How Artist Brad Silk Reinterprets the Masters for Queer Communities

How Artist Brad Silk Reinterprets the Masters for Queer Communities

Brad Silk is a figurative painter based in South Carolina who advocates for the ‘growth and fostering of Queer communities.’ Silk’s lush canvases and pastels on paper depict Queer and trans models in the poses of Old Masters paintings, reconfiguring the work of their predecessors with a contemporary spin that reflects shifting cultural attitudes, and gives Queer and BIPOC artists and community members solid footing in the historical canon.

Not Real Art Artist Of The Day Series

In addition to being a full-time artist and exhibiting their work in galleries and contemporary art venues throughout the U.S., Silk has curated exhibitions in New York and New England, and organized in-person and virtual events for the wellness collective Queer Anga. Their appropriated tableaux recreate iconic paintings by Ingres, Manet, and Michelangelo with nontraditional subjects, revealing their similarities and differences through the figurative landscape.

My work uplifts the Queer Community and focuses on the beauty of all kinds of bodies. I collaborate with Queer models to explore works in Art History, democratizing the hierarchy and elevated Fine Art and Master Works. I work with forgotten or rejected individuals and give them power through representation. Art has been owned by the white-cube institutions who have continuously fed off the ideas of Queer and BIPOC communities while pushing them out. My work focuses on these groups and represents them within the history of art. My work plays with identities: gender, ethnicity, sex, and culture.

Silk’s work builds upon the figurative drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, the nudes of Wilhelm Van Gloeden and Thomas Eakins, and the wry postmodern restagings of Mickalene Thomas. By subverting the worn rubric of the heterosexual male artist creating female nudes for the gratification of their peers, they encourage viewers to reconsider the artist/model relationship and view iconic images from a fresh perspective. Their rethinking of paintings from the past challenges obsolete ways of seeing and provides a more fluid and inclusive road map for other 21st-century artists.

Table of Contents

Brad Silk — Artist Statement

Brad Silk

Fueled by an interest in psychology, my work explores the human condition through a focus on the Queer Community. I expose the similarities and differences of individuals’ or group philosophy, behavior, and experiences through figurative landscapes. Grounded in the body—the way we hold ourselves, the folds of fat and muscle, and of course our facial expressions that reveal hidden truths—I try to unite the divided culture by sharing intimate spaces and moments. I fold in scenes and imagery from collected and personal history, setting the figures in a mist of symbols from art history, popular culture, and found photographs or conversations with the subject.

Brad Silk – Grant Submission Work

Brad Silk. Cr3emy, 2020
Cr3emy, 2020
Pastel on paper
22 x 30 inches

Interpretation of Olympia by Manet, part of my Queering Art History series, where I impose Queer figures into Masters' works.

Brad Silk. Jase, 2021
Jase, 2021
Oil on Board
24 x 36 inches

Portrait of a trans-activist as part of Queer Intimacy, a project focusing on Queer individuals finding comfort, ease, and peace.

Brad Silk. Andy, 2020
Andy, 2020
Pastel on paper
22 x 30 inches

Portrait of a transman as part of Queer Intimacy, a project focusing on Queer individuals finding comfort, ease, and peace.

Brad Silk. Grande Odalisque, 2020
Grande Odalisque, 2020
Pastel on paper
22 x 30 inches

Interpretation of Grande Odalisque by Ingres, part of my Queering Art History series, where I impose Queer figures into Masters' works.

Brad Silk. David (Mars), 2020
David (Mars), 2020
Pastel on Paper
33 x 20 inches

Part of my Queering Art History series, where I impose Queer figures into Masters' works.

Artist Bio

Brad Silk has exhibited in galleries such as Field Projects, New York, NY, Hygienic Art Gallery, New London, CT, Gallery110, Seattle, WA, and a Solo-Exhibition with Bear Gallery of Beverly, MA. Silk has also curated exhibitions in NYC and New England with organizations like PS122 Gallery, HEREarts, and the permanent collections of Queens Community House. Through art and exhibition, they advocate for the growth and fostering of Queer Communities. Silk also brings this advocacy to the Community Outreach role of the wellness collective Queer Anga, where they organized the 2019 Pride event Joy Before the Rage and 2020 Online Pride events, including Draw-In (a Zoom life drawing class) in addition to Queer Anga’s regular monthly events.

Brad Silk on the Web And Social Media

Here is where to find out more about Brad on the web and social media:

About the Artist of the Day Series

All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.


Tags

BIPOC, conceptual art, figurative, fineart, gender, LGBTQ, nude, oil painting, Old Masters, painter, pastels, queer artist, trans


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