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…
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 faotry in homes around the world!