SB Fuller Talks Art, Vain Gay Men, and Why Art Keeps Him Single
Sb Fuller is an artist in the VCU Sculpture + Extended Media MFA program. He graduated from Florida State University in 2012 with honors, earning a B.F.A. in Studio Art: Sculpture and a B.A. in History and Criticism of Art. He has had many solo exhibitions, including IFIDIDIT in the FAB Gallery last Fall in our very own RVA. Fuller has also received several honors and grants, his most recent being the VCU Graduate Sculpture Assistantship.
Sb Fuller is someone to watch; his art is unapologetic and uncensored. He works with an array of materials to convey very specific images. Fuller is blunt about LGBTQ topics that remain largely untouched. You can check out more of his work here.
Lindsay: What would you say your work is about?
Sb Fuller: I guess it comes down to it being about images. You saw my lecture—I talked a lot about self-imaging and this YouTube celebrity Slasher who is famous for bashing people. He kind of images himself a certain way. I counter-position myself in a lot of my work in relation to stuff that that’s happening. I’m imaging myself or imaging things very carefully in a way that kind of plays upon that.
Whatever criminalizing there is of queer acts, I try to piece that together. I’m kind of a photographer that calls himself a sculptor because I’m making objects and then creating the image, because that’s all that I’m really interested in. So a lot of what I’m doing now is building sculptures that document themselves. They’re like sets, but they have tripods and all that stuff installed within them. They show you what they want to show you. They’re all very carefully aimed at themselves. I think the image and this practice of self-imaging is something that is arguably something very important to gay culture right now. I mean of course everyone who’s using different kinds of web-mediated ways of meeting up with people or whatever, they’re promoting themselves with an image. I think there’s something kind of distinct about the way that queers are doing it.
Since antiquity the argument against homosexuality has been, ‘it’s narcissism,’ or going and finding someone that’s like your self, your same gender, and being into them. So from the beginning queerness has been associated with obsession with yourself and your image, as opposed to what’s external to that. So I guess in a lot of ways I’m playing into image making and the importance of image making as opposed to what else there is besides an image.
Everything is an image. So to say that gays are vain, or narcissistic or image-obsessed is, like, everybody is. And they’re the only ones that are liberated enough to do that comfortably.
L: Have you ever had any challenges or opposition to your work?
Sb: Absolutely. Of course. Since the beginning that’s been my motivation. I did something with live animals; I got in tons of trouble for that. I almost got kicked out of my undergrad thesis show because my work was too vulgar. What I’m doing now is kind of tinged with pessimism or cynicism.
I’m focusing on fatality that I see as inherent to a lot of queer culture right now, so I usually get kind of a backlash against thinking and focusing on things that way. But I’m interested in those perspectives in an optimistic kind of way. I think there’s something kind of valuable about the inherent ego-less-ness of self destructive behavior, like making a void of yourself by like sleeping with everyone.
I think that’s kind of fascinating. Queers are in a unique position to do something like that politically. To treat their bodies as something other than what normalized society has treated their bodies previously as like these precious vessels. These things that we’re going to put together and we’re going to reproduce and really grip on to the future and hope and everything. That’s all just a pathetic construction that easily falls apart as soon as a gay shows up. So, I do get a lot of negative reactions to not dancing and celebrating life and all it has to offer. There are a lot of shadows and a lot of gorgeous things, and if you just stare at them long enough they’ll burn your eyes out.
L: So would you say you have an intended audience?
Sb: Yeah I don’t know, I think ‘audience’ is kind of a confusing thing. I’m admittedly kind of self-asorbed in my work; all my work revolves around me and my experiences and my perspective of things. Somehow the more self-absorbed I am, the more universal it becomes. I’m not at all claiming that I’m really that much of an individual, or that the things that I’m dealing with are anything other than totally ordinary.
I’m just as much a scumbag as anyone else. I’m just going through stuff and screaming about it instead of acting like it’s something that we don’t need to talk about. So I guess my audience is everyone. For a while when I was installing stuff and leaving it there, my audience in terms of the physical objects were the janitors or who ever found it before it got cleaned up. I mean who ever is interested in staring—staring at something so fluorescently hideous for long enough that it burns their eyes out, and they are like emptier and ecstatic because of it. That’s my audience.
L: I know you work with a lot of different types of media. Do you have a specific type you are drawn to, or do you like to keep it open?
Sb: I use everything. From condoms, semen, dead animals, my body, other people’s bodies, plaster, wood, I try not to limit myself to what I’m using. If it feels like it needs to be there, it’s somehow important to what’s going on. But really the materials to me are largely unimportant. It’s more about the image of what the material creates. So when I make a materials list and I use a certain person as a material, I treat a body as a readymade something that I find and I install it into other things that I’m using. The material that I work with is like, drag queens and frat boys and somehow by using that word it creates an instant image. Everyone knows what a drag queen is. Everyone knows what a frat boy is. Everyone knows what a four year old little boy is. It’s just an instant image that I can create—a pool of images that I can grab from and use as materials.
