Artist Brian Kenny Gets eFEMMEreal in Man-gerie; About Changing Perspectives Towards Gender and Sexuality [NSFW]

Sometimes I get really lucky and catch an artist when their work is transforming. That was certainly the case when I asked artist, Brian Kenny, for an interview.
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Portrait by Daniel Jack Lyons. Styling by Jimmy Helvin.

Sometimes I get really lucky and catch an artist when their work is transforming. That was certainly the case when I asked artist, Brian Kenny, for an interview. We met in his studio in Long Island City and he showed me what he was working on these days. As we thumbed through his canvases and talked it became clear that both his work and certain aspects of his life are in major transition. To put it briefly, he's exploring all things femme.

We decided it would be fun to play with the ideas that came up in our conversation and the Valentine holiday and have photographer Daniel Jack Lyons shoot Kenny in some lingerie for men (designed by Jimmy Helvin).

Phillip M. Miner (PM): You said in an interview a while back that you're interested in the distortion of gender and sexual boundaries. Is that still true?

Brian Kenny (BK): Yeah, this is something that started for me years ago and it's a wonderful, ongoing unfolding. Coming out as a teenager was a very hard thing for me to do coming from a catholic, conservative family. When I finally came out I was waving the rainbow flag like, 'I'm gay I'm gay I'm gay!" and began to work on, and champion my masculinity. I went to the gym, shaved my head, dressed like a jock or thug etc.

I did this for a few reasons. It allowed me to attract the kind of people I liked and it just seemed like the gayest thing to do. Everything was all out muscles, men, machismo, bros, and dicks. [Laughs]

Portrait by Daniel Jack Lyons. Styling by Jimmy Helvin.

Fifteen years later, I'm kind of over it and at a place now where I'm interested in exploring my own inner femininity. I think that female energy is in all men to some degree, but for me, as a gay man, I skipped or washed over the 'divine' feminine with all the trappings of my obsessive masculinity.

I also recently began realize and accept that I'm not completely gay. This year I started experimenting with women and found out to my surprise that I really like it! I'm into it, it's hot in a new and exciting way for me. While I think I'll always remain mostly gay, I feel it's important for me as an artist and person to be open to exploring these new sexual titillations while also permitting myself to deconstruct and tease my precious masculinity.

PM: In what ways has this deconstruction of self found its way into your art?

BK: A few years ago, I made some drawings of deconstructed American flags and realized I had to learn to sew to make them real. So I bought a sewing machine and learned to sew. Turns out I love sewing! I made deconstructed variations of the flag and then started sewing banners using all the thuggy, sporty clothing I used to wear when i was in my early 'ultra-bro twenties -- durags and baggy pants and oversize football and basketball jerseys.

So now with my pink sewing machine I'm literally deconstructing my old life in a way to make fresh art that reflects my current mindset. More obviously, women, trannies, lingerie, feminized bros and selfies have also began popping up in work.

Portrait by Daniel Jack Lyons. Styling by Jimmy Helvin.

PM: Is your work always that personal?

Yes. When I make art, I try not to know or plan what I'm going to make before I start, I just begin drawing or putting bits together. But Ironically enough, the less I think about it, the more it ends up being autobiographical and personal. personal stuff just comes out on its own. I think that in a lot of ways, art-making is my own therapy, or religion. I work through a lot of feelings, questions and experiences in my practice. Of course, I realize that a lot of my art can be too specific or emotional for certain audiences but i don't care. I like being honest and personal in my work because I feel like the best story I can tell is my own.

PM: Painting's new for you, right?

BK: I just moved into painting this year. I'm super comfortable with drawing. So, comfortable I can draw on anything, canvas, paper, objects, people. I can do it in my sleep. My left hand, my right hand, in front of an audience. Blindfolded. That's why I decided I needed to move on. Painting is definitely new and a challenge! [laughs]

I'm still wrapping my head around it. Its a transition period. I'm figuring out how to adapt my drawing style to painting. I'm learning what kind of brushes and paints I like to use; What styles work best for me. I'm vacillating between making clean work and messy work and making work that are reproductions of former work and work in which I have no idea where I'm going. I'm just pulling out canvases and painting stuff on them.

I really love painting, so I don't think I'm going to give it up anytime soon. I think painting also fits more naturally into my developing feminine energies. My Drawing has been so masculine: consistant, immediate, clear, constructional and specific, whereas I feel like painting is more feminine; it's all about layers, depth, moods, sublety, and blending. I like this new direction and balancing of energies and look forward to see how these shifting paradigms will affect my artistic output in the long run. I believe that continuing to challenge and deconstruct old ideas while constantly looking for new experiences and considering new approaches is the key to a living a rich and inspiring creative life.

Portrait by Daniel Jack Lyons. Styling by Jimmy Helvin.

To see more of Kenny's work, check out the slide show below:

The Artwork of Brian Kenny

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