Artist Feature ://
Posted April 2018
Max Adrian’s soft-sculpture studio practice is a playroom where he explores queer ideas of sexuality and identity through Craft. He is influenced by LGBTQ+ history, drag, puppetry, street theatre, and other forms of radical performance, which inform his material, design, and conceptual choices. Max’s goal is to discover, discuss, and engage in the diverse spectrum of queer sexuality, as well as the communities who help to shape alternative identities. His work is representative of the act of becoming and working to understand our sexual desires, fears, biases, and perceptions, as we learn to share ourselves with others.
Max ultimately aims to create an engagement in which the viewer considers their own physicality. He utilizes highly tactile materials like faux-fur, pleather, and spandex, which nod to his performative nuances with connotations of costume, nightlife, and sexual scenarios. By dissecting these materials into hundreds of pieces and assembling them into geometric sculptural forms through an intricate quilt-like manner of piecework he hopes to echo the history of quilts as storytelling devices, emblems of identity, and sources of comfort while presenting innovative methods of sewing.
Recent work extends Max’s practice into the realm of inflatables. Slightly taller than the average viewer, his inflatables are set to timers, alternating between periods of inflation and deflation. Filling with air and collapsing is essential to these objects’ failure. Failure to abide by masculine notions of sculpture. Failure to stay inflated. Failure to perform. Queer scholar Jack Halberstam often writes about queerness and failure going hand-in-hand, in that queer failure means existing beyond social expectations. Max’s work aligns with these sentiments, as embracing failure ultimately makes us all the more thoughtful, empathetic, and truly human.
Threesome of Buddie, 2017 Max Adrian
‘The Sensational Inflatable Furry Divines’, 2017 Installation view at the Roy G Biv Gallery in Columbus, Ohio
Q. What role and impact have your various residencies had on your practice?
I have been fortunate to participate in some great residencies. They've provided real gifts of time and space to focus on my work, but the most impactful aspect has been the people I've met and shared studios with, engaged in great conversations, and bonded with over lots of wine and scrabble. It's especially rewarding because most of the people I've met at residencies work in disciplines that are different from my own like painting or ceramics, so I've been able to get all kinds of feedback and perspectives that I wouldn't ordinarily receive. Many of them have become great friends afterward, which is nice because it feels like I've got friends all over the place now.
Q. What is your ultimate aim through your artworks?
My ultimate aim through my art is to open doorways into conversations that might be difficult for people to have. I use my studio practice as a method of considering my own queerness, sexuality, and search for community, and I try to do so in light-hearted ways. I think lots of people try so hard to fit into a mould of what they believe is the societal norm or what they are supposed to aspire to, and they end up feeling conflicted and uncomfortable because the truth is that we're all way more complex than those moulds. For me, as a self-identified queer male, I am so tired of masculinity worship. Our society is so steeped in toxic forms of masculinity, and as someone who doesn't identify with the mould of "man" or even the mould of "gay man" that's been shoved down our throats, I'm way more interested in alternative expressions of gender or sexuality that are more honest and true. These are universal things, I don't feel that I have a particularly special outlook on these topics, but I do believe that we shouldn't feel uncomfortable to talk about them. It's like, come on, we're all feeling it, let's just admit it! I really believe that talking about things usually makes them less intimidating. So I like to make playfully appealing objects like my inflatable furry forms that are simultaneously delightful and a bit dark, in order to coax people through the door of talking about something like sexual expression or gender expression. I really just want to be a voice for more compassion and empathy for all of us weirdos who are figuring things out.
‘Act II, Scene IV: Snowman’, 2017 Max Adrian
Q. Your sculptures are of a high level of craftsmanship, do you put them together yourself? When did you first become familiar with textile work and your fabric choices?
Yeah, I do all of the sewing and construction myself. I went into Fibre after a failed attempt in the Animation department at the Kansas City Art Institute, which I graduated from in 2015. I felt that I took with me into Fibre a lot of the same interests I had in Animation: interests in personifying objects, narrative, character development, and having a playful sense of humour with my work. I really latched on to sewing as a method of constructing objects, so I just started to make things with materials that I was drawn to. I love super tactile materials that feel kind of sexy or sensual or relate to the body in some way, like pleather or faux-fur, materials that are deemed low-brow but have such strong and fun connotations of costume, nightlife, toys. There's a queer kind of comfort in these materials that I love.
Q. We particularly enjoy the playful nature of your work. How important is the sense ‘touch’ to you when forming your ideas into a reality?
Very important! I always make something knowing that most people will want to touch it. Materials like faux fur and pleather beg for interaction, but as soon as they're placed in the white wall gallery, they're deemed hands-off. I'm interested in that restraint that we exhibit in art spaces, but I'm even more interested in the secret touches that happen because we all know that the art gets touched in the gallery anyway, it's just done in a very particular kind of way. And my work deals with notions of play, and cooperation, and sharing ourselves with others, so having an active sense of touch is essential. I've yet to make something that is absolutely hands-off, but if I do, that would be a very conscious decision.
‘Luther: The Furry Divine of Questionable Head’, 2017 Max Adrian
Q. How do you see your practice developing in the future?
I have got lots of ideas. I want to see my current ongoing series "The Sensational Inflatable Furry Divines" grow a lot more, and I've been slowly getting back into writing lately which used to be a big part of my practice, so I'm hoping to flesh out the Furry Divine world with some supplemental narratives. I've also been experimenting a lot lately in the studio, and I'm feeling particularly excited about some ideas that nod to quilting a little more directly than my more sculptural work. I keep refining my techniques for the inflatable work, and I'd like to see those get bigger and more architectural, becoming entire spaces that inflate and deflate as you're in them.
Q. Why do you love what you do?
I get to play with super fun materials and have great conversations with folks in all kinds of interesting places, what's not to love??
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