Expediting A Timely Egress, 11x14 inches, watercolor and crayon on cotton paper by Kenney Mencher (gay art, gay couple, sexy wall art)


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Expediting A Timely Egress, 11x14 inches, watercolor and crayon on cotton paper by Kenney Mencher (gay art, gay couple, sexy wall art)


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I keep trying to come up with new ideas and expand on some of my earlier work to evolve into a more interesting and sophisticated kind of artist.

While I was reviewing some catalogs of my older works, I realized that I had not been working with this much of a “narrative” or storytelling aspect in a lot of my work that I used to really have in my earlier paintings. Much of the work that I’m doing now seems to be directly observed portraits and figures studies that have a strong homoerotic were queer content to them but I thought that maybe I can expand on this a little bit by telling more of a story in the paintings. To this end I’m starting to design and draw out some ideas in which I juxtapose clothed figures with unclothed figures. They will probably all be older men and bears but the clothed figures might be younger man and also older men wearing suits. I was even thinking about lifting some of them from old cinema or film. We’ll see how this turns out.

An Interview from Dandy Queer Magazine about my work.

queer[ish] artist: Kenney Mencher
artist feature painting


Kenney Mencher is quite the prolific artist, churning out posts of new work on a seemingly daily basis. His style is recognizable to most queer painters with an online presence, his technique is obviously well-developed, and his subjects (hairy, masculine, often shirtless men) are seen through a blatantly homoerotic lens.

So, it goes without saying that he’s clearly gay, right? Well not exactly. We got the skinny on why this (somewhat) straight artist spends his energy indulging queer audiences, and how he started down the path to becoming the respected and accepted “queer” artist he is today.

[dandy:] You are a heterosexual cis male, but you paint mostly homoerotic portraits of men. Why paint men?

[Kenney Mencher:] Mainly, I paint men because I’m just better at painting them than women, but there are other more complicated reasons, of course. Probably the biggest is that I don’t feel like I’m exploiting the men I choose to paint. When I painted women, especially young women, I felt like I was exploiting them. I don’t want to be seen as painting from what people refer to as “the male gaze.” The reason why I paint men actually goes back to a painting I did in 2008 or so called “Shared Space.” It was picked up by a blogger on Tumblr named "Chubby Jay" who shared the shit out of it. The positive response I got from that was very encouraging.

I also tend toward males as a subject because of a little guidance I got from a friend of mine, who saw a lot of value in the paintings of handsome men I had been doing at the time. My florist, David Braddy, who I buy flowers from every week for my partner, wanted me to paint some beautiful men for him. After he hung them up, his friends were literally trying to swipe them from the walls, so I made more, and started to sell them alongside my pieces of other subject matter, which is mostly film noir and photobooth-related stuff.
The more personal reasons really have to do with my identity as a middle-aged man, the past relationships I had with men when I was much younger, and the fact that I’ve been accused of being “queer” my entire life. In fact, my older brother- who is gay and has been married to the same man for close to 30 years- used to call me “Kenney Queer” when I was in junior high, after he heard a girl call me that when we were on the Hebrew school bus.

I realized a while ago that I look like a lot of the men who collect my art- by which I mean that I look like a bear. After I watched a video on art marketing by Michael Cuffe, in which he talked about a young woman who painted subjects that looked like her, I decided to try painting men who looked more like me. In that process, I began to see myself from a different perspective, and started realizing why my wife- and many of the men I was friends with- found me attractive. Painting older gay men, especially bears, has taught me to appreciate my own beauty.

Do you identify as “straight,” then?

I suppose that when people ask me what my orientation is, I tell them I’m straight because I’m married to a woman, and it simplifies the conversation- but in my head I often identify as being “queer” or on the spectrum. For example, Etsy just sent me a survey asking how I identify, and I clicked the LGBTQ+ box.

Do people respond differently to your work when they find out that you are not into having sex with men?
I don’t think they respond that differently because of it, but they sometimes act as if they don’t believe me. I think it’s because I paint men so well, and I probably confuse people because of how I behave and the things I talk about. In fact, many of my friends were incredulous the first time I told them I’m straight. I think it’s because in terms of my attitude and my belief system, I don’t really fit into that definition.

