J. Bruce Wilcox a Gay Artist for all times. “I am an artist making art not a quilter making quilts.”

Posted: February 23, 2019 in *Celebration*, art, for your reflection, From us to you, HIGH queer art, Queer Thoughts, Thank You

We are a member of the Queer Artist group on facebook and have come to love certain artists in the group and always look forward to their new postings and comments. J. Bruce Wilcox is an artist that we love and admire. Not only for his art but for his social commentaries. Wilcox says about himself “I refer to myself as a fiber or textile artist. I am not a quilter. I do not make quilts. I do not think like a quilter. My reasons for creating and my intended end-use of that creation are different than most quilters. And I don’t give a fuck about the tradition of quiltmaking. I just call it art.” Indeed and we do too. We are showing some examples of his art, work that inspires us, moves us and gets us thinking. We hope our readers from all over the world will find as much enjoyment in his work as we do.

J. Bruce Wilcox has given this blog permission to publish this exhibition and we thank him.

“I am an artist making art not a quilter making quilts!”

J. Bruce Wilcox (this work is unfinished)

“As an out gay male working in a predominately female medium- over time I’ve had to deal with all the stereotypes involved. I learned to sew when I was 8. I’ve been working with/in fiber my whole life. I made my first art quilt in 1977 and won a Best-In-Show award on it. I was 24 and nobody knew what an art quilt was.”

Below is one of our favorite art works, Masquerade. Bruce says about work such as this: “I’m an abstract artist- having little interest in representational art. My history/roots are artists who moved away from representation into pure abstraction- including geometric and math influenced artists- as well as pop/op artists. My work continues to be about vibration- but also texture. And although it’s mostly me who is confrontational- the work is inherently challenging because it simply no longer has anything to do with the tradition of quiltmaking.”

Masquerade.

Masquerade like many of J. Bruce Wilcox’s work captured my interest for their movement, and their vibration adding that whole other dimension to the art works. This work moves us into the great tradition of the Op Artists who I believe have to be some of the most interesting artists creating some of the more interesting art works of the 20th century. Think about it, a flat canvas, an art work that moves, it no longer stays still hanging up there on the wall. It is here and there, vibrating, flashing, swelling, wrapping, moving in and out, disappearing and reappearing. When I was in high school my art teacher was involved with the Op Art Movement. Myself and a few other budding young artists were invited to the opening of the Responsive Eye at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1965. How thrilled she was to have her work hanging in the same room as Josef Albers. The connection, she was one of the people who brought Albers and his wife Annie to this country. Masquerade by J. Bruce Wilcox could have hung brilliantly among the other works in the exhibition. Next up is the eye popping unfinished work that would cause Bridget Riley to applaud.

Existential Foundation

This work above is unfinished but we find it to be extraordinary. It captures the spirit of abstract art and brings it beyond. Truly on the way to becoming a masterpiece.

Cascade

What was once considered low art, craft, or useful purpose, in the tradition of quilting, now in the hands of queers artists such as J. Bruce Wilcox are works of art no longer decorative coverlets of our grandmothers and mothers. When we asked the artist “Do many people look at you as a decorative quilt maker, he replied: “Anyone who mistakes me for a quilter finds out pretty fast where I stand.” In the Denver Post article he has this to say:  “As a working artist I learned over the years that I simply don’t think like most quilters. The word “quilt” conjures up certain images. A quilt is a noun that describes something warm, comfy and functional. I don’t make anything that fits that description. To quilt is a verb referring to a specific skill used in manufacturing the noun. I’m a fiber artist. I make non-functional textile art, not quilts.”

Rainbow Tribe

We had a lively discussion on Queer Artist site about bourgeois decorative art, vrs. political art. The person posting went so far as to claim that if art was not political then it was mere decoration. That all art must be political in these times. J. Bruce Wilcox had this to say:

“In my reality there are way more reasons for art to exist than just political and/or decoration. I don’t think with that limited perspective. And the wholeness conversation is a long one. As an abstract artist people assume I’m creating decoration because they can’t find anything representational in it. That is their problem- not mine. On the other hand my EXISTENCE is political. So all of my art is political because on some level- it reflects my ongoing experience.”

