Interview: Gio Black Peter -- An Artist, Not A 'Gay Artist'
By Victor Jeffreys II
To say that Gio Black Peter has “been around” would be an understatement. He has done Norway, France, Germany, UK, Belgium, Japan, New York, and every cute guy in Brooklyn (the last statement has not been fact checked). He paints, philosophizes, writes music, makes films, and graciously gives everyone an eye (or mouth) full at his infamous performances. His work speaks from his “heart, guts, and balls” about everything from the role of art in political change to the Pope’s latest garb.
I was first introduced to Gio’s work at a dimly lit unnamed establishment in Brooklyn, through the haze of a night of drinking. There was a voluptuous stripper on the bar and a kid who looked to be about 15, shirtless and sagging, standing by the DJ with a mic in his hand. I remember not being able to understand everything he was saying, but not really caring. I didn't know if it was his pre-pubescent skin, the ostinato patterns screaming from the beat box, the “DNA” tattooed over his heart (Donde Nadie Anda? Damn Nice Ass? Do Not Ask?), or the ardent display of his penis, but I was enthralled. I knew this guy was not your average bear (or twink).
Whether he is drawing gay Matisse orgies with markers, loosing himself in riffs about the “virgin shuffle” (which is 2 guys in a duffle—my kind of dance), or extolling the virtues of being “comfortable viewing male genitalia,” Gio is relentlessly prodding the un(der)analyzed social constructs we live in. His opposing depictions of religion, sex, heteronormativity, and art have pushed him to the extremes of the traditional art world, where he has nevertheless found a powerful voice.
Victor Jeffreys II: You have referenced David Wojnarowicz's Close to the Knives. There is a story in the book about the politicization of his work because of a gay-related civil liberties Supreme Court case. At this moment, he realized that his art was a weapon and that only he could protect and fight for himself. Do you think of your art as political in this way? Can art be a vehicle for social/political change? How does that work?
GBP: Yes, I do. My work is my voice. It allows me to communicate with the world what I feel and think. A big percentage of my work is autobiographical. Unfortunately, most of the time, my lifestyle seems to be in direct opposition with the mainstream majority. My work reminds society that there are those of us who are not being represented, which is why it is important that I keep making work that is honest. Which is something I've always respected about David's work.
A social change cannot come without first acknowledging there is something that needs to be changed. Art allows me to comment on the world I see around me and to point out if I think something is not right.
VJII: You regularly display your penis. Your photographs, paintings, videos, and live performances seem to frequently include it. You are comfortable with yourself and with sex. Over time, do you think making “sex acts” more visible and accessible diminishes the sacredness (rightly or wrongly) associated with sex?
GBP: Who ever said sex should be sacred? It can be, but it doesn't have to be…that falls upon the individual to determine what sex means to them.
…The more it is in their face, the more comfortable they will be with it… That's exactly why I think it is important I keep doing it. The only reason we as a society have a problem with male sexuality and homosexuality is because we as a society reflect the views of the majority who happen to be in charge—heterosexual males. That is why I get labeled (fuck you) “a gay artist,” not an artist.
This piece originally appeared in issue 1 of The Intentional.