Toronto’s Kris Aaron and An­drew Walker cel­e­brate queer sex-pos­i­tive art, Cana­dian PM Justin Trudeau, and ex­plain why hang­ing a dick on your wall isn’t such a bad thing…

Gay Times Magazine - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy Pansy Ass Ce­ram­ics Words Sam Damshenas

Re­cent winner of Best Ac­tor in a For­eign Film at the Palm Springs In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, we meet the mu­si­cian and ac­tor in his home coun­try of South Africa to talk his rapid rise in cre­ative in­dus­tries and his role as an out gay man in Africa.

Per­haps best de­scribed on their of­fi­cial In­sta­gram page as The Dick Fac­tory, Pansy Ass Ce­ram­ics is a cel­e­bra­tion and ex­plo­ration of cul­ture, iden­tity and sex­u­al­ity. Cana­dian artists Kris Aaron and An­drew Walker are a team - and cou­ple - that com­bine the el­e­gance and pres­tige of slip-cast porce­lain with queer and provoca­tive im­agery.

Their pieces vary from anal bead-shaped plant pots to cel­e­bra­tions of the monarch with ‘yass kween!’ collectable plates, to Porce­lain Jouis­sance dishes de­pict­ing men be­ing rimmed, and erm, other things we shouldn’t say…

Here, the Toronto cou­ple dish on the ori­gins of Pansy Ass Ce­ram­ics, Canada’s pro­gres­sive LGBTQ val­ues, and why we should dec­o­rate our homes with pe­nis-shaped art… Where did the idea of Pansy Ass Ce­ram­ics come from? We’re a cou­ple and we wanted to start a cre­ative project to­gether. We share a love of vin­tage ce­ram­ics and tchotchkes and have al­ways been struck by the beauty and queer­ness of it all. We ini­tially be­gan paint­ing queer im­agery and words on found items and vin­tage. Even­tu­ally we took a cou­ple of ce­ram­ics classes and we started mak­ing orig­i­nal pieces.

And what did you hope its in­ten­tion would be? We never imag­ined when we first started Pansy Ass that it would evolve into its cur­rent state. Our in­ten­tion ini­tially was to make ob­jects that we wished ex­isted. We love the idea that we can help cre­ate spaces in peo­ple’s homes that rep­re­sent

al­ter­na­tive and non-nor­ma­tive life­styles. We wanted to cre­ate beau­ti­ful work and in­ject some sex­i­ness, fun and a bit of hu­mour. What in­spired you both to turn in­no­cent, ev­ery­day ob­jects into provoca­tive, queer art -

as well as the oc­ca­sional pe­nis? Porce­lain as a medium, and the dec­o­ra­tive arts in gen­eral have an in­ter­est­ing his­tory in do­mes­tic life, im­pli­cat­ing things like iden­tity, gen­der and sta­tus. We thought it would be the per­fect av­enue to ap­proach the per­verse side of gay­ness. We thought if we can take el­e­ments of shame and present them in soft beau­ti­ful ways and to dis­play with pride, that must do some good for us queers. It’s im­por­tant to be your­self; to be proud and to dis­play your queer­ness in your home as you see fit. And re­ally... who doesn’t want a dick hang­ing on their wall?! And your work is also a cel­e­bra­tion of the male form… Yes, gawd! We cel­e­brate the beauty of the male form and we think it’s im­por­tant to sit­u­ate it as an ex­plicit ob­ject of de­sire. This isn’t rev­o­lu­tion­ary in art, but it still isn’t some­thing that so­ci­ety at large is com­fort­able with. Does your work at­tract an au­di­ence that’s non LGBTQ? Ab­so­lutely! A large por­tion of our col­lec­tors are women, and when we show our work we get ap­proached by a lot of straight women who see their de­sires be­ing re­flected. Fe­male sex­ual de­sire has long been taboo sim­i­lar to us queers, and many women iden­tify with our cause. Why do you think art is so im­por­tant for queer cul­ture? Art to us has al­ways seemed a great way to give voice to a cause. Some of our favourite artists are those be­fore the gay rights move­ment and dur­ing the HIV & Aids cri­sis in the 80s. Queer artists like Warhol and David Hock­ney were per­haps clos­eted in their pub­lic life but were able to make art with gay themes - and artists like Keith Har­ing, Robert Map­plethorpe and David Wo­j­narow­icz in the 80s were able to bring HIV & AIDS into the fore­front of dis­cus­sion. Now more than ever, we need to be vis­i­ble when our rights are con­stantly be­ing chal­lenged!

You use and pro­mote pri­mary colours heav­ily in your work - is this in­ten­tional? We work with all colours, pri­mary and sec­ondary, but we’re re­ally par­tial to pas­tels. We’re of­ten colour block­ing in our work; us­ing all colours of the rain­bow to show our pride. Also we work with colours that are of­ten un­nat­u­ral to its form, so the ob­jects are slightly less lit­eral and can be thought of more ab­stractly than porno­graphic. Tell us about a piece that’s been the most pop­u­lar so far… Peo­ple re­ally like the fig­u­ra­tive work. The se­ries we do with our lit­tle men in sex­ual po­si­tions with fruits is very pop­u­lar. I think the fact that they are both sex­u­ally ex­plicit and camp, they give peo­ple the com­fort­able feeling of grandma’s house and the ex­cite­ment of their next Grindr date. Our lit­tle men with peaches have been par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar since Call Me By Your Name has been re­leased. You guys have 33k fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram. Did ei­ther of you ever imag­ine queer art in this form would be so pop­u­lar? Well, we are both big fans of

queer art and we knew our friends would love what we were cre­at­ing, but we al­ways saw our­selves as hav­ing a very niche ap­peal. We’re happy about the wider ap­peal that we seem to have.

