Tell me about the show.
There’s two parts to it. One is this video installation, it’s a seven-channel video that I shot in 2014 of the house I grew up in in Denver. I found out that my parents were going to sell it. I had lived there for 18 years and they had lived there for almost 40 years at that point, and because of the neighborhood it was in, I basically knew that once they sold it it was going to be destroyed, and it was within a few months of shooting the video.
It looks really new in the video.
I guess it was well taken care of. I asked my parents to get all their stuff out of it as much as possible, and they did, and I helped them. They had recently painted their bedroom, which actually kind of annoyed me at the time. A lot of the other rooms still had marring and other stuff on the walls. But the other section is drawings that are based on photographs that I took of my first boyfriend in high school for his senior yearbook picture, and then I asked my second boyfriend, who’s an artist as well, to draw them. They’re called 'First Love as Drawn by Second Love.'
So your work primarily is video?
I would say that’s kind of the core, but I do a lot of other things, too.
What were you focusing on with this show? Architecture? Is that too obvious?
I like that it makes architecture into a kind of object. But it’s also a meditation on family, love, loss, memory — all those kinds of things. In general, with my work, I often have very personal, autobiographical things within the pieces, but then I treat them in a minimal, almost cold way, in order to flatten them out, in an attempt to make it more accessible to everybody. So, it’s taking very loaded information and loaded material and mashing it up against a minimal form.
I guess you can feel that. Just seeing an empty house gives you that feeling of, 'What happened?'
There’s a lot of suggestion of things that could’ve happened, but there’s not a lot of telling, I think.
Above: 'First Love as Drawn by Second Love (fences and pipes),' 2018, and 'First Love as Drawn by Second Love (public art)', 2018. Both: graphite on paper rendered by Benjamin Kress, acrylic frame, 20.25 x 17.75 inches, photo by Charles Benton.
How do you think the two sections engage with each other?
I think of that boyfriend in relation to this place, this house—it was where my bedroom was where we first got together, my first gay experience. They’re very much connected.
You’ve only ever had the two boyfriends?
No, no, I’ve had other boyfriends, those were just the first two.
Did you have to look up the second one?
No, he lives here in New York. My first boyfriend, we grew up together, we went to middle school and high school together, then went to college together. Then he broke up with me during the first year of college, decided he was straight, has a wife and kid now. We’re still close, but it took a while to get over it. And then I left college—I actually dropped out of undergrad. I don’t know if it was because of him, but I was devastated from the breakup, and just really depressed. I moved here to New York to try and pursue being an artist and then met who would become my second boyfriend, Ben Kress, who did the drawings. I was in awe—I’m still in awe—of his abilities as an artist. I can’t draw like that, I wish I could. So, it was important to me that he made them. When I look at them, I think to myself, 'Yeah, it took me kind of my whole life to get to this place where I’m even able to ask this person to make these as a part of the concept of my show.' It’s all of these relationships—the love and trust that worked together in order to create that, and I feel really happy about them because of that.
It’s almost like your whole life is this show.
That’s interesting—it is kind of like that! I keep telling people, it took me 41 years to make this show—and I’m 41 years old.
When did you move to New York—when did all of this occur?
I moved to New York in ’98. So, those portraits were shot in ’95, for our senior yearbook.
Above: Installation views, 'With You… Me,' 2018 at JTT.
It looks '90s, the things he’s wearing. What's that screen I'm looking at?
Those are glow-in-the-dark stars that I hung very meticulously on my bedroom ceiling as a child, and when I went back to shoot the house I found them there, and was amazed that they were still working.
What's this ambient noise I'm hearing?
This is pink noise, which is different than white noise. It’s lower than white noise. White noise, I think, is all the tones together, and pink noise has a lower register. I’ve always liked the sound of it and I was trying to figure out what, if any, sound I would use for this piece. There wasn’t sound in it for a long time when I was working on it. But when things are totally silent, it’s actually kind of hard to watch the piece, or to focus. It’s almost like the pink noise is similar to the sound of silence, and allows focus. When it’s totally silent you hear every little rustle of your clothes, things moving around, whatever. I always liked listening to pink noise, and I looked it up and it’s actually the sound that occurs most frequently in nature—our hearts make it, planets moving make it, electronics make it, different insects make it. So, it’s actually kind of this life force sound.
Are there other colors of noise?
There’s brown noise. But also, I love the name of pink noise.
It’s a very subtle nod at gayness.
Being a fag, yeah.
Is all of this information in the press release?
I try to make my press releases like a part of the show—as if they were another work in it. So, the main part of the press release is a correspondence between me and Lucas, who was my first boyfriend.
Oh! I got that email! It was weird—I didn’t really understand what was happening.
That’s probably my doing. We wrote a text that comes after the email, but I’m kind of opposed to doing that. I know people want it, but I sort of like that it’s clearly autobiographical, but that there’s still a lot left unexplained.
Above: 'First Love as Drawn by Second Love (the sun inside him),' 2018 and 'First Love as Drawn by Second Love (industrial stoop),' 2018, both: graphite on paper rendered by Benjamin Kress, photo by Charles Benton.
Cover photo: 'First Love as Drawn by Second Love (fences and pipes),' 2018. All photos courtesy of the artist and JTT Gallery.
'With Me... You,' will be on view ay JTT Gallery through October 21.