The Houston artist brings his work to Chasen Galleries this month as part of VA Pride's month-long celebration of Virginia's LGBTQ community.
Sarah Honosky | September 13, 2018
Virginia PrideFest is just around the corner, and Richmond is preparing for the largest LGBTQ event in the state, one expected to bring out more than 30 thousand folks to celebrate the gayest day of the year. Although the Pride festival lasts only one day, the effort to create an inclusive and supportive LGBTQ community is a year-round process. This year, Virginia Pride has produced a series of events taking place in conjunction with the festival, one of which is bringing openly gay Houston artist Jumper Maybach to Richmond’s Chasen Galleries, where Pride: The Introspection Series is on display throughout the month of September.
Maybach has had a curious journey, and he would attest that his painting has been a literal godsend. He had never even picked up a paintbrush until 2011, when an incident of workplace harassment and his impending legal case against the perpetrators drove him to look for answers.
“One morning I got on my hands and knees and went into a deep prayer, and meditation, and I heard a voice. I had this amazing, overwhelming, presence that came into me that told me to be Jumper and to paint, to spread the word,” said Maybach. “And that when the door opens, don’t question it. Go through it, and paint.”
That message brought with it a determination to help end hate and discrimination through his work, which is dedicated to keeping others from the same bullying and homophobia that he was forced to face daily.
Maybach immediately started googling paint equipment, ran out and bought canvases and brushes. “I was in a manic state of having to paint,” he said. His partner of 46 years came downstairs to find him throwing paint around the living room, antique furniture be damned.
Maybach’s artistic style is imbued with color and light, a Jackson Pollock-esque homage to the splattered canvas and emotional symbolism, a migration into the abtract. “A lot of my art has symbolic statements in it, and things I have gone through, that I have seen coming from people’s mouths… treating us as subhuman,” said Maybach.
The series on display at Chasen Galleries was created to show love and support for the LGBTQ community, to help deliver the same message of hope and self-love that Maybach found in a divine experience. When things had been at another low point, years before Maybach found his calling to paint, he prayed for God to heal him of being gay.
Popping back onto his feet after prayer, he was sure he was cured. But a look out the window at two shirtless men playing tennis in the sticky Houston heat was enough to render any of those thoughts obsolete. This was when he had his first epiphany. “I heard a bell go off in my head and I thought… God loves me for being gay, ” said Maybach. “I’m not going to change who I am.”
It’s a message of acceptance and love that Virginia Pride’s President, James Millner, sees as the resounding message of this year’s VA PrideFest. The festival’s theme is “This is Me,” an unapologetic declaration of everyone’s validity and importance within the community.
“We want people to be identified exactly as they see themselves in the mirror, and not be apologetic about that or feel ashamed about that,” said Millner. “Our mission is pretty simple: It’s to make Richmond a better place to live, work, and visit for LGBTQ people. It’s a straightforward thing… recognizing that people identify with those letters in many different ways.”
Millner states that the expansion of the festival into events like Maybach’s exhibit is part of a month-long citywide effort to advance the frontier of Virginia Pride’s impact. “It expands the playing field for us and how we connect with people,” said Millner. It gets beyond the usual VA Pride events, such as meet-ups at bars and drag shows. “I’m hoping that this will reach a whole different audience.”
Art has a lasting impact on our communities, it’s an integral part of the narrative we create to define our histories and culture. Maybach recognizes this, saying that there is an archival element to his work. He hopes that in the future, people can look at it and derive meaning from the paint-on-canvas personification of his love for Pride.
“The story that goes along with it is an archive of history,” said Maybach. “We should be proud of who we are, should stand up and take pride that we are a group of people that are gaining rights now, and not to give up on that fight.”
Pride: The Introspection Series runs through September 29 at Chasen Galleries, located at 3101 Ellwood Avenue. Maybach will donate a portion of all proceeds from the sales of all artworks sold in the gallery back to Pride in September.
Top photo via Jumper Maybach/Facebook, other photos via Chasen Galleries