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Arts & Culture

Artist Wesley Harvey on homoeroticism, dinnerware, and bunnies

Photo: Bryan Rindfuss, License: N/A

Bryan Rindfuss

Wesley Harvey in his studio in the Deco District.

In the last two years, locally-based ceramic artist Wesley Harvey — who hails from Van Buren, Ind., the “popcorn capital of the world,” and has work in the permanent collections of the Shanghai Museum of Arts & Crafts and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction — has made a splash by exhibiting (and selling quite a bit of) china and porcelain adorned with decals made by appropriating raunchy drawings by Touko Laaksonen (better known as Tom of Finland) that take gay male sex fantasies to a place that’s larger-than-life, giving the gay art collector the perfect excuse to throw a dinner party with a happy ending.

Tell me a little bit about how you moved from doing animal-based work into homoerotic stuff.

Well it wasn’t too drastic of a shift because a lot of my work was already very sexual ― the kitschy and cute work. [But] the homoeroticism was just disguised with bunnies and birds and butterflies and flowers. I was invited to do a show at UTSA Satellite Space with Ovidio Giberga, who teaches at UTSA. So he curated this ceramic show of new ceramic artists in town and it was me, Ryan Takaba, Jennifer Ling Datchuk, and Paul Northway. And he was doing studio visits with Chad Dawkins, who wrote the catalog for it, and was just looking to see what kind of work we were making for the show … and I had one plate. It was the first Finland plate that I’d made — I made it for a friend. I thought this would be funny ’cause I had wrapping paper with the Tom of Finland imagery on it.

So the first source was wrapping paper?

Well I had known about his work. I knew about Tom of Finland.

So you had a collection?

No, I didn’t have any of his books or … just knew about him, liked his work, and had this wrapping paper. So I scanned it in, made the decal, and made this plate. And it was just sitting on the shelf, like in the back. And I had all these other sculptures going. And he’s like, “Well, show me what you have,” and I said, “Oh, I have this,” and it had like a hundred rabbits with it engulfing this gold lady. And a couple other pieces that I was working on. And he pulled the plate out, and was like, “What’s this plate?” And I said, “Oh, that’s just something I made for a friend.” And he was like, “Do you have more?” And I said, “No, that’s the only one.” And so he said, “This is what I want for the show … Can you make more of these?” And I said, “Yeah, sure. What about these sculptures I’ve got goin’?” And he’s like, “I don’t want those. I want these.” And I said, “Okay,” and he was like, “Could you do a whole table setting?” And I said, “Sure.” I had no idea where I was gonna get all this china. Where I was gonna get more images. So I then bought his book, Finland’s book, which is this massive coffee table book that’s like $200. But it had every Finland image in it. And so that’s what I’ve been using now. So I found a place in Detroit where I bought the commercial porcelain and then just started collaging.

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