I am making work in which I abstract the spaces of queer intimacy and the figures within them. We live in an era of social media, dating apps, and near-constant image consumption which cultivates a tendency to oversimplify of the world as we see it. As a queer man, I witness this play out across apps like Grindr and Tinder which are essential to young queer people as tools for socialization. Navigating interactions on these platforms can prove to be complicated; making a reductive, forcefully streamlined and sometimes hurtful interaction ubiquitous to the experience of queer intimacy. I take this reduction further and apply it as an aesthetic in my work: bodies and environments are simplified into rounded square forms, scenes arranged carefully within the given format of the canvas or page. When composing a picture, I consider embrace and touch as the result of interaction over a pre-invented social media platform, and how that might change the psychological nature of physical contact. I’m interested in reconciling the depth and complexity of our emotions for one another with the simplicity of our constructed image and engagements with others online.
Justin O'Brien is a visual artist and designer. He studied Visual Arts at Suffolk County Community College in 2012, then attended Pratt Institute where he graduated with a BFA in Digital Arts in 2016. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and is an artist in residence at Trestle Gallery in Sunset Park, NY.