Installation view, A Place For Me: Figurative Painting Now, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 2022. Photo by Mel Taing.
Artists David Antonio Cruz and Doron Langberg join Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator, for a conversation about their creative processes and the opportunities for liberation, intimacy, and queer authenticity in contemporary figurative art, as shown in their works exhibited in A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now. Joining the artists on the stage, Grace Sterling Stowell, founding executive director of the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Youth (BAGLY), will share her unique Boston perspective on the importance of visibility and representation for LGBTQ+ youth through the ongoing work at BAGLY.
The discussion will conclude with a spoken word performance by Max McLune, a Youth Leadership Committee member and POC Meeting Facilitator at BAGLY, reflecting on the idea of chosen family.
David Antonio Cruz is a Boston- and New York-based painter and mixed-media performance artist whose work centers Black, brown, and queer bodies. Inviting friends, family, artists, and others to be a part of his paintings has long been a part of Cruz’s process. In a new series of works, chosen family, the artist asks sitters to invite another person, or group of people, to gather with their chosen kin as a way to express the nonbiological bonds queer people form out of mutual support and love. Created during the pandemic, these intimate and collaborative moments of connection expand on conventional notions of family and portraiture. With festive color palettes, luminous skin tones, and lush patterning, Cruz’s paintings present his intersectional subjects in ways that defy conventions. His arrangements reimagine posture, autonomy, and rigidity to underscore the bonds and liberty of his sitters. In the artist’s words, “My work is a celebration of life, of being. Living in the moment and full of life. I treasure that. I had a choice to live as my authentic self or live for someone else a long time ago. I needed to live truthfully — so I chose me.”
Doron Langberg is a New York-based painter invested in the relationship between individual lived experiences and emotional states that are universal across social categories. Touch, physicality, and movement are significant areas of focus in his vivid paintings, which include portraits of his lovers, friends, family, and wider social circle. Langberg typically paints from life, creating small, observational pieces that he translates into large-scale paintings using a wide ranges of tools and techniques. Often depicting private, ordinary moments, his canvases combine highly rendered portions with gestural swaths of colorful brushstrokes, initiating an evocative dialogue between bodies and unrestrained sensation, while challenging figurative painting’s desire for completion. “I see my work as an aspirational space where queer experiences can embody more than just what they depict,” explains Langberg. “My paintings are both a real reflection of my everyday experiences, and an alternate reality where queerness is allowed to be expansive and generative.”
Grace Sterling Stowell has been a pioneering activist and leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and social justice communities for over 40 years. Grace is the founding executive director of the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Youth (BAGLY), one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ youth organizations in the nation. Grace is a founding member of several local and national LGBTQ youth advocacy organizations, and she currently serves as an Executive Committee member of the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth, a Steering Committee member of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), and a Board Member of Breaktime. Grace is also a nationally known advocate and leader on the issues facing transgender youth and young adults.
Grace received a B.A. in English from Curry College in Milton, MA, and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, and she currently resides in Cambridge, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. While Grace has served many roles in her community work over the past four decades, she is particularly honored to be known as “Mother” (and now “Grandmother!”) by three generations of greater Boston’s LGBTQ youth.
Max McLune (they/he) is a Jamaican-American Boston native. They are excited to continue their work on the YLC as the BIPOC Meeting facilitator, as well as taking on the role of Speaker’s Bureau Peer Leader. They are a recent graduate of Hampshire College where they majored in creative writing and cultural studies, with particular interest to the intersections of race theory and queer theory. They hope to integrate their studies with their previous experience in leadership positions and working with youth, and to bring those experiences to BAGLY.
They are a proud dog dad of two little terriers. When not smothering them in love, they enjoy hanging out (safely) with friends around Boston, cooking, working out, reading, and playing videogames.
A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now is organized by Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator, with Anni Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant.
Support for A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now is generously provided by Katie and Paul Buttenwieser, Ellen Poss, Stephen Baker and Gavin Kennedy, Patrick Planeta and Santiago Varela, and an anonymous donor.
Support for The Artist’s Voice: David Antonio Cruz and Doron Langberg is provided by The ‘Quin Impact Fund.