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OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.

DISPATCH WINTER 2002

The Artist Muses
MICHAEL KIRWAN

Kirwan self portrait (2002)

I have to say that I'm mighty sick of this flood of ordinariness. Lately I've noticed the profusion of “reality” shows offered on television. I keep the set on all day, every day. For someone who works alone at home and spends unbelievable amounts of time sitting and drawing, television is an invaluable tool. It's company that doesn't require my attention, and I can flit among the channels for the less abrasive and obtrusive programming. Right through all the reality cop shows, talk shows, Court TV, all-crammed-in-a-box-together shows, dating shows, and so on. How­ever, snippets of “real,” authentic human activity don't qualify as entertainment for me. When I want to see real people, I go to the post office, the grocery store, or just stroll the streets. The purpose of art is to condense and distill the doings of men, to create characters emblematic of the human condition, and to enlighten and illuminate by filtering human behavior through the artist's singular vision.

That's what I try to do with my drawings, to encapsulate the various terrains, conditions, and connections made in the gay world. I think of myself as a pictorial historian, committing every queer's experience to paper. I don’t draw from models or real people. My guys are stand-ins for everyone who's ever sucked a dick, incorporating the lust, confusion, contentment, guilt, passion, and bonding that I observe in the homo realm. I’d like viewers to recognize familiar situations and see a spark of their own lives displayed in my work, to sense the true brotherhood inherent in who we are and what we do with each other. I want my illustrations to unite us as a tribe, letting every fag know that he belongs, that he is welcome, and that he is not alone.

I've been criticized for not drawing “pretty” men, but I believe that old, fat, ethnic, plain, disabled, and unusual queers exist and are equally deserving of being depicted and recorded for gay history. Not only the hyper-attractive have sex; there is a wide range of men and boys outside of the “Tom of Finland” mold that are fantastic and imaginative sex partners. I'm interested and intrigued by them all, and determined to include them in my body of work.

Look for more work by Michael Kirwan featured in the Erotic Art Gallery

I like to record the responses and reactions men have to each other. A cock being shoved in an ass is pretty meaningless without the accompanying thoughts revealed through the characters' faces. I want mobile, flexible features that betray the mind's inner workings, bringing a real psychological subtext to the scenario. Beautiful people often suffer from a form of emotional Botox, being so self-aware that they fail to exhibit any honesty in their expressions. There are plenty of artists recording the “ideal” man already. This emphasis on masculine beauty promotes a kind of narcissism that undermines our value as a tribe, reducing us to boring, narrow-minded, image-obsessed caricatures. We are more important, relevant, and powerful than such stereotypes suggest, and I use art to portray this belief.

Though I'm fairly prolific and widely published, there are no fortunes to be made in this particular profession. I do it to honor anyone who has had the courage to thwart society’s strictures and conventions by taking another man's dick in his hands. I do it for all those who won't accept the roles assigned to them, for those who defy the proscribed “reality” and have the courage to forge their own.

    — Michael Kirwan


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TOM ON HIS WORK
"Yes, I consider my work pornography. Pornography means to stimulate peoples' sexual feelings, and I'm always very aware of that. My motive is lower than art." — Tom of Finland from the MSC Finland Website.