“The LGBT movement has come so far, but there are these underlying themes that are still taboo,” says artist Tom Hill. Such as? “Such as the desire of a man for another man, and the exposure of male genitalia.”
Few fine art galleries, in particular, favor works depicting attractive men, even when clothed. One exception is Dupont Circle’s Hillyer Art Space, where throughout the month of June you can see Hill’s “Spark and Stubble,” a series of vividly colored paintings. Whether alone or in pairs, Hill’s men proudly display their bodies in various stages of undress, and each painting is given a succinct, often suggestive caption. The hand-painted images are intentionally erotic and sexually charged — which is not surprising considering that many originated in gay porn. “Part of me is trying to push the envelope,” Hill explains. “What are the distinctions between the body as depicted in porn and the body as depicted in fine art?” Sometimes, he suggests, it’s as subtle — and silly — as a costume change: underwear for porn, a swimsuit for a gallery.
“Painting has always been both a need of expression and a means for communication throughout my life,” says Hill, who turns 60 in July. Hill moved back to his native D.C. with his partner a decade ago after a couple of decades as a professional artist in New York. Hill, whose day job these days is in the national advocacy realm, has run into challenges over the years getting his paintings shown more regularly. “When you do work that has overt sexuality in it,” he says, “there are many places that won’t show you.”
The reception for Tom Hill’s “Spark and Stubble” is Friday, June 6, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Exhibit runs to June 28. Hillyer Art Space at International Arts & Artists, 9 Hillyer Court NW. Call 202-338-0680 or visit artsandartists.org.