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God rest ye, horny gentlemen

Arts & Entertainment

God rest ye, horny gentlemen

Larry Glawson's Early Days zine incorporates old photos of Glawson and his partner, Doug Melnyk. IMAGE 1 OF 3
XXX queer zine series brings comfort and joy
The photos in Larry Glawson’s new book, Early Days, were never meant for public consumption. Shot from 1986 to ’89, the Winnipeg artist’s erotic series was created solely as personal porn. Featuring Glawson and his partner, artist Doug Melnyk, the collection of 20 black-and-white images finally sees the light of day as part of XXX, a new zine series exploring the making of queer art.
 
“At the time of shooting I wasn’t making work representing sexuality in an overt way,” Glawson says. “My official art practice focused on discovering what photography was and examining the power dynamics between photographer and subject. My relationship to my own body and my comfort level with being publicly recognized as a sexual being hadn’t sufficiently gelled to present the work in a public way. Over the years, as I distanced myself from that work, the images took on a different quality.”
 
Glawson and Melnyk met in 1979, while attending art school at the University of Manitoba. Glawson grew up heavily closeted in a staunch Catholic family; his chosen subject had less to do with a possible career path than a need to connect with a queer community.
 
“I thought about where I would find queers in a university environment, and the obvious answer seemed to be fine arts,” he says. “That was where my whole life changed. Don’t get me wrong; in the late ’70s, art school could still be pretty homophobic. But it was incredible for me in terms of an environment to figure out who I was, even though I didn’t discover many out queers.”
 
Despite the lack of rainbow flags, he left school with what became a lifelong relationship that continues to be a major source of inspiration. (Early Days is one of several bodies of work documenting the couple’s life together.)
 
“Once I’d found my voice as a photographer, identity politics and sexuality became a major focus,” Glawson says. “So naturally, our relationship became part of that focus. Presenting work in public that’s sexual has always been a bit complicated for me. But Doug has been behind me 100 percent. He’s probably more excited about the project than I am.”
 
Feeling simultaneously retro and current, the snaps of Glawson and Melnyk sucking, fucking or simply hanging out naked casually walk the line between art and pornography.
 
“Presenting the work is a political gesture in examining my own relationship with porn,” Glawson says. “There’s always been this double standard with consumers of pornography. People use it but are then critical of the actors in terms of their lifestyle or who they are as people. Putting myself as subject in front of the camera was part of helping me sort out what that’s about. On a certain level, I find it flattering that people would want to look at photographs of me having sex.”
 
“It’s also clarified in me certain things about the fear of aging,” he adds. “Being queer in a culture obsessed with youthful vigour, I’ve discovered middle-aged vigour can have its own attractiveness.”
 
Although the internet is fast replacing the artist zine as the number-one cheap distribution option, XXX curator Ho Tam says he isn’t making a statement by creating in a dying medium.
 
“I’m just doing what I know,” he says. “I love book making, and I still find an audience for limited-edition art books. Making a book can be a luxury due to financial constraints, so publishing the series together gave each work a stronger presence and impact.”
 
Tam’s group of 10 artists were given carte blanche in their projects. Along with Glawson’s Early Days, Melnyk’s Roy Drawings is an adult storybook that follows a burly gay man navigating the world. Andrew Zealley’s Disco Hospital explores queer health and shamanism through text and photography. William Yang’s Australia Asian Queer tells his coming-out story as a gay Asian man growing up down under. Dave Grywinski’s Covet saw him snap pics of unsuspecting men in public spaces.
 
“The project was about understanding how each artist works,” Tam says. “The hope was that the pieces could form a conversation among ourselves, and from that ideas could be passed on to the audience.”
 
Tam is currently planning the project’s next series, which will feature an all-female group of artists. Though budget constraints mean he does all the printing and binding himself, he’s treating it as a labour of love.
 
“I’m a bit exhausted from the process,” he says. “But I believe artists are our biggest asset. We just need to pay attention to them.” 
 
XXX zines are available for purchase at xxxzines.com.
 
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Comments

Well.
For once Joe Clark manages to make an on-topic and worthwhile contribution to a discus... oh.

Never mind that "God rest ye" is a sufficiently evocative phrase as to be out-of-context. ("God rest ye, Rob Ford", for example, conveys a message that one hopes most of us would understand, teeeechnically incorrect as it might be.)

Haters gotta hate, I suppose.
There isn’t a comma
For once the kids writing for _Xtra_ put a vocative comma where it shouldn’t go rather than dropping one where it needs to be. “God rest ye merry gentlemen” means “May God keep you gentlemen merry.” It is not addressed to “merry gentlemen.” Hence neither is the hed of this piece addressed to “horny gentlemen.” It’s “God rest ye horny gentlemen.”
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