Grindr has been called a lot of things but rarely is it thought of as inspirational. However, a new portrait series may make you change the way you look at the gay social network.
Artist Ted Sterchi's latest project finds him taking photos from the app popular for helping gay men find dates and sex partners and turning them into beautiful watercolor illustrations.
The Huffington Post recently caught up with Sterchi, 27, who currently resides in London, to chat about his men of Grindr paintings, the feedback he's received from Grindr users, how he chooses his subjects and more.
The Huffington Post: What inspired the project?
Ted Sterchi: The whole idea behind it is to take these sometimes sexual images with blunt headlines and essentially make them into inoffensive confections. I guess some of them are still a bit sexy, but it's not really what I'm going for. It's so easy to stumble across nearly anything, including porn, on Tumblr, and I kind of wanted to counteract that -- not that I'm a prude, but I think there are enough people doing it already. The idea itself came to me while I was just sitting on my couch playing video games. I immediately texted my friends -- we're always bouncing creative ideas off each other -- and that was that. I think I painted ten portraits on the first night.
(INTERVIEW CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW)
Have you heard from any of the guys that you've painted? Was anyone flattered? Was anyone upset?
In many cases I'll send guys a snapshot of the illustrations straight after painting them, and in each case (so far) they've been well received. It's kind of fun to catch people off guard. Most people on Grindr are looking for a date or sex, so to instead receive a painting of themselves must be a surprise and that's part of the fun. The only time I've been asked to take down a photo was from a friend, actually. I've been reading a lot of the comments around the Internet and it's been 98% good feedback, with the occasional "but what if he's in the closet?". Of course I'm always afraid I might offend someone and I dread the day that I get a really negative comment, but it's all all done in good nature and I'm not trying to criticize or out anybody. Since the project has taken off I've had a lot of people, including straight guys and girls, requesting to be painted so that makes me feel good.
Why does a particular photo speak to you and how do you choose your subjects?
In the very beginning I tended to paint more abstract profile images of guys who I presume to be in the closet: pictures of cats, roosters, or a beautiful sunset. Funny headlines are always a big draw too. Nowadays I usually paint people who actually post pictures of themselves, but I always try to capture the diversity amongst the gay community; I'm lucky that London is such a diverse city. I do however have a weakness for facial hair, so if I find that I'm gravitating toward the same thing then I try to make it a point to do something different next time. Grindr can be really superficial, with people making snap judgements without taking the time to get to know you, so in a way my paintings have forced me to cast my net wider than I probably would have before. I'm generally more attracted to guys my age, but some of my favorite paintings of mine are of much older guys.
How do you personally feel about Grindr? Do you use it?
I'm on it, but pretty much only to paint! In the past I've used it for dates, but honestly I got a bit tired. I'm probably on my phone too much as it is so I just found it to be really distracting, but now that I'm approaching it from such a different angle it's not so bad. I deleted my Facebook profile last year and I very sparingly use Twitter, so the idea of having an app that allows strangers to proposition me for sex while I'm shopping for groceries is a bit strange, but that's just me. At the same time I obviously can't knock it because it's made this whole project possible; Grindr is what you make of it.
What are your thoughts on how art and technology influence one another?
I'm a web designer by trade, so in a way I'm living this marriage of art and technology on a daily basis. To me, technology is a double-edged sword in that it's ridiculously distracting and enabling in equal measure. Never before has it been so easy for artists to share their work and collaborate, but I think it's good to step away from the computer or smart phone occasionally to get a clear mind. Technology, and the rate at which it's developing and affecting our social lives, also proves to be great fodder for artists, my project being a prime example. Without technology, I definitely wouldn't be where I am right now!