Wesley Harvey is a gay, queer, cisgender man working in ceramics for over 20 years. His work “examines different facets of gay male sexuality and homoeroticism through the lens of queer theory using appropriation of imagery and objects.” Finding inspiration from the Baroque and Rococo periods and drawing from kitsch and pop culture, Wesley designs his sculptures and utilitarian ware with vibrant colors and pattern decals. Harvey’s love of drag queens, gold, and glitter are often used in the imagery especially using the illustrations from 1960’s male physique magazines. Harvey states: “I want to examine not only the normative behavior but also the deviant lifestyle, past and present, that often gets neglected and chastised.”
Triptych: JUDAS, Grindr, Come In Me Bro! is featured in I’m down on my knees, I want to take you there exhibition at Signature Contemporary Craft Gallery in Atlanta, GA. Triptych has numerous messages that can be drawn by the viewer. The decals and gold in the JUDAS Vase are covered up with a leather jacket. The title is in reference to Lady Gaga’s 2011 single Judas, which is about a woman betrayed by a man that she loves with religious undertones to the way Jesus was betrayed by Judas before being arrested and crucified. Harvey is a huge fan of Lady Gaga, stating that she is someone “who is a true ally to the Queer community.” A photo of lead singer Rob Halford from the English heavy metal band Judas Priest is featured when the zipper is down. The musician is openly gay and is accepted and celebrated in the metal community. The leather jacket enhances the imagery of the work referencing leather is used by both the metal and gay community.
Grindr Vase’s title and appearance comes from the dating app Grindr, which is one of the earliest apps used by gay men and men who have sex with men. The app is typically used as a quick way to meet and have sex, allowing the user to scroll through numerous profiles with many users not showing their face. The hooking up and almost anonymous nature of the event is heavily prevalent in the gay community, lacking in loving and monogamous relationships from a so-called dating app. The colors of black and yellow (or gold) are the branding colors for the app.
The third vase has the text “Come In Me Bro!” which alludes to many sexual innuendo references. The phrase “Come at Me Bro” is used by men to act tough without physically fighting another man, often used as a way of sounding strong and macho in front of others. The term “Bro”, recently used as the title of the 2022 gay romantic comedy Bros, has numerous meanings. In the gay community the term often refers to masculine friends who enjoy each other’s company during activities like going to the gym, playing sports, gaming, and often times having sex with each other without having an exclusive, committed relationship. The rim and opening of the top of the vase is dripped with glazed earthenware. These drips allude to the other part of the title, Come In Me, which symbolize the crude use of the slang term for ejaculate, cum, with the opening of the vase suggestive of an anus. During the AIDS crisis throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s, men who had sex with men were increasingly affected by the disease through unprotected sex. Thanks to antiviral drugs and the promoting of condoms, AIDS became less probable in the early part of the 21st century. In the last few years, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has almost eliminated the chance of getting HIV/AIDS. This progress through medication is to be celebrated; however, once again this has led to condom use being less common as unprotected sex among men who have sex with men that are on PrEP increases. The triptych as a whole adds to many interpretive possibilities, some being explicit as with “Come In Me Bro!” and others referring to the social norms and pop culture of today like the Grindr app and Lady Gaga’s Judas as gay culture becomes more mainstream. Many of these subjects/themes are present in the gay community in addition to popular culture at large.
Triptych: JUDAS, Grindr, Come In Me Bro! is currently on view, until March 4, in Harvey’s solo exhibition I’m down on my knees, I want to take you there at Signature Contemporary Craft Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.