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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Deeper Dish with Michael Breyette

"As much as I may find a sunset, waterfall or glass skyscraper beautiful, I find that same kind of beauty in a shirtless guy. For me, the male body is a true work of art" - Michael Breyette

Michael Breyette's pastel paintings of sensual male beauty first caught my eye last year when I promoted an exhibit of his work here on my blog. According to Michael's Facebook page, he is just a guy who likes to draw and paint guys and hopefully make the world a little more joyful, hopeful and beautiful along the way. And the talented artist is certainly accomplishing this - especially whenever I look at his paintings.

Michael's work has been published in calendars, magazines, anthologies of erotic art, on the covers of several novels, and in two books - Summer Moved On and the upcoming Illustrated Men, a book of short stories inspired by his paintings. And he's returning to Lyman-Eyer Gallery in Provincetown, MA, for a third summer with a new solo exhibit, Iconic, which will run from July 9 - 21 (you can click here to RSVP to the opening night reception on the 9th).

In addition to promoting his exhibit, I thought it would be fun to interview Michael this year, so I am delighted to have this groovy guy here on the Dish to discuss his art and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's begin with your upcoming exhibit. How did it become Iconic?
Within a culture certain things achieve 'iconic status' - people, places, things, professions, etc. That's what I used as my jumping off point for this show. I asked myself what particular things or imagery are regarded with more fondness or fantasy by gay men than they are for the public in general. I don't think of these pieces as a series and I didn't restrict myself to clearly defined parameters. I kept the process fluid with the 'iconic' theme as merely a place to start, allowing each piece to stand on its own. This is why the subject matter in these works range from Michelangelo's David to cowboys, from Aussie life guards in Speedos to The Wizard of Oz.

Tell us about Illustrated Men. How did the book come about? And when will it be released?
Much of my work is about capturing little moments that may seem mundane but are filled with beauty and emotion. I'm not just rendering men in various poses. When I work on a piece there are back stories and personalities that swirl around in my head, and if I do my job right, the viewer will feel that, too. They may share the story I had in my head or as emails I've gotten over the year tell me, they have their very own. That's what gave me the idea for this book. It began as the 1000 words project. I invited fans, wannabe writers and published authors, really anyone, to take any of my works and create a story around that moment, that image. Once I found a publisher (MLR Press), the editors and I selected the best of the submissions. It's been a long process but we are hoping for a release in early summer (fingers crossed). I'm really excited to see this happen because it's a book by the fans of my work, not only those whose stories are getting published but also those who buy my work and allow me to do what I do for a living.

Do you remember the first painting you did of a scantily clad man?
I'm not exactly sure about the first painting. When I was probably around 14, I did some paintings of guys in swimsuits, usually with a woman in a bikini nearby (as subterfuge). From there my works evolved in to sci-fi/fantasy pieces with heroic men in little or very snug-fitting clothing as well as numerous physique/bodybuilder-esque paintings, also usually featuring a female companion.

When exactly did you realize that your artwork could be a career and not just a hobby?
In 2002, artist Tom Jones (no, not the singer) emailed me about my pieces I'd been selling on eBay. He told me how he made prints of his works and sold those. So I took his advice and realized that selling an original once for a couple hundred bucks was nice pocket change, but selling the original as well as 100 limited prints of it, too, could someday earn a living. It also gave me greater exposure by listing a print on eBay over and over rather than a random original just one time. In the fall of 2003 I quit my day job because it was getting difficult to devote enough time to my artwork. I would much rather do that for the rest of my life than work at the post office.

Do you recall the first person who bought one of your paintings?
You'd think I would but I don't. Some of the first works I sold were portraits from photographs I did for family friends. Some of the first works that were my own creations were sold at an art store where I worked, so I probably wasn't even there when they were sold.

If I asked you to show me three of your own paintings that best represent you as an artist, which ones would you choose?
That's a good question. I usually am asked to choose a favorite, which is like choosing your favorite child. Though now that I think about it, it's almost as difficult. I will stick to more recent works because I think all artists, no matter how gradual, evolve and change over time. I would choose "Metro Sexual" because it represents the masculine sexual energy that is much a part of my work, "Buck" because it represents the beauty of the male physique, a man that is confident and comfortable with himself and also - like many of my pieces - it integrates a personal view of the world. In this case the idea of living a simpler life. For my last pick, I choose "La Dolce Vita" because couples and romance as well as optimism and joy are a major theme for me.

If I visited Worcester, Massachusetts - where you live - what would you tell me to see or do there?
I've lived here a few years and am waiting for someone to tell ME those things. I don't really engage with the city as much as I should. It has a few hidden gems - the bird sanctuary, museum, parks and some good restaurants - but I'm more of a 'get away from it all' kind of guy. Worcester is a good central location being only a short drive to Boston, the Berkshires, Cape Cod, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island, so there are tons of easy day trips of all sorts you can do.

If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self a wise piece of advice, what would it be?
I am pretty happy with who I am at this point, so I don't know if I would change anything that's made me who I am now. But I suppose I would give my 19-year-old self the same advice I'd give my self today: "Be more confident."

In high school I was:
Very nervous, but very happy (and observant) when it was time to shower in the boys' locker room.

My favorite comfort food is:
Lasagna (made with roasted eggplant instead of pasta)

The last good book I read was:
I don't make time to read much, I liked Kathy Griffin's Official Book Club Selection. I seem drawn to autobiographies/books by women comediennes - Rosie O'Donnell, Fran Drescher, Teri Garr, Ellen DeGeneres.

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
As a kid I was all about the sitcom - Laverne & Shirley, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Three's Company, etc.

Today I never miss a television episode of:
In the last year or so many of the shows I really enjoyed have ended - Ugly Betty, Lost, Pushing Daisies, The Starter Wife, Legend of the Seeker, and Aliens in America. I do enjoy Modern Family and Nurse Jackie now. I'm a fan of very few 'reality' shows - they seem less real than scripted stuff - or medical and crime dramas and that's mostly what TV is all about these days.

The very first record album that I purchased with my own money was:
Dare! by The Human League

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
Röyksopp, Alphaville, a-ha, Kristine W, and maybe someone new that I've never heard of.

Three of my favorite movies are:
Under the Tuscan Sun, The Lord of the Rings and Blade Runner.

If I was asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive (besides my boyfriend), it would be:
Today...David Beckham.

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Well, no dead people, that'd be creepy and probably smell bad. I'd want it to be a fun and entertaining evening, so Dolly Parton, Kathy Griffin and Joan Rivers.

What's next for Michael Breyette?
Small picture: lunch. Big picture: world domination. Somewhere in between: next year I'd like to do another book of my artwork if my publisher is interested, and just keep doing what I'm doing while fighting fear and ignorance with joy and optimism.

Thank you, Michael, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Michael Breyette and his amazing artwork, check out his groovy website at and his blog, Left in the Dust. You can also become a fan on Facebook. And if you're visiting Provincetown next month, be sure to stop by Lyman-Eyer Gallery to see his new exhibit, Iconic.

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