What would you say to someone who might accuse you of pandering to the LGBTQ+ community?
Well, I don’t believe I’m pandering. I think I’m fulfilling the needs of an audience and group of people that appreciate the point of view I’m promoting. I also paint non-binary people, black people, and other people of color. I paint for these audiences because they are under-represented as subjects, and I feel like it’s a supportive thing to do, and also can be a politically powerful gesture. I actually think I was pandering more to straight men back when I was painting pin-up style women. I was really uncomfortable doing that, because it felt like I was perpetuating a system that degraded women.

If I really needed a justification for painting LGBTQ+ subjects, I would just point out that I have had some skin in the game. When I was young man, I had multiple same-sex partners, and today I’m still attacked by homophobes for being gay, even though they don’t know anything about me, or the complexities of my experience. On top of that, most of my friends, family, and social acquaintances are part of the LGBTQ+ community. In a way, I guess I’m painting more for those friends and family members than anyone else.

When did you start exploring male portraits and figures from a more erotic perspective and why?

I’ve always painted and drawn subjects that have strong homoerotic content. Even as far back as high school. The majority of my focus didn’t shift to homoerotic content until around 2008, when I decided to stop working with art galleries. I made that decision in large part because when I would paint homoeroticism, galleries would not show the work. That really pissed me off.
Where do you find the models you work with?

In the beginning when I first started painting homoerotic subjects, I did some photo shoots with my friends and family. As my thoughts and subject matter evolved, it was hard for me to get the erotic reference material I wanted using the people I knew, so I started collecting images from various photo-sharing platforms, and other places on the internet.

Lately, my reference material comes from soliciting my collectors, some self-portraits, and I’m working with several photographers. For example, I have a friend named Benjamine Lester who also specializes in painting bears, and he sent me a photograph of himself so I could paint him.

The photographer I’ve worked with most is a wonderful artist in France named Vincent Keith who specializes in photographing bears. I have a fantasy of collaborating with him on a show where his photographs are juxtaposed against the paintings that I made from them. You really need to check out his work! The lighting and the subject matter are exactly the kinds of things that I really like to paint.

Do you have a favorite painting you’ve done?
I actually don’t have a single favorite painting or image that’s my favorite. I always feel like it’s the next painting I do that is going to be my breakthrough painting that’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

Can you tell us a bit about your process?

I have a pretty predictable cycle of how I work. I just completed a series of twenty or so works on paper- drawings and watercolors- that are the preliminary works I use to visualize whether or not they will become oils. The oils I make from those are usually between 9x12 and 18x24 inches in size. Once these oils are completed then I often take the most successful ones and repaint them once again as large 36x48 inch paintings.

What's your personal crayon color?

Black is beautiful!

I actually work with a brand of lithographic crayon called “William Korns’ Litho Crayon” It only comes in black but it’s a pretty incredible crayon. It’s slightly water soluble and is the first thing I put down on paper. I rarely use pencils, but when I do, I use Ebony pencils which also have a beautiful velvety black too.

What projects are you working on now and what will you be exploring coming up next?

Lately, I’ve been collaborating with my collectors and photographers to get more complex and interesting reference material. I’m also planning a photoshoot in San Francisco, where I’ll invite my collectors and friends to let me photograph them to use as reference for paintings as well. I recently renovated my studio, so I have room to store more large-scale, ambitious paintings. I'm also turning 57 in February, and all of the health scares of the last year and a half (triple bypass surgery and kidney stones) have made me acutely aware that I won’t be around forever.

I'm all healed up, but I feel like my mortality is reminding me I need to work harder and make better paintings. I’m not sure what a better painting looks like, but I have found I learn so much from the bigger ones that my smaller, easier paintings improve- so that’s the path I’m moving down for now.
more work in the dandy gallery

Kenney Mencher

art shop :: kenney-mencher.net
etsy :: kmencher
website :: kenney-mencher.com

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