My work is very lighthearted in tone; the paintings as well as the photos on the blog, which illustrate a life of carefree love and sensuality. But in fact, I view it all as form of propaganda, a tool to normalize something that has been seen as deviant and outlaw for so long, and to capture a language of love and nostalgia for the gay community that has always been denied us. The artists I love have all helped me, in one way or another, to realize this ambition, even where they might seem dark while my own work is so light and airy. We are all addressing injustice and tragedy in our various ways.

Q: Who would win in a fight? Unicorns...or narwhals
Felix: Naricorns, of course.

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