Around and Around

“I self-recognize that working in my fiber medium would balance my masculine and feminine energies, allowing a state of wholeness to manifest.” artist statement, J. Bruce Wilcox. We say HEAR, HEAR!

Someone asked me why do you love these works so much. Let me say first, they are just beautiful. Beautiful works of art that amaze me to no end. I feel good writing this and I feel good looking at the work. I think about the work when I am away from my desk. It is work that I carry with me. Of course coming from a very political place I then would add that J. Bruce Wilcox certainly challenges the structures and straight jackets that we for many years were forced to live in and many times are still being forced by straight society. I am not sure if there are some who would think that a women artist made these works when looking at these wall hangings but one thing is certain queer artists have joined the ranks in breaking down established roles that for centuries plagued people, that for centuries have keep us in a straight line, under the thumb of foolishness. Our artists now work in so many mediums that were once reserved for women, crafters and decorative artists. Breaking free and throwing open doors. Political you betcha. A breath of fresh air, certainly.  I learned a long time ago that there are many doors to be unlocked in our fight for liberation and many keys to use and yes sometimes we do indeed kick in the door but that is to be expected of any people who are oppressed.

Subverting the historical narrative of male and female. Pushing aside men’s and women’s work. Building beyond. We like what Wilcox said about this in an interview with the Denver Post: “I’ve been dealing with the gender issue from the beginning, and it’s time for it to change. There are no longer any good reasons for anybody to continue to assume that anything can be defined as women’s work, a shameful derogatory label that, when used recently by the Post, even offended some of my women friends. I live with another male, yet I’m an independent entity, part of no couple. There are no women around. We both cook, clean, do laundry and take the garbage out. There is no “women’s work” being done. The domestic work of any household can no longer be defined as women’s. Both women and straight men need to get this.”

In my household of today we approach work the same. In the home where I grew up I remember my grandmother number one rule was, “There is no women’s work or men’s work. Work is work and we do it all.”

Fractured Holstein

I asked J. Bruce about his process of making his art and he replied:

“Over time as I became confident with my knowledge- awareness- creativity- skill set- materials- tools- and everything else- my process just became ongoing. I’m continuously inspired because I’m immersed in and aware of the Creative Field we all exist in. I have so many things unfolding all the time- that I’ll just get a hit on something I’m working on. I’m literally *thinking* about the work 100% of the time- even while sleeping. I’ll go to bed thinking about something I’m working on and in the morning I’ll know what to do next.
I do occasionally have to focus on something specific but most of the time it’s just flowing all around me.”

“So I don’t really start with anything anymore. I just keep working because I know that while I’m working I’ll get a hundred other ides to think about. I don’t like to regret- but one regret is knowing that (all by myself) I’ll never be able to manifest as much as I might have had I been able to get a little help. And that’s too bad.

“As far as design- I do spend some of the time inventing tessellations. But at another time I’ll just cut something up and put it back together and make that piece. I’m starting to create more backgrounds for intense surface stitching- which is really my roots. We’ll see where that goes.”

Fractured: 6 Hardware and Leather

“What my work reflects is my acceptance of my recognized and honored balanced masculine/feminine nature. Which makes me a queer. Yet I love my current gender and have no interest in being any other gender- and I’m not a heterosexual male.”

36 Circles 2017 Batik Stitchery

This wonderful unfinished pink and black work caught our eye. We must admit we are queer anarchists or at least try to be anarchist, no problems with being queer. We asked J. Bruce about his work and he replied: “Florescent pink and black? I’m was born in the 1950s. I graduated high school in 1971. I worked in a fabric store in the late 1980s/early 90s which is the time period these textiles came from. I stockpiled that era’s florescent fabrics. So- pink and black? I’m gay. And I’m likely/definitely kinda pervy. Twisted. Rude. The work is about vibration. Pink and black are a specific vibration. So are black and grey. The checks vibrate. The off-grainlines vibrate. If it’s hard to look at I’ve succeeded. Every once in a while a piece just hangs and wails. That vibration can be somewhat disconcerting…”

