Justin Liam O'Brien
I make paintings of figures that outline my experience of queer affection, longing, tenderness, and loneliness. They evoke a sense of momentary wordlessness, a pregnant silence, and suspense. While the work is based on my own feelings and experiences, the figures are anonymous and archetypal. This invites the viewer to relate and empathize with the characters. The abstract space they are composed in reinforces the mood of the moment. My interest in the sensation of “just not having the words” is personal. It is related to a core question that I sublimate in my work: “Why do I still feel lonely?” Many queer people relate to this question. Even as we thrive, queer people constantly revisit the trauma of early closeted life after coming out. I strive to initiate a dialogue with the audience about this. The conversation is vital. It further elucidates our feelings, confirms shared experiences, and strengthens our community. I consider this to be the most important function of my work, and a metric for its success.