Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Making Pictures of Men: Painter Marcelino Goncalves and the Art of the Manly Gaze

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Making Pictures of Men: Painter Marcelino Goncalves and the Art of the Manly Gaze

Article excerpt

Marcelino Goncalves has a queer eye: not for the pumped-up beefcake that has become synonymous with gay art and photography but for the more subtle and soulful aspects of male sexuality. The 37-year-old San Diego--born oil painter renders football players, highway patrolmen, camp counselors, businessmen, and boys next door bathed in the hazy brilliance of summer light. His imagery and style are a world away from the homoeroticism of Abercrombie & Fitch and the explicit promises of "straight college boys go wild" Web sites.

"It's just not sexy," the artist says of the rapidly dissolving line between advertising and pornography. He is bringing back another kind of sexy--the one that lived in the imaginations of 20th-century novelists like Thomas Mann, author of Death in Venice, and the portraiture of English painter David Hockney. Goncalves's work, which was recently shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at Cherry and Martin in Los Angeles (through December 16), shows men as "idealized but humanized." His paintings may incite desire but are much more likely to inspire curiosity.

A visit to his Los Angeles studio, not far from the campus of the University of Southern California, also raises questions. Who, for instance, is the handsome soldier staring out from the half-finished canvas on the wall, and why does he look so much like the young man wearing what appears to be a prom tuxedo?

Both images are of Pat Tillman, the 27-year-old NFL player who two years ago was killed by friendly fire as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. In Tillman, Goncalves has found a man who pushes both personal and political buttons. "He is the typical G.I. Joe," Goncalves says, "scary and sexy, square-jawed in an almost unreal way." Tillman's equally unreal-seeming death, whose circumstances were initially covered up by the U.S. government, is a painful symbol of conflict, Goncalves says, not just in the global theater of war but also within our selves.

Growing up a first-generation American, one of six children of a Portuguese immigrant fisherman, Marcelino Goncalves had some struggles with his burgeoning sexuality. "I went to an all-boys school and I wasn't a big flaming queen; you couldn't be. …

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