Mandala

Squares and crosses 2003

Rebirth Day

 

J. Bruce Wilcox Speaking on process:

If you’re feeling inspired- go work.
If you’re feeling uninspired- go to work.
If you don’t have a specific idea: sketch- draw- even doodle. Or get out brushes and paint.
Get out some graph paper. Or newsprint.
Or study. Go to a museum. A gallery. A bookstore.
Or go take pictures. Of everything. Let everything be inspiring.
If you want to be continuously inspired- go to work. Keep working.
When you’re working- when your focus is work- you move into the flow.
In the flow you are simply open to inspiration.
While working (in a creative flow) being open allows idea after idea to open into your awareness.
Why? Because if you’re always working- you have plugged directly INTO your Creation Experience.
And your heart/brain/mind/spirit/soul is always contemplating the work.
That is direct communication with your Self- the SELF.
Inspiration is the logical outcome of making a universal or cosmic connection.
So if you’re tired- rest.
But if you’re feeling uninspired- go work

J. Bruce Wilcox has exhibited in many one man exhibitions, groups shows, national and international shows, fiber art exhibitions, contemporary quilt exhibitions, juried shows, fashion shows, and invitational exhibitions.

Notes:

Denver Post interview “What Needles One Colorado Artist can be found Here.

Facebook page to view more works by J. Bruce Wilcox is HERE. 

J. Bruce Wilcox web site can be found HERE.

Check out the store Covetables in Jersey City NJ. where J. Bruce Wilcox has work HERE.   Main facebook page HERE. 

From the Denver Post article:

“I’m a designer of intricate interlocking tessellations. As I am developing a pattern I compile a palette. My palette can consist of a single fabric cut off grain and recombined- or one to two hundred different textiles in a single piece of art. I cut out an enormous number of individual parts and then lay out the entire piece to determine an approximate finished size/shape. I then build it, usually from the bottom up, constantly rearranging the individual parts during construction until the finished work emerges. Yet this is only the surface, and the work isn’t completed until it has gone through a hand stitching phase and is finally bound, prepared to hang and signed.”..J. Bruce Wilcox.

Thoughts and questions:

So much Gay art today is centered around the nude male, males with erections and males with other males who look like they are having a great time. Some on social media even question if art that does not include the nude as centerpiece is even or can even be considered gay art. Considering that at one time there was a tradition of nude males in art and this tradition seemed to go underground we welcome today this swing to full frontal male nudity in any manner shape or form. But we also recognize that art does not confine itself within boundaries and can never be restricted to one form rather than another and certainly not in this day and age.

We presented such a question to Wilcox and he answered: “My work is gay because I’m gay. Art IS more than just homoerotic imagery. Artists choose to pursue what interests them. I think that more than just sex should inform your art- but my opinion is just an opinion.”

One question that we had and remains with us is about a queer spirit. Is there something that comes through even an abstract piece that just feels like queer spirit? Why many times in our viewing of art am I as a queer man attracted and drawn to works to find out later are by a queer man? Is it that old gaydar that was talked about years ago. Is there something in the art and artist that has not like so many straightened the genes? We see the straightening of our genes as a real political problem with all of the assimilationist cries for inclusion. One thing we like to remind LGBT folks is, As LGBT we are and always will be the other. No getting around that. No matter how many of straight societies trappings one wraps themselves in we should remember what Harry Hay once said, “When push comes to shove we will find that out real fast.”

I asked J. Bruce Wilcox this question: There is some exciting art being done by queers today much of it outside of the mainstream gallery system. Do you encounter any problems with exhibiting your works.

He answered this way: “I’ve been exhibiting for 40+ years. Yes- being gay has gotten in the way of some of it. Yes- being male has gotten in the way of some of it. Yes- being an asshole has gotten in the way of some of it. I just keep pushing it out there. The word might be perseverance- but it’s really persistence and obsession.”

Recognizing that we as the LGBTQ community are living in very dangerous times furbirdsqueerly always likes to ask artists and LGBT folks this question: As a queer why is it important that we oppose trump and all of his followers and of course anyone else who gets in our way of liberation and what do you see the future holding for us not only as queer artists but as a queer community? We at furbirdsqueerly know that on many occasions through out our history, we have found ourselves on the end of America’s beating stick and find ourselves in that place today. We do not believe that anyone can separate our very breathing from the political situation we find our self in.

