If you're here, You have definitely seen Same DIfference before : this drawing's the first thing you see when you enter my site, it's the banner of my facebook page, I've posted it several times on instagram... or you might have even seen it when I made it back in 2016. I joked that it would be the cover of my autobiography (that was totally not a joke). It was received pretty nicely, and I had many people talking to me about it. I no longer thought about it for a while and moved on.
Then, this Spring, after I'd only opened this site for a couple months, I noticed an unprecedented uptick in the number of visits. I had no idea why, especially since a lot of them were from the US, and most of my "fan-base" is in France and Canada (since that's where i've lived / live).
As it turns out, people had been sharing the artwork on Instagram and/or Facebook, and it had started going around. Most didn't credit me, but someone in one post's comments was nice enough to look me up and contact me so I found it out that way. The timing seemed to make sense.
It was pretty flattering since the response was mostly positive (I'm mostly jealous that some who shared it got way more likes than I've ever had with my art, but that's social networks for you).
Soon, though, people started interpreting the artwork and giving it a narrative that I hadn't completely intended. Some used it to illustrate posts about racism and discrimination in the gay community, or its conformity, and that was OK, to a point :
That people interpreted the picture the way they wanted was ok, but I was starting to feel nervous that some (who had a lot more visibility with my art than I did myself) told others that their interpretation was what I truly meant. It eventually culminated with this image :
Obviously, I do not mind that people would use my art to denounce inequalities and injustice. I definitely agree that all of the issues here have to be addressed. And the person who made this, Alex Cooper Webster, was nice enough to credit me and even link to this site when he posted it, and to tell people who commented to also do so if they wanted to share it. I definitely thank him for that.
But truth be told, I was irked. Retouching someone's art without asking them is traditionally a big no-no (but, again, that's the internet for you). But more than that, because I am represented in the artwork, I felt uneasy about the re-appropriation that seems to make me say things that I didn't say - even though I agree with them, but that's not the point. It's commendable to want to use art to spread a message, but there's a difference between using a Picasso as a meme and modifying the piece of a barely known artist. Picasso has a legacy and integrity to his work that will perdure anyway, whatever you do to his work. That's not my case. It is possible that more people have seen this modified version of my art than the actual artwork I actually made. And even if it's mostly ego, it stings a little bit.
I've been thinking of a way to talk about my feelings on the subject, but i didn't want to seem insensitive or unappreciative. I am genuinely happy that something I've made has inspired people. It is very flattering, and I'm not used to it ; after all, my other artworks are mostly pulp so they don't warrant this kind of response.
I don't want to say what this piece is really about to me, because once an artwork has been shared, people find their own meanings in it, as they should, and have. I just wanted to say that it is a little hard to make sense of your own depiction of yourself and the expression of your thoughts no longer belonging to you once you let others see them.
But, that's just being an artist for you.
I do have to thank all those who shared it (and credited me), Webster included. Thanks to this visibility, I've had the pleasure of receiving messages and chatting with people who have told me how much this drawing means to them and shared with me their experiences as minorities within the gay community and elsewhere. I honestly never thought that so many people would relate to what is, without a doubt, my most introspective piece. I also never thought that any of my art would lead to such intimate conversations with strangers.
Finally, I really want to stress out that I care about the issues that people have used my art to denounce. Hell, I've experienced a lot of them first hand. But as a general rule, the best way to go about modifying someone's art will always be to ask the artist first - especially if they're a smaller scale artist like myself, who are easy to contact and will often be glad that what they're doing is reaching people.
In the end, I'm glad that something I've made actually means something and matters to someone. That's what should matter the most to me.