We think, apart from luck and chance, ce­ram­ics and queer art in gen­eral are both hav­ing a mo­ment right now, that we have had the priv­i­lege of be­ing a part of. Also, In­sta­gram and so­cial me­dia are changing the way we re­late to art in a gen­eral sense. Our ac­count is like our pri­vate gallery and we are con­stantly ex­hibit­ing to a global au­di­ence. We love the idea that peo­ple can look at our work and the work of many other great queer artists, without hav­ing to phys­i­cally stand in front of it. If the work they see re­flects de­sires that may not be safe for them to openly ex­press, we want them to know we are out there. Have you ever re­ceived a back­lash from your work? Maybe those that feel it’s a lit­tle too provoca­tive? Ab­so­lutely, we’ve had many posts re­moved from our In­sta­gram for vi­o­lat­ing their community standards and our ac­count is pri­vate. Some things are a lit­tle too much even for our au­di­ence. We’ve also had some threat­en­ing emails and we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced cen­sor­ship when show­ing our work pub­licly, but we take it in our stride. If any­thing, those types of sit­u­a­tions fuel us to push the lim­its fur­ther! Do you ever have to pass on an idea that’s a lit­tle too wild? Do your crazy ideas ever go a lit­tle too far? I don’t think we’ve ever passed on a wild idea, but sometimes they don’t go fur­ther than the studio shelves. Oc­ca­sion­ally the fi­nal prod­uct doesn’t re­ally align with the vi­sion and it comes out a lit­tle too grotesque, or is po­ten­tially of­fen­sive in a way that we didn’t con­sider. We don’t feel like any idea is too crazy for our art as long as it is in­clu­sive and doesn’t glam­or­ise vi­o­lence or lack of con­sent. With Pres­i­dent Trump at­tack­ing gay and trans rights from The White House, why do you think it’s im­por­tant to con­tinue mak­ing gay, sex­pos­i­tive art? Thank­fully we’re in Canada and we don’t have the same ur­gency to make po­lit­i­cal art, but the pop­ulist move­ment could eas­ily spread North. Be­ing vis­i­ble is ex­tremely im­por­tant at home - to keep your rights in check and to ally with oth­ers who are feeling the bur­den of hav­ing their rights ques­tioned. So­cial me­dia is a great way to find and bet­ter mo­bilise our com­mu­ni­ties. We feel

like we just need to keep be­ing vis­i­ble and send out mes­sages of pos­i­tiv­ity and sol­i­dar­ity with our art. Has the pro­gres­sive at­ti­tudes and na­ture of your PM Justin Trudeau aided in the suc­cess

of the busi­ness? Well he is pretty cute and likes to take his top off... We did a Justin Trudeau piece shortly af­ter he took of­fice and it got snatched up right away. Canada’s pro­gres­sive at­ti­tudes have cer­tainly fos­tered an en­vi­ron­ment where we can cre­ate and ex­press what we do freely, but we have Justin’s fa­ther Pierre to thank for giv­ing us those

rights in the 60s and 70s. The LGBTQ sit­u­a­tion here is far from per­fect, but we have a sta­ble track record. How­ever, most of our op­por­tu­ni­ties come from the US and abroad. Canada has half the pop­u­la­tion of the UK but over vast land so we’re con­sid­ered niche here. What do you think is the im­por­tance of phys­i­cal

art in a dig­i­tal age? Dig­i­tal art is an ex­cit­ing art form but we pre­fer cre­at­ing art in the tra­di­tional sense. Work­ing with clay is a sen­sual ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s dirty, wet and re­acts to touch. It’s also nice to think that we are car­ry­ing on an an­cient tra­di­tion, and there’s a per­ma­nency to ce­ram­ics. Maybe in cen­turies from now when our so­ci­ety crum­bles they will piece to­gether our way of life with Pansy Ass Ce­ram­ics.

Do you think the two can ever work to­gether? Def­i­nitely. We are work­ing on some new pieces in­cor­po­rat­ing photographs printed on clay and dec­o­rat­ing with dig­i­tal il­lus­tra­tions. 3D print­ers are re­ally in­ter­est­ing, but we would use it in a way that we could still be re­ally en­gaged and hands on with the piece. And fi­nally, where would you like to take Pansy Ass Ce­ram­ics in the fu­ture? We’re aim­ing to build work on a larger scale and put to­gether more im­pres­sive in­stal­la­tions. We’re sometimes lim­ited to the size of our kiln, so hope­fully with con­tin­ued suc­cess in the art world we’ll be able to afford to upgrade our studio and our equip­ment. And we’re never go­ing to stop chal­leng­ing gen­der norms and lay­ing out our beau­ti­ful fa—otry in homes around the world!

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