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A lil sumthin' sumthin'

A lil sumthin' sumthin'

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Afro erotic adventures in New Essex
With the erotic art of Belasco, the term "filling a niche" takes on a wonderfully charged meaning.

His new collection of sex cartoons, The Brothers Of New Essex, is chock a block full of all sorts of black folk - from country bumpkins to b-boys and buppies - partaking the joys of corn-holing, cum-spurting, hold-me-down sex.

"I'm filling a niche. When I started no one was doing black gay erotica," says Belasco.

"I'm not an especially political person. I don't use my art for political ends. The fact that it exists is my politics… See, here it is, there is another side to the spectrum portrayed in the mainstream media. There are all these other levels of gay erotica."

Cleis Press's handsome collection of Belasco's recent work, The Brothers Of New Essex, begins with his returning character Boo, the strong silent type, finding religious ecstasy with a church-goer. A gospel singer hits the high notes at the same time as the sweaty blasphemers.

The book ends with another recurring character, the smart-talking Oasis, stumbling into a fantasy dungeon beyond description.

"There's no such thing as PC porn," says Belasco. "Porn is no good if everyone is totally adjusted or self aware. Yogic porn? I don't think so. Porn needs to be visceral."

"My real goal is to get people aroused, anything on top of that is gravy."

And there's lots of gravy - figurative and literal - in Belasco's work. The fact that white characters remain in the background is just the beginning. His technique is assured. Moreover, his subtle social commentary and delightful humour always increases - never impinges upon - the erotic charge of his stories.

In one of Belasco's favourites, "The Floodgates," a white-collar worker nonchalantly puts up with the petty indignities of a regular day at the office. His welcome home affords a passionate release.

"My statement comes through character. I find preachiness boring, so why would I want my characters to be preachy?

"Each story originates in different ways. Some are just your basic porn scenarios with different twists; some are stories that come from people I meet. They are authentic. They all come from an experience understood by black folk - though not exclusively so."

You certainly don't need a degree in black studies to figure out what's going on in the courthouse washroom between a prosecutor and a former football player during a murder trial. Belasco has chutzpah to spare.

In 1991, Belasco was living in Chicago and a drawing made for a friend found its way into a local 'zine. The feedback convinced Belasco that people were hungry for the kind of imagery that turned him on.

He started self-publishing 'zines, selling his wares on the black gay party scene. In 1995, after participating in a Tom Of Finland Foundation exhibition, his work was picked up by GBM, becoming a popular staple in the now defunct magazine.

"I've always drawn. As early as I can remember, as early as four years old - and not long after that I remember being gay," says the 30-something artist.

"As a kid I used to draw superheros, and it wasn't hard to see how homosexuality came into play. I mean, my superhero characters were basically naked with a tight costume drawn on. As I got older, I starting leaving out the costumes."

While he's got enough material to pull together another book collection, Belasco - now based in Los Angeles - hopes next to create an original graphic novel. Just don't call it art.

"I'm an illustrator or cartoonist. Artist is such an ambiguous and vague term. I don't claim it: if someone else want to apply it to me, that's fine. I'm just telling stories."

THE BROTHERS OF NEW ESSEX.
By Belasco.
Cleis Press. $38.95.
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