Queer artists throughout history, and even now, have been coerced to censor themselves, to remove anything except the faintest traces of queerness from their works. This means that Impressionist paintings of gay men are typically a product of imagination instead of reality. But a chance encounter with such a painting, all thanks to an artifact present in Stable Diffusion 1.5, encouraged ClownVamp to explore. While considering fatherhood as a subject, he prompted the tool for an image of a father and a son, but because of an unanticipated twinning effect, an artifact of early AI systems, the result included not one dad, but two.
“I had this weird brain glitch moment where I was just like, well, I’m looking at this sort of Impressionist piece of art and all of a sudden, somehow the machine made it super gay,” he told me. “I, as a gay man, haven’t seen these types of visuals at museums, and this super futuristic tool is rewiring the past for me, and showing both what could have been but what was also lost.”
With “Chester Charles,” ClownVamp wanted to trigger that same brain glitch he experienced when he saw the Stable Diffusion image, but this time, in his audience. The artworks of Chester Charles casually depict gay people, gay love, gay sexuality, and gay experiences, and, while juxtaposed with an Impressionist style, are intended to make the viewer take pause, providing a queer experience (in both the literal and theoretical sense); while they observe something as familiar as one of history’s most recognizable movements in painting, they also are confronted with something unexpected, something that makes them question the legitimacy of art history. Whose work was being suppressed? Whose art never received recognition beyond small, trusted circles in their time?
ClownVamp goes even further than simply giving Chester a body of work; he also imbues that work with a narrative arc. When we spoke, explained that the show begins with a very traditional Impressionist painting of a shirtless man–not explicitly gay, but certainly subtextually. Then, as his career progresses, the artworks remain traditionally Impressionistic, but become increasingly visibly queer, depicting “these things that are not within that sort of traditional cognitive frame,” as ClownVamp puts it. Chester’s art also eventually comes to change. He describes Chester’s later work as looser, more colorful, and more abstract, using a more vivid palate and taking more risks in his artwork. “I thought if you went back in time and you were able to remove the self-censorship, that is sort of what we would have seen in an artist’s career.”
Reposted from: superrare.com