Christophe Doussot and Vincent Depoivre, Curators
Nov. 18, 2023 – Dec. 22, 2023
Here in rural Canada, which is almost equidistant from Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa, two creative souls from France — Christophe Doussot and Vincent Depoivre — have opened an art gallery in a WW II barracks. Maison Depoivre is where “Positive Masculinity” is on display, which is also where English pilots were trained before being sent back to Europe to engage in combat. The vast base rests on a high piece of land known as McCauley Mountain, about 200 feet in elevation above the town of Picton, near the shores of Lake Ontario.
Vincent Depoivre, originally from Champagne met Christophe Doussot in the very scenic (and dramatic) Ardèche. It was Christophe, who had lived in Canada in his twenties, who brought Vincent to Canada just over ten years ago. Their local business interests ranged from a boutique bed and breakfast (b&b) to a kitchen-cooking training center with a fine food shop selling French products. They furnished the b&b with original art work by local artisans, and after four years, the art curation took off, and now the men have hit their stride. Maison Depoivre has completed a recent expansion of their previous Positive Masculinity exhibits, and is now returning with the annual LGBTQ+ show an in-your-face multi-media thought provoking exhibit about the interplay of ideas from gender normative attitudes to toxic masculinity.
To set the tone (and perhaps to vet wary patrons) in last summer’s exhibit, patrons were met with an installation of two urinals (salvaged from the air base) with inset mirrors at shoulder height, meant to comment on themes of desire, envy, and male fragility. In the current exhibit, visitors are first greeted by Gina D’aloisio’s ironic life-size silicon naked male body in bed with a pair of ear plugs.
Other focal points include Debra Samuels’ Venus Passage, which includes photographs of torsos––some marked, some in a state of flux; Scott Turner’s extended acrylic photograph Royal Flush––a series of rainbow urinals; Seth Ruggles Hiler’s exploration of queer family history ‘The Ruggles Project’ via archived film footage; and a ‘glory hole’ room (offering through-the-glory-hole views of Orpheusmen’s oil on paper paintings of what men do best) with work by Eva Mueller based on a previous installation. Mueller, a New York-based photographer and conceptual artist, previously presented Flowers and Chocolate, a series of erect black penises mounted in lit boxes, at the very first Positive Masculinities. For this recent show, Mueller partnered with their best friend and trans muse using video and a succession of images to show two androgynous beings morphed together––Mueller being one––giving the effect of a single body, breathing in one frame and interacting as twins in another.
The works of 31 local and international artists are displayed on the walls, floors, and doors of the gallery in this year’s show. Other highlights include:
Brad Mcdermott returns this year as well, and continues to draw on mythology and deities to create complex layers of story and eroticism, with the same subject playing multiple roles in his hyper-realistic artwork.
Christophe describes Terran McNeely’s solid blocks of color work as, “a soft and tender approach … warm and embracing,” which speaks to the commitment and connection the men have to each artist they exhibit.
Jamaican-born sculptor now living in Toronto, Frantz Brent-Harris’s resin and steel ‘Navigation,’ a dark human form, rightfully commands another section of the new gallery.
Caylen Monroe’s robust and colourful works of bondage are in a room of their own, challenging concepts of identity, masculinity versus manhood, and the many ways to understand oneself.
Davide De Taranto is back with more humor––self-portraits in scout uniform ‘Blowing Game’ as well as a series of white-collar workers linking torsos in ‘Kama-Train Woof Woof’. And he has used gold leaf, photography and oil to create mini-portraits.
The mixed media show ranges from the political (Fashion photographer Anthony Manieri’s series ‘Arrested Movement’ addressing all versions of the human form and body positivity), to the provocative (David Edwards Two Men Meet––after paul Klee–– among other large figurative work), to the erotic (Saul Lyons’ charcoal men), to the humorous: a crocheted penis the size of a very large tea cosy, by Cabin Boy Knits––who dye and spin their own yarn––that begs to be touched (and is); Toronto’s Pansy Ass Ceramics’ porcelain vases of men’s trunks in trunks, jocks, and penises, are found throughout the gallery; Conrad Smith’s series, ‘Oil on Jockstrap’ graces the hallway.
International visitors say they have not seen anything of this type elsewhere. In the first year there were requests to move the show to Montreal and Toronto. But in 2019, the pandemic hit, which stalled taking the show on the road. This year, the majority of visitors have made the two- or three-hour trek from the major cities just to see the show.
In this new space which opened this fall, Depoivre and Doussot hope to a have one room dedicated to queer art year-round. The theme will always be positive masculinities while incorporating gendering, a subject that is triggering a lot of conversation. And, as well as women exhibitors in this show, there are plans for a women’s show in collaboration with two Toronto art galleries. “For us, diversity is essential,” say the men.
Their enthusiasm and dedication is an inspiring and welcome addition to this little corner of Ontario.