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Heyd Fontenot : Artist

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Illustrations Gone Wild
Heyd Fontenot's nudes find the funny line between filthy trash
and sacred human form

BY DANIEL A. KUSNER

So often, the depiction of nudity is considered skeevy. Even in art. But Heyd Fontenot's illustrations of folks in their birthday suits appear so dang good-natured. They're silly yet wholesome. And when describing the gay artis's nude drawings, playful words like "wieners," "butts" and "boobs" come to mind - not their crass synonyms. And certainly not clinical terms like "penis" or "anus."

As part of a group show at the Mulcahy Modern, the Austin-based Fontenot has three pieces featured in the exhibition. But more than 50 other Fontenot drawings will be made available at the Bishop Arts district gallery. Fontenot answered a few questions about his butt-naked images, being a voyeur and if he ever draws in the nude.

Why nudes?
These drawings represent my continuing interest in people. Most of them are my friends. But I'm a voyeur. And what better way to exercise this peccadillo than to stare at someone for hours and record all the things about him or her that interest you?

Do people ever misunderstand what you're trying to convey?
A lot of people immediately sexualize my work. As Americans, it's difficult for us to not jump to the conclusion that nudity equals sex. Of course, there is a terrific grey area. Traditionally, art historians have had to stress that "nudes" are not sexy, because people became titillated or repulsed or both. Claiming that the work was "above carnality" gave people an opportunity to acknowledge the beauty and wonder of the human form. So in a way, to get people to settle down and consider a work of art, they end up neutering the work. As with religion, it's too fiery a subject.

What's the Fontenot artistic stamp all about?
It's important to combat the predominant media concepts like "Girls Gone Wild" and even the hyper-arousal depictions that are so often found in gay media - where there's a specific template for what we're all supposed to desire and aspire to become. I'm interested in facilitating some self-acceptance, giving people a chance to see beautiful imperfection.

Name one thing in the art world that makes you throw up:
Artists who don't produce their own paintings. That's just gross. If you don't paint, or you don't have the time to paint, don't pretend to "make paintings." Chose another medium.

Do you ever draw in the raw?
I must have, but I can't remember. I can assure you that if I did, it wasn't part of my "method." It was probably just because it's so hot in Texas.
Mulcahy Modern, 408 W. Eighth St. Suite 101. Through June 30. Open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 214-948-9595.

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