Over the last five decades, gay men’s relationships have been debated, medicalised, criminalised, treated as profane, and defined in sexual terms. This sex-centred understanding of gayness has constrained gay men to live in oppressive social dynamics, environments, and discourses that have facilitated sexual encounters but have clipped their (our) wings to love. In trying to listen to what other gay men have to say about their own lives, this art project uses narrative data from anonymous interviews with gay men to inspire a work of portraiture.
Based on my doctoral research with ten gay men from different ages and backgrounds, artist Eleonora Scalise responds to the narratives by painting ten imaginary portraits. By painting portraits of people who have not been seen by the artist, the project aims to evoke an imaginary quality that invites the audience to reflect on the secrecy that often surrounds gay men’s lives and develop the concept of ‘narrative portraiture’, which engages with the visual through the affects contained in the narratives.
The portraits, along with the narratives that inspired them, were shown at a public exhibition in Edinburgh from 2nd – 27th June 2019 during Pride Month.