No, It Doesn’t ‘Get Better’
Eric Torres writes in Gayletter: “Chris Stoddard on his new book and the state of alternative queer literature.
Stoddard, who draws from personal experience for many of the misadventures his characters endure, published Limiters on ITNA Press, his own emerging Brooklyn-based press. Since August of last year, Stoddard has published two books aside from his own that focus on provocative subject matter: the surreal, “future-queer” world of La JohnJoseph‘s Everything Must Go, and incendiary artist Slava Mogutin‘s collection of poetry, essays, and collaborations, Food Chain. ITNA is already proving to be a welcome force in the publishing world for queer writers, giving further testament to Stoddard’s indomitable work ethic and perseverance to get atypical fiction published in a culture that doesn’t often give such work the platform it deserves.
We got in touch with Chris to ask him a few questions about future plans for ITNA Press, his own writing process, and why telling the darker side of LGBTQI experiences is equally as important as telling the light.
How did ITNA Press start? ITNA Press started with Satanica — a one-issue magazine that artist Gio Black Peter and I released in December 2012. We wanted to showcase our kind of artists and writers: a supremely talented group whose work is often considered overly transgressive for mainstream audiences. After that, I finished writing my second novelLimiters, and rather than going through the publisher of my first novel White, Christian, or submitting the manuscript elsewhere, I decided to release the book under my own imprint, alongside other authors whose work I admire.
ITNA publishes work that’s deemed “too provocative for the mainstream.” How do you define provocative works in the context of ITNA’s vision and what about that work appeals to you? Why do you feel works that push boundaries — sexual or otherwise — are important? Well, I wouldn’t immediately equate the word provocative with sex. There are a wide variety of provocative subjects in literature that appeal to me. My tastes range anywhere from a novel about drug addiction and inner city poverty to a book about the eccentric, incestuous rich. The first three titles out by ITNA all have alternative gay similarities. However, the next ITNA books may highlight other underrepresented groups.
Were there any books you read in the past that inspired ITNA’s vision for uncompromising literature? Or was the lack of more controversial works what inspired you more? It was the latter — seems the gay presses are suddenly only interested in publishing books about assimilation and those that promote heteronormative values. I wanted to share stories about other aspects of gay life, as difficult as they are to digest.”
Untitled (2008, colored pencil on paper) by Andy Swist.
The Advocate writes: “George Towne is a New York artist who has been painting rich and seductive oil portraits of men. The men are friends, or former partners. Others are sexy friends who have offered to pose. Some of the works are erotic, seductive nudes. Other paintings are introspective portraiture, with the men casting discomforting glances or engaged in confrontational attitudes.
The sexual appeal of Towne’s painting often comes in the imperfections of his models: tissue that has mellowed with age, a moody scowl, a ragged shirt. Then there is the erotic detail of his settings: the ruched fabric on an arm chair, eyeglasses, a pair of shoelaces rendered as lovingly as a pair of beautiful eyes. Towne has adopted what he calls a “Painterly Realistic” style which, unlike Photo-Realistic work, still shows the brushstroke. We are aware that we are looking at a painting, and at the same time we can feel the emotion that the painter feels about the subject.
"The men I paint are usually friends of mine, it’s pretty obvious that I find them sexy in some masculine way. So the work at its root is about my obsession with gay male ‘Beauty’ or my ‘Desire’. But I also usually choose friends who have given me something somehow; maybe they’ve taught me something… or they were there for me at a difficult time in my life." Towne explains.
"Portraiture also fascinates me because it has that element of stopping time. People I love have come and gone in my life, and loss has not always been easy for me to deal with. But if I have been able to paint them, it’s like capturing them and holding them with me forever."
Interspersed with these portraits are Towne’s paintings of the sexual playing fields on Fire Island. Some are quiet, almost elegiac, others have a Fauvist, psychedelic feel, as if taking a stroll through the Meat Rack on LSD.”