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6 Male Artists Making Inspiring Feminist Work

Is this what a feminist looks like? via Flickr
Is this what a feminist looks like? (image by Christopher Dombres/Flickr)

We all know about the terrible gender disparity in the art world. As ladies, we live with systemic sexism on a daily basis. We are reminded of the art world’s sexism by investigations like Micol Hebron’s findings that women (here we speak only of gender not even getting into the even more bleak race statistics) make up only 18% of Artforum covers, and the ongoing relevance of feminist badasses, the Guerrilla Girls. Such is life in the arts. Shows like XX at Shepard Fairey’s Subliminal Projects in Los Angeles attempt to give more visibility to female artists, presenting eight women in a show that is obviously named after the female chromosome. Yet, the questions always come back to the patriarchy, and the necessity for all men to become feminists. Here are seven male feminist artists who make us love dudes despite the patriarchy, and will hopefully inspire you to be a more feminist man, brah.

Rhys Ernst

Rhys Ernst via his website http://rhysernst.com/about/
Rhys Ernst (image via rhysernst.com)

AsTransparent keeps winning Emmys, winning points for trans-visibility everywhere, it’s important to recognize the artists like Rhys Ernst who helped make this show possible. Nowadays, more artists are venturing into entertainment, ultimately changing the industry for the better. In an article for The Daily Dot, writer Jen Richards describes Ernst’s collaborative work with Zackary Drucker, as well as how he met Jill Soloway at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, where he was screening a short film about his MFA project, about a trans man roadtripping with his girlfriend. Drucker also featured photographs of her and Ernst’s opposite trans transitioning for her work at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Ernst’s work gently investigates the wonders of what gender even is or could be today.

Georges Jacotey

Screengrab from Georges Jacotey's "2night Im gonna cum 4u(see my face as I cum 4u internet) NSFW" (2014). Image via Vimeo
Screengrab from Georges Jacotey’s “2night Im gonna cum 4u(see my face as I cum 4u internet) NSFW” (2014) (image via Vimeo)

Playing with similar ideas as Faith Holland’s feminist intervention into porn sites and Ann Hirsch’s cam girl performances, Georges Jacotey’s feminist cam girl interventions into internet porn hubs make for delightfully sexy selfie videos that play with the conventions of mainstream hetero porn. His piece “I love 2night Im gonna cum 4u (see my face as I cum 4u internet) NSFW” is performed on CAM4, a live sex cam website. It’s all very artfully done, and unlike most gay porn which privilege the penis and some sort of cumming, Jacotey’s practice is about engaging with the idea of a cam girl. At the end, however, the video does deliver on its clickbait-y headline promise. It’s amusing to watch the people in the porn chat room seem confused when they don’t get their expected cum shot at the end of the video. Everywhere, womens’ bodies and the bodies of those who are feminine-of-center in their gender presentation are by default sexualized, and thus a continuing conversation about porn is not only relevant, it’s necessary.

Latham Owen Zearfoss

Screengrab of Latham Owen Zearfoss' "Self Control" (2008). Image via YouTube.
Screengrab of Latham Owen Zearfoss’ “Self Control” (2008) (image via YouTube)

Latham is a FEMINIST, and he yells it loud and proud in his queer radical political installations, videos and artworks. One of my all time favorite Latham works is “Self Control” (2008), which uses a narrative voice-over to discuss a visit from the future-past ghost of a lover and a mother. One time, I interviewed Latham about a ballsy show called Weird Dude Energy based off of the Tumblr of the same name created by two LA ladies named Christine Boepple and Kerry McLaughlin. The show featured a gang of all male-identified artists working across mediums, creating not an aesthetic but a decidedly ~male energy~. During the interview, which was actually a conversation, Latham and I finished each other’s sentences because it was a dreamy feminist conversation for real:

AE: It’s a totally sexist straight white male art world, and the rest of us are . . .

LZ: . . . trying to fit in or make space for ourselves. I guess when I think of Weird Dude Energy now that we are talking about it, a really great precedent for me is Vito Acconci. Those performances that have that a super aggressive sexual tone to them, but make you hyperaware of your body. As a viewer you become a participant, but you’re also being transgressed upon. I feel like the Weird Dude Energy show doesn’t grapple with those power dynamics. I thought I would feel implicated, and then I don’t see that happening.

Chris Vargas & Greg Youmans

Screengrab from episode 1 of "Falling in Love. . . With Christ & Greg." Image via their website.
Screengrab from episode 1 of ‘Falling in Love. . . With Chris & Greg’ (image via fallinginlovewithchrisandgreg.com)

Vargas’s and Youmans’s work is all about “the ways that queer and trans people negotiate spaces for themselves within historical and institutional memory and popular culture,” says their website. If one considers this in relation to all feminist art histories, which are about re-negotiating male-dominated spaces to create an actual dialogue for and by women, that is not shadowed by the male gaze, then Vargas and Youmans’ work takes that and queers it hard. For five years the two worked on the web-based sitcom Falling in Love. . . with Chris and Greg, a trans/cisgender take on what that means — for a trans dude and a cis dude to be together, something that hadn’t been seen on TV before, and a super sweet way to chronicle their relationship. Its transgressiveness is decidedly feminist.

King Texas

BLACKNESS project via King Texas' website.
An image from the ‘BLACKNESS’ project (via kingtexas.net)

I love the ideas that King Texas espouses, specifically his focus on “accumulating organic experiences, vulnerability, and unheard stories.” A photographer based out of Brooklyn, Texas’ work focuses less on gender as it does politics, and makes me think about the politics embedded on and into POC bodies. Consider his project BLACKNESS, beautiful black-and-white photos of all-gendered people, vulnerable in their exposure. This same sort of aliveness exhibits itself in his self-portraits series. Perhaps Texas is answering the question: What’s the relationship between a feminist politic and vulnerability?

Charlie White

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 3.22.32 PM
Screengrab from Charlie White’s “OMG BFF LOL (Mall)” (image via YouTube)

I love this man. He is large, burly, bearded, and a bitching feminist with a son who’s got Farrah Fawcett DNA obviously. Charlie is the editor of a tri-annual publication called The EnemyHE ENEMY. He recently curated the all-female exhibition SOGTFO (Sculpture or Get the Fuck Out), a play on the hyper sexist language that’s used to force women out of male-dominated internet spaces as well as a commentary on the masculine nature of “bigger-is-better” sculpture. He’s also just a fascinating person and artist who has staged projects in which he photographs teen girls next to transitioning transwomen, and the video OMG BFF LOL (Mall), a Valley-girl-accented, super affected teen girl philosophical conversation on the nature of adolescence and consumerism (bonus points for making fun of the tacit racism of white girls trying to speak bad Spanish to Latino people who work at fast food places because OMG WTF THIS IS AMERICA). He’s pretty f-ing feminist, as we know from his work which considers commodification of desire and the teen girl body. I also, like, totally love that he RANDOMLY USES ALL-CAPS IN HIS TITLES AND WRITING. Basically, Charlie is the cool teen girl friend I wanted to meet in high school who I met here in Los Angeles, where teen dreams live and die forever. XO.

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