Joshua Rains

For queer theorist José Muñoz, queerness is not yet here. With a conceptual practice grounded in drawing, sculpture, installation, video, and performance, I work to envision the possible horizon of the space of queerness. As something that has not yet arrived, to think about what this space might feel like, smell like, sound like, let alone look like, drives the creation of detailed, hand-constructed works meant to seduce one into pausing and contemplating the generative powers of queer sex and sexuality.

My work mines a personal archive grounded as much in my experience of queer life in a precarious present as in my turbulent childhood in small-town Oklahoma during the first wave of the AIDS crisis. Firmly rooted in a working-class background, I refuse middle class norms of conspicuous consumption and ostentatious wealth, spending hours scouring thrift shops to find devalued, discarded, and everyday materials that I work to transform into queer conditions of possibility. My sculptural and performance practice often utilizes thrift store purchases, stolen trinkets from sexual encounters, bodily fluids, and other everyday materials to expose the complex aesthetics of queer masculinity. In my soft sculptural piece, Plushanus, dresses, stockings, and gaudy costume jewelry are dissected and repurposed into an ornate orifice, placed within its own grassy environment to be observed by curious onlookers. In conceptual drawing work, I draw upon a visual language created as a child, mixing found imagery, fantasy, landscape, disease, mortality, sex, and violence into surreal landscapes that reminds us of the fragility of our own bodies just as much as they do an alien terrain. The body as a form of queerness is further explored in private performative gestures captured in installations such as Blue Boy and the documentary photograph Soft Openings.

Referencing the art historical (such as Courbet’s The Origin of the World) alongside gay pornography and decaying corpses, I look to theorists including Muñoz, George Bataille, Jennifer Nash, Leo Bersani, and Paul B. Preciado to articulate a vision of queer sexual power—and of anality in particular—to experiment with queer place-making beyond the stultifying and limited landscapes of both heteronormativity and homonormativity. Where anal sex is historically associated with death and destruction, my body of work emphasizes the rich, generative powers of anality and the space-making possibilities of queer sexualities.