Wilcox said to this question: Politics? Trump? We’re in democracy surviving mode. The gay community- no matter how far we’ve come- is one blink away from losing it all. Gay people supporting Trump? Mind-numbing.

Furbirdqueerly Notes

Once over on the Queer Artist page a person posted that if art in these times wasn’t political then it was merely bourgeois decoration. A lively conversation came about among several of us. Wilcox entered the conversation by saying that he had been accused of being a decorative artist and added, “Bourgeois decoration? Maybe true. But as an abstract artist not all politics are easily recognizable to everybody. Some are far more subversive…” and this “I think a larger truth is that abstract art- precisely because it isn’t representational and therefore just generally challenges people’s beliefs pretty much about everything- is political because it’s challenging. In fact- everything doesn’t have to be logically explainable. Some things can just be directly experiential.”

You know I have never been fond of gate keepers. The person saying that about art certainly fits the bill. Yeah, yeah we know gates and gatekeepers are everywhere. One of the ideas surrounding LGBT folks in the early days of our resistance was to smash the gates put the gatekeeper on the run and toppling and transforming institutions. Well somewhere along the road to liberation people again became fond of gate keepers even awarding them prominent places in our movement.  The person who posted the statement about political art being the only art sure is trying once again to establish themselves as a valid gatekeeper of something as in flux as art. No one can be a gate keeper of what is art or isn’t art. This is why we remain opposed to any capitalist meddling in art or the rich and their puppets writing our art history and declaring who should be in our art books. The fight continues. Yes, yes we know these types are everywhere, whose tastes folks try to please along with the gallery owners, and the kiss ass artists, the art critics and academics. You know in France the folks at the asylum of Charenton had to crown Jean Paul Marat with leaves rather than laurels as the laurels had all gone to crown the enormous heads of academics, generals, and heads of state. Take that as you may. We often wonder what Madame De Farge would knit these days?

Just a bit on Op Art’
Op art is a perceptual experience related to how vision functions. It is a dynamic visual art that stems from a discordant figure-ground relationship that puts the two planes—foreground and background—in a tense and contradictory juxtaposition. Artists create op art in two primary ways. The first, best known method, is to create effects through pattern and line.

Thinking about J. Bruce Wilcox and his art.

In thinking about these works I know many people have a lot to get passed. We must look at these works as art works not as functional utilitarian decorative objects for our beds or to snuggle under on a cold night. Of course that isn’t to say that something that is functional, utilitarian or a decorative object is not art. My home is full of such things from beautiful hand crocheted dollies, a tatted tablecloth made by my great grandmother in Sweden and sent to my grandmother on her marriage, objects gathered in our travels to paintings and sculpture by ourselves and by artists we admire.

It isn’t hard to look at these works by J. Bruce Wilcox and know they are not grandmothers quilts. We know that it is hard for many to distinguish between seeing, thinking, feeling, and remembering. It is hard to throw off centuries of now unwanted thought. We must try and continue to try to strip away associations, habits, and references to previous held assumptions and free ourselves. How many times have we found the “bird” in an abstract painting that has no bird, never had a bird and the artist will tell you your found bird is BS?

Want to see some queer art from around the world. Go to Queer Artist page at HERE.

We will be continuing this series of honoring our Queer artists on this site. We have 3 more artists in mind for articles and one group show in the works on the Male nude. We are in full support of full frontal male nudity and out Queer Artists many times working against the grain and many times discouraged by the gate keepers within and without our community. As a friend and comrade of mine told me once, “Do not let those who are doing nothing interrupt those who are doing something.”

 

 

 

Comments
  1. J. Bruce Wilcox says:

    Thanks so much Richard Nelson!

  2. Elmer says:

    What wonderful works. They make me so happy. I never know what to say about art but these works I really like. I think Cascade is my favorite.

  3. Bill says:

    Thanks for sharing this artist! Much appreciated!