L: Do you have a specific way you approach these people? Are they always on board?
Sb: I’ve been so unbelievably blessed so far just with the way people seem to be on board when I ask them. I’m pretty bad at schmoozing with people, I bluntly approach them and ask them. I’m like, “You look exactly how I want someone to look, I’m fascinated by everything about what I see about you right now. Do you want to be involved?” And they’re usually totally on board. It is kind of complicated though, because almost a hundred per cent of the time, even if they’re friends of mine, in the time that I’m using them I’m purely objectifying them. I’m creating an image, so I’m treating them purely as an image. They stop being by friend. I start moving their body. There’s no person inhabiting it. I’m treating them maybe in a way they don’t want to be treated. I’m using their body to talk about stuff they would never be comfortable talking about. I was saying recently that it’s kind of like a one night stand. I’ve had this frat boy come into my studio a couple times, and I’ve been shooting him in a big bath tub. He comes in, he takes most of his clothes off, I take pictures of him, and it looks great, I’m happy with it, and then as he’s putting his clothes back on, he wants to talk and I’m like, I have to work, I have stuff to do, so I have to kick him out of my studio. It’s like paralleling my nightlife.
L: Do you have any favorite pieces of your own art? Anything you enjoyed working on the most?
Sb: I don’t see it as individual pieces. I see it as a continuum. There’s an object that I’m making, there’s a photo that I take of that object, and then there’s like a story and a myth that follow, and maybe I keep looking back at that, and it somehow comes up in another thing that I’m staging. I really believe in life as art. Every body that I’m using or the different things that I’m creating are things that I’d be doing even if I weren’t showing them to anybody. So, the question was which part of that is my favorite? I mean all of it. I’m very thrilled to have the opportunity to live a life like this and to have the freedom and absolute privilege of being able to set things up like this and have people be involved in the ways they want to, and how people respond to it in the ways that they do. I’m totally blessed.
L: I noticed you went to Florida State for your undergrad. What are some differences in the art scenes in RVA and FSU?
Sb: There’s a much stronger art school here, one of the strongest art schools, so there’s obviously much more of a community here than there was there. It’s still the South, so you still see certain kinds of twangs to the work that’s being produced here, like tree branches and people with animal heads. That’s a thing that always pops up a lot. But I obviously like Richmond heaps better than where I’ve come from. That’s why I’ve come here. There’s an extremely supportive group of people that has been in Richmond for a long time. They support the arts in very fundamental ways, and they’re very approachable and excited by risk-taking and weird disgusting smutty art. They’re like southern belles, but they love it. I think there’s like this really unique and fruitful atmosphere that’s been in Richmond for a while. It was noticeable as soon as I got here.
L: Do you have any advice for other LGBTQ artists?
Sb: Don’t use rainbows… Do your research. There’s lots of LGBT art out there that blows. There’s tons of it. We’re all experiencing the same things. There are instant things that everyone wants to do, like, “I want to make a wall with posters of all the people I’ve ever slept with on grindr.” Everyone wants to do that. Don’t do that. Just live your life. Everyone has somewhat of a unique perspective of what’s happening. I think the best thing you can do is don’t use rainbows. Be willing to confront the stuff that you don’t want to confront. Make stuff that your mom doesn’t want to see. Say things that make you uncomfortable to say in front of groups of people. For a while it’s been kind of helpful for me—what’s something that I’d be terrified to show a room full of people? And then I said, What if? What if like a thousand people see me cum? It’s like all these things that we have built into us, these lamentations that are really there for no reason. You can start to do things that are much more interesting and fulfilling than painting people with animal heads.
L: Well thank you so much. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Sb: I would like to shamelessly promote a gallery that I just opened. It’s me and another guy in this program. It’s called Kappa Theta Phi. It’s styled after a fraternity house. We will be having regular shows there. It’s on 1401 West Leigh Street. You know Doug the security guard? He’s going to curate a show. We should be having a show in the next couple of weeks.
I’m Lindsay Hawk. I am currently studying Sculpture + Extended Media at VCU, along with Biology and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. I enjoy making art about social issues, nudity, and sexuality. If I’m not in the studio, I’m probably exploring the outdoors, visiting art openings, talking to strangers, or chowing down on some local RVA cuisine. Find more of my work at www.lindsayhawk.com
An Interview with Untended’s McIntoch and Harrod on Queer Art, Queer Fiber, and Getting Lost in Your Work
(left) Jesse Harrod Image via Vimeo Still/ Aaron McIntosh via Facebook VCU FAB’s gallery is currently showcasing the work of two queer fiber artists, Jesse Harrod and Aaron McIntosh, as part of the “Untended” exhibition. As with queer identities, their craft forms expand upon the practice and subvert our own notions of ‘good art’ to [...]September 16, 2013
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