“Art is a tool I use to explore and scrutinize the world around me and inside my head.”
Gio Black Peter is an artist. He’s a performer, a musician - storyteller and provocateur. Self-taught, celebrated for approaching his craft with fearlessness and surrender; speaking from his core. The work is steeped in spaces both sinister and wholesome, a deliberate approach and a siren song. I’ve been a fan of this New York artist for some time now and have often asked myself ‘Why are we pulled in?’. I believe the work speaks to a place in all of us, something visceral – the light and dark reflecting our own complexities as humans, as sexual beings. I’ve come to appreciate his work greatly and was fortunate enough to get some time to talk about the craft, his mission and inspiration.
How did you find your way to art?
I’ve been making art all my life. Well, for as long as I can remember. I’ve taught myself through experimentation.
What is your process?
Have no fear. Go with the gut.
You use video, and painting, and music. Does each medium allow you to express yourself in ways that others won’t? What does a moment in song do for you artistically that a painting can’t?
In some ways yes. It is like driving to your house using a different route. The final destination is the same but you had a different experience getting there. At the end of the day I am a story teller.
I can tell a story through words, images, colors or sounds. Which is why I enjoy working in multiple mediums. Performing brings it to a whole different level since I can interact with my audience. It becomes a collaboration. The audience plays a large role in the mood and outcome of the performance. A banana for a banana! What you give is what you get.
There is something both sinister yet really wholesome about the work. How do you explain that? Is it deliberate?
Yes it’s deliberate. You can say I am like an anglerfish. Except instead of using a glowing bait, I lure in my prey, the viewer with color and composition. I like to seduce the viewer. The sinister aspect is my sense of humor. The wholesome part, I would have to say is my vulnerability. If you want to know about me just look at my work. I don’t hide. It is all out there in the open.
Even at the beginning was sex always present? How was it received early on? How is it received now?
Art is a tool I use to explore and scrutinize the world around me and inside my head. In the beginning sexuality, not sex, played a large part in my work because my personal sexuality was something that I was trying to understand. My current work also deals with sexuality but from a different angle. The characters in my work are mostly nude because no clothes will ever be as interesting or beautiful as the human body. As far as actual sex – it is natural and a great way to illustrate the way we humans relate to each other. That is what my series “Communion” is about. They are painted portraits on wooden glory holes. The communion of two individuals by way of blowjob. A holy communion. In the words of Allen Ginsberg; “Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is an eternity! Everyman’s an angel!” As far as how it is received, sometimes it is not so well. But I don’t worry about that. We live in a world that embraces violence and shames sexuality. For example, a video with nudity or sexual content will be banned from social media meanwhile a video of guys punching themselves in the face until they are bloody pulps is A-ok. It’s a backwards world we live in.
How has it been the work been received abroad?
Depends on where I am. People living in cities, for the most part, have an open mind because they are subjected to different lifestyles. But of course you can’t generalize.
Tell me about your most recent exhibition, what does it mean to you?
It means I have a stage to express myself creatively, and that means the world to me. The show mainly consists of paintings on New York City subway maps. There are also drawings which I have made on my slave CV. It’s the CV I used when I was a graphic designer. I also debuted “The Morning Star,” a play I wrote which was performed by Brian Kenny, Max Steele, Jordan Hall, Tyler Stone and myself, and set to music performed by pianist , Gordon Beeferman. Each a great artist in their own right. The exhibition was a success and I even received a mention in the New York Times.
In the world where the gay agenda seems to be focused on assimilation into straight institutions (the military, marriage), has there been any pushback from the gay community about the sexual nature of your work?
Yes there has been a bit of a pushback but that is fine with me because I push back. I’m going to answer this question with a quote by the writer Bruce Benderson “It seems to me that in this precious era we live in, at a time when the biggest controversies for gays are centered on marriage rights and adoption, Gio and his unzipped cock are a perfect antidote.”
What do you want this work to say about you? What do you want the viewer to come away with?
I am telling many stories in these drawings and paintings. For example, there is a painting of a man in a burqa. He is lifting the garment to reveal a large erect penis. I made this painting in honor of all the forgotten LGBT people who have been murdered under sharia law. For me it is the most important piece in the show. I want to make people think. I also want to make people feel.
What do you have planned in the coming months? Next year?
I have a film project in 2015 but it’s too early to speak about it. There is “A Banana For A Banana”, Gio Black Peter monograph/interactive app by the ONYOURSLATE.com team. It will be available soon. In the meantime you can see my drawings and photographs at L’axolotl Cabinet De Curiosités in Toulon, France. It is a solo show curated by Yann Perol. You can find all the info on www.gioblackpeter.com. Besides that I will be working on new paintings, drawings, sculptures, videos and glory holes of course.