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James Kane Art

In issue 02 of Leur Magazine, we interviewed James Mathis Kane about his recent series of abstract figures. 

Artist Statement: 

"It’s hard to say I’m not seeking validation. I think to some extent, all artists are. For me, being an artist has been part of my identity for almost as long as I’ve been conscious. It predates even my sexual identity. Which didn’t come as naturally, or at as low a cost. Now these two things are really the anchors of who I am. It just makes sense that they came together this way. My identity as an artist, something I’ve always known about myself, being reconciled with my sexuality, something I had to learn and am still learning, is the inevitable result of me finding out who I am and what I can do. My work now is not just an investigation of these different facets of my personality, but a celebration of my identity in the context of its heritage, and more importantly I think, its future."

- James Mathis Kane

Q: How do you define yourself as an artist?

“I’m gay, I’m a painter. I don’t particularly like being any one particular thing.

I even hesitate to call myself simply “a painter” because I still have all these ambitions for three-dimensional projects and performance pieces.”

Q: How long has your relationship been with painting?

“I’ve been sketching/painting in some form for practically my entire life. Drawing really was my first love, I always felt sort of a natural affinity for it, and painting was the logical next step. It didn’t come as easily, but I was able to learn a lot about color/texture/line, and I’m still putting the pieces together. It’s a constant progression.“

Q: What is it about this medium that speaks to you and your self-expression?

“There’s something very sensuous about paint. I love the lushness you can produce with it. I think that contributes to the content of my work as much as the fact that I make it. It invests a different sense of intimacy than if my work were all sculpture or photography. And painting really helps to inform my endeavors in other media.”

Q: In your own words, how important is art for self-expression, especially to those who identify on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum?

“If my experience with art reflects that of the LGBT+ community at all, I don’t think it’s melodramatic to say that creativity and having an outlet for that type of expression can save your life. Art has been a safe space for me during some of the most difficult times in my life, and now I’m finally able to approach my work with unhindered honesty and joy. My work today isn’t just self-expression, it’s celebration.”

Q: What is the overall theme/subject matter/muse/etc of your current series of paintings?

“Typically my work does focus on homoeroticism. I’m interested in somewhat distorting male figures and placing them in cropped compositions in an attempt to abstract the activity within the painting. At the same time, I want the work to be an honest expression of gay male sexuality. It sometimes feels like a fine line between being a cliché and being unapologetic about my work.

More recently, I’ve started work on a series of still lives meant to examine different “types” within the gay community. The jockstrap paintings are the first in this “Archetype” series.”

Q: What is it that you wish to accomplish with the series?

“The idea behind the “Archetype” series is to show how different types of men are idolized or ignored within our community. I also like the idea of investing objects with sexuality and erotic purpose.

The concept is still in development, but I think with some refinement, I’ll have some good work on my hands.”

Q: Where do you find your inspiration for the paintings? 

“I use a lot of found photography that inspires compositions. I’ll often alter aspects of the setting or add in multiple figures according to what I’m trying to accomplish with each piece. Some of my work is just an expression of pure fantasy, something every young man growing up afraid of owning his identity is familiar with. Other paintings draw from memory, if not specific instances, then from the feeling I associate with a particular time or place.”

Q: How do you respond to those who may find your work uncomfortable, inappropriate or vulgar?

“I think that context is everything. Plenty of people would call my work inappropriate or vulgar, and in some settingsI’d have to agree with them. My work isn’t for everyone.There’s always going to be someone cringing, and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m not going to adjust what I do to make anyone comfortable. I’m tired of being made to feel like I’m in the wrong place, because of what I make, how I live or who I love. If you’re cringing or offended by my work, maybe you’re in the wrong place. Like I said, my work isn’t for everyone, but it’s for anyone who can look at it for what it is and take something positive away from it; no matter their gender, sexuality or artistic preference.”