Rick Sindt, a Chicago-based artist who recently moved to St. Louis, explores the discovery and development of queer attraction in his exhibit "Skin Remembers." Sindt transforms pornographic stills, repurposing them into images of intimacy.
Sindt recently spoke with Windy City Times regarding his new exhibit, which focuses on the use of pornography as a way of developing and exploring the discovery of queer attraction. This exhibition opens Friday, May 27 at Gallery Victor Armendariz.
Windy City Times: Which did you discover firstyour calling as an artist, or pornography?
Rick Sindt: Being an artist came first. I started taking private art lessons when I was 7 years old. I went to college and decided to pursue a degree in art. Pornography started becoming a part of my life in adolescence. Timing [and] realizing that I had talent that I could cultivate came first.
If we look at it in a more nuanced way than chronologically, when I felt like I had something to say was when I started considering pornography. Another thing that influences my work a lot is being a realist painter, which has a lot to do with the lessons. The instructor I was with always made us work with some image that we had found. When I look back at the ramifications this has had, art was taught to me as a tool to replicate things, not to say something. It's taken me a while to figure out how to say something.
WCT: You speak about creating what you know through your own identity. Have you ever wanted to step outside of that?
RS: I am very aware of other people's identities. I realize I am a white, cis man who is gay. So I have a lot of privilege. Every time I have this conversation in my head, I remember I am an expert in what I know and not in the experience of others. If given the chance I would rather hand over the proverbial microphone than speak on things that I don't actually know.
With my work, I believe that I am trying to subvert the notion of the male gaze. Because a male-on-male gaze is not something you see often. What does it mean to look at men with attraction? Especially when you consider that they likely have the same level of privilege.
WCT: Do you think that there is more intimacy and humanity when it's between the same sexes?
RS: When I think of the male gaze on female bodies, that is so prevalent in our culturethat a woman can be depicted through the male gaze and be the only subject of the art piece. The gaze is male. That's implied.
To make the male-to-male gaze known requires a depiction of two people in the piece. Having a masculine body and seeing a masculine man touching that body … lends to more intimacy because it has to deal with two people interacting. Because this is not a part of the dominant narrative, I have to give the viewer more context because the assumptions they have will take over.
WCT: You've said that the discovery of pornography as an adolescent is something enthralling yet shameful. In a different yet similar way, that happens to a lot of cis, hetero kids as well. Do you see a connection there?
RS: I think this generation of adolescents is incredibly interesting and wonderful. They're able to see themselves in more pluralistic ways, whereas I am often just like, "Where's the gay person?" I think that they are able to look at all people from all identities and find a piece of themselves in it. I don't know for sure, but I would hope that this art could function in that way for them.
WCT: Pornography is often seen as a shallow and purely carnal endeavor. You've referred to pornography as the gateway to intimacy in your paintings. Do you think that there is a genuine intimacy there [in porn]?
RS: If we are talking about pornography itself, there is not always an intimacy in that. During the rise of Onlyfans and JustFor.Fans, we were in people's bedrooms with their partners; people weren't necessarily posed.
We saw how sex could be somewhat awkward at times. That introduced a really interesting sort of intimacy into what we call pornography now. I do think some of that has faded as the platform has gained traction and how the folks who are very popular on them have had to professionalize themselves in some waybut, for me, I think the intimacy of pornography comes more into play and can be more pervasive if the relationship you're looking at is not the relationship between the people in the film, but the viewers of the film and themselves.
I think if the pornography can be a catalyst that allows the viewers to think about themselves and what their desires are more deeply, then there is intimacy in that. [That] can lead to intimacy between them and other folks in the future, because they will have a more nuanced and complex understanding of who they are and what they like.
"Skin Remembers" runs May 27-June 24 at Gallery Victor Armendariz, 300 W. Superior St. See www.galleryvictor.com/ and RickSindt.net .