Gallery Exhibitions

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Josh Paul Thomas on Phallus Motivation

Josh Paul Thomas, "Pool 2," 2016

Josh Paul Thomas on Phallus Motivation

Working across mediums of installation, video, drawing, painting, performance and photography, Josh Paul Thomas has focused on the classical male nude in its contemporary context for the past decade. His creative ventures have led him to collaborate with designer Bernhard Willhelm, who over the years has given him artistic freedom to photograph his collection of muses, including Joe Dellasandro, Tony Ward, and Pamela Anderson. While his work has been featured in every imaginable publication, like Vogue, Interview and Vanity Fair, never has the artist received a solo exhibition...until now. We caught up with Thomas to talk about this notable accomplishment, his relationship to Tom of Finland, and his obsession with dick.

Congratulations on your solo show at MaRS Gallery! Can you tell me about the work being exhibited?

Thank you.

It’s my very first solo art show, which will feature 37 photographic images, and around 20 original oils. The photos are from a couple years ago, a weekend I had in San Diego during gay pride. I went to a nude beach for the first time, which was so liberating and inspiring, as you’ll see.  I see this series of photos as scenes from Oceans, Pools and Parties. The oils on the other hand have all been done recently, they represent  what’s happening inside me, something brought into this world as a way to document my inner me. While the photography is me documenting my personal experience, the outer me. It’s all very colorful, and weird, and sexy.

Amazing! I can’t wait to check it out. I know you typically focus on the classical male nude. What position do the images from this latest exhibition take on this subject?

I think the photos in this exhibition are in a way timeless, classic if you will. But of course they are very themselves, very special to me. When I took them, I remember thinking, these are special, these are going to be part of my first show. And years later they are. I also find that once people are stripped away from anything that ties them to the present, clothes for instance, they ultimately become classic. Because a nude man or woman is seemingly "natural" in their being, which is classic and timeless.

Josh Paul Thomas, "Agents in their Offices," 2018

Let’s move to the related subject of the phallus. So much has been said about this. What is your take on it and why is it such a source of fascination for you?

I’m a still a teenager at heart, back in high school thinking about all the things that were forbidden to me at the time. Basically, Dick. Being raised in a strict Christian community, in a very sin conscious family, it was the forbidden fruit that tempted me the most. So much so that it would become a subject of my artwork later in life. I love men, and their bodies, I’m not in my 20’s any more but I’m still boy crazy. When I was a kid I couldn’t even draw a penis for fear that someone would see it and find out I’m gay. Now I can’t seem to stop drawing them.

What was it like coming out in that type of environment?

It’s a funny story, I was 22 and living in West Hollywood at the time, I hadn’t told my family anything about my gay life yet. That particular day my mother had asked about me and dating, “any special girls in your life?”, it sat with me all day, annoying me, building up. Later that night I came home at 2am, very drunk, and I decided it was time to tell her. I wrote her this long ranting email (very defensive) coming out, and not really leaving it open for discussion. Then I passed out and woke up at 8am to my Mom calling me! I quickly reread the email and was so horrified. I Ghosted my family for a month, which was so shameful, because she was reaching out trying to tell me that she didn’t care. In the end its all been fine. My Family are really honest hard working people with not a lot of hate in their hearts. They have their beliefs and I have mine. It was never something they talked about when I was young (gays burning in hell) and they have defiantly never said the word FAG or anything like that. So it was just all me building it up into something worse than it had to be. I guess I’m lucky in that sense.

Josh Paul Thomas, "Group Shake," 2016

I wanted to ask you about Tom of Finland, who in many ways also grew up in an environment where gay desire was forbidden. What relationship do you have to his life and work?

People like Touko, grew up in a similar environment. One of fear and longing, dreaming, worshiping the idea of cock. His obsession has been a huge influence on mine.  When I see his drawings they are everything to me. He is everything. What a wonderful person, I’m so thankful he existed and I full circle have been lucky enough to find a way to work with him and his legacy.

What other artists have inspired your work?

Bob Mizer for sure, Cy Twombly, Stanley Kubrick, Basquiat, Helmut Newton, Juergen Teller, James Bidgood, and of course Tom Bianchi. To name a few...

Do you experience photography as a sensual act?

When I do, the photos are much better then when I don’t.

Josh Paul Thomas, "3 Friends," 2016

Josh Paul Thomas, "Totally All-American," 2017

What's your favorite part of the male body?

I’m obsessed with butts. Asses, of all kinds, Smooth, Small, big, Hairy, and in every color and creed. There are so many men out there with beautiful asses that never get any attention, most women don’t think twice about mens butts. That leaves huge numbers of guy asses that never gets the attention it deserves.

As a woman, I’ll have to make more of an effort to pay attention to asses! One final question: what do you have planned next?

I’m switching gears after this show, and working on another another type of show, a TV show. I’m shooting a Pilot for a Horror/Comedy called "Fucking Vudu”. I wrote it a couple years ago and I’ll be directing it. Which is what I moved to Los angeles to originally do. Writing/Directing that is. The story is about a unsuspecting Eastsider who wakes up one morning to find that a cat has been ritualistically massacred across his front lawn. He comes to realize that someone has hired a Bokor (Voodoo Witch Doctor) to put a curse on him. He has 7 days before the curse kills him, and 7 days to figure out who hates him enough to hire a witch doctor to kill him. It’s scary , but funny because our main character is so narcotic, but also very sad and dramatic at the same time. You really get to see someone struggle with some unseen force that ruins their life. Its very representative of someone struggling with chronic depression. Everyday can be a battle to live or die.


Josh Paul Thomas REINTENTIONS runs January 13th - February 24, 2018 @ Museum as Retail Space (MaRS)

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