Socially Distant Art Portraits
the Awakening art series
“Playing dress up was always my escape. So I made my escape my life.”
- Rori Flynn, July 2020
“I often feel like an outsider in the Los Angeles’ gay community, because I choose to be true to myself instead of trying to fit in. And I'm proud of that, but it’s made dating in LA even more of a challenge than it is for most. Last year, I fell in love with a guy who told me that I was too good from him, and it almost destroyed my light. This year, I’m working to get my light back, and to hopefully, glow brighter than before.”
-Navaris, August 2020
“My art is married to my gayness and I think, for me, taking on the Mister title gave me some kind of cheeky power over how I could present myself. Typically the Mr. is the dominant and often patriarchal alpha in relationships. The Mr. is “the man”, the “one in charge”, “the top”, etc. Something about all of that has always made me laugh, scared me, and at the same time, turned me on. Somewhere in that confusion of feeling is where I create from.”
-Mister Osborne, June 2020
“My paternal ancestor, Lutiseku - which means great things to come - brought the Fagbenle clan across Nigeria to settle in Ibadjo. His son was similarly not one for settling, captaining some of Nigeria’s first railway trains cutting their way across Yoruba land. My maternal grandfather sailed across from the UK to Australia and piloted the first airplanes across the Antipodean skies during WWI.
My parents lived in many cities in my formative years, and, after receiving my first sax at 10 years old, I soon began touring Europe playing in “big bands” up until my early teens.
Samuel Beckett says there are two types of fools—the ones who stay put and the ones who keep moving. I am from lines of the latter.
In 2019 I took 52 flights — that’s one flight a week the entire year. I had also pushed myself over the past few years to accomplish more than I considered myself capable of doing to write, direct, produce and act for the TV show MAXXX. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. Then Covid paused it all.”
I spent 5 months living in Tanzania with my mom in a small fishing and arts town on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Bagamoyo. I never thought I would enjoy a rural life, preferring the constant, moving energy of cities and travel--but I loved it. Homeschooling with my niece and nephews, drives through the beautiful country of Tanzania, a slower pace of life. Rest.
Things are gearing back up now, this summer I’ve seen airports in Dar Es Salaam, Amsterdam, London, Mexico, Los Angeles, Quebec and Toronto. Though for 2020 I’m trying to carry a piece of the rural with me, finding some still, while moving fast…”
-O-T Fagbenle, September 2020
"Music gives a soul to the Universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
-Grandma, August 2020
“My church is any ocean.”
-Dad, August 2020
"I scarce can take in the road
You've graced me to travel
Surrounded by water, I see your beauty
As I rearrange my life within and without..."
-Mom, August 2020
“When I was 16, I already knew I wanted to be a Magician but did not understand what path I had to take to make it a reality. There was a theater play in my high school and they needed someone to play a Spanish character on the production. Because most of my favourite magicians were from Spain, I had on my own started to read books on that language to learn more and more the secrets of the craft. I felt that I could give it a try since nobody else on the school had any knowledge of Spanish. I fell in love with Theater, with the process, with the possibilities. I never saw Magic again the same way I did before and I never saw Theater again the same way I did before. Live performance is an amazing gift and I've been exploring it since that moment.”
-Helder Guimarâes, May 2020
“For what influenced me early on—Cyd Charisse in Singing in the Rain. I was obsessed with the image of her putting a spell on all the men in the dance sequence with Gene Kelly. She was an empowered female dancer. I wanted to play strong female characters, not ones that swoon over men and are helpless without them…And, recently, the George Floyd protests really had an impact on me. It was as if a fuse was blown. I cried deep cries that I wasn't aware were buried in the depths of my soul. I was affected by it for weeks afterwards, almost emotionally paralyzed, as if the veil had been lifted off and now it was in the open to be seen where before it was tucked away. It was a wakeup call. I didn't know how much I needed to connect more with people. I didn't know they were feeling the same angst and confusion I felt all my life. So I will continue to connect.”
-Mieko Hillman, September 2020