John Arsenault and James Andrew – photo John Arsenault
While lost in an Instagram k-hole, I stumbled upon the work of Los Angeles based photographer, John Arsenault, and found myself quite intrigued. We managed to start up an internet exchange, and as luck would have it, on his recent trip to NYC (he’s represented by Clamp Art here in the city), I had a the chance to meet up with the man. And as you might have noticed, yours truly had the honor to be photographed above in this rather lovely and louche image!
Self-Portrait – photo John Arsenault
“Since first picking up a camera, John Arsenault has routinely been turning his lens back upon himself, producing an outlandish and absurd, wild and erotic account of his life as a young, gay artist. Exploring facets of his personal relationships, his sexuality, and his identity, Arsenault constructs various scenarios that not only tell the story of his experiences, but also comment upon society at large. With a great eye for the strange, the unexpected, and the laugh-out-loud ridiculous, he is not afraid to poke fun at himself, and thus, is able to comment upon matters of broad cultural import without seeming shrill or pedantic. Arsenault’s work is vulnerable and honest. As writer Dan Halm has concluded, “One can learn a lot about oneself through another’s eyes.”
– Clamp Art
A short WIJW interview with the artist follows:
Is there an upcoming show or book in the works that you would like people to know about?
I’m working on a book for my series, “Barmaid.” I finished shooting this series a month and a half ago. I’m also working on a t-shirt project “the gentle of men,” it’s a collaboration between two friends and myself. “Stainable Art, We believe in art you can touch. Art you can wrestle in. Art you can rub your beard on. Art that can be washed with your socks and underwear.” The project began as re-creations of my photographs, but has grown into our creating original designs too. [See link here.]
Tell us about being a photographer—what would you like people to know.
My career started in 1999, using the camera as a tool to capture the experience of life. Vibrant color, humor & my ability to transcend the mundane moments in life that we would normally pass by, are paralleled with intimate moments with friends & lovers. My goal is to produce a visual monologue about my life, revealing the aspects of myself that I am most mystified and riveted by—my sexuality, my personal relationships, the masculine vs. feminine parts of my identity, and my place within society.
My most recent project “Barmaid,” is a collection of self-portraits, portraits and interior landscapes that I captured over a year and a half while working at the Eagle LA.
Tell us about the portrait that you took of you and me.
I wanted to play off of “What is James Wearing;” people are intrigued by you and want to see what creative outfit you’ve been captured in. This is true for me as well, but along with dressing in outlandish, stylish, creative outfits, I often capture myself naked. I don’t pose nude for shock value, it’s a way for me to create a dialogue within my images. In my series “A Ghost is Occupying My Heart” (created between April 2008 and December 2009), I was Inspired with a desire to heal a broken heart and to find myself. I decided to strip myself down emotionally, often literally nude, in order to create a body of work that revealed my search and my pain as honestly as I could.
Usually when I create images in other people’s homes, I have no prior knowledge of how their spaces are styled and this was the case when I showed up at your home in NYC to create a portrait of us together. I assumed by the way you style yourself that I was going to walk into a visual overload, and I was psyched when my assumption was correct. I was inspired by your green Dodie Thayer dishes, and the idea of our having “afternoon tea.” My being nude is a perfect juxtaposition to your casual attire and a nod to my self-portraiture work. We both look directly into the camera, our expressions similar to one another, yet not planned. I’ve captured what I believe is our self-confidence in who we are.
Self-portrait – photo John Arsenault
Thank you John Arsenault for a revealing glimpse of yourself and your work! Like Arsenault, I believe that people in a way act like mirrors—our interactions often forcing ourselves to take a better look inward and reflect on what is going on for us personally.
Self-portrait – photo John Arsenault
Karl-Tee – photo John Arsenault
For Arsenault’s photograph of us (top), I’m sporting a Michael Bastian olive and blue fair isle wool cardigan, Turnbull and Asser blue mini tartan cotton shirt with white contrast collar and cuffs, J Brand Kane jeans, Tom Ford brown leather belt and brown leather tasseled loafers, vintage Rolex watch and my fragrance is Creed Royal-Oud.