The Blue Penis Project is the brainchild of Australian artist Claude, who celebrates diversity, individuality and masculinity by finely painting blue penises.
I came across Claude on Instagram and was immediately attracted to the visually striking nature of his work. I reached out to him and was surprised to learn that he’s a fellow Aussie (with a Portugese background no less) who’s currently living and working in Melbourne.
Intrigued by his project, I reached out to him. I wanted to find out a but more about him, what inspired the project and what sort of reaction the project has received.
Little Gay Blog – Thanks so much for your time Claude. Can you tell me a little bit more about your artistic and life background?
Claude – I have had a pretty diverse creative past that has spanned a number of design disciplines. I graduated from a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2005, which I followed straight into a Bachelor of Design for Performance. For about 9 years I worked as a professional set designer on the main stage theatre scene in Australia.
I have always been interested in storytelling though I could never find the story I wanted to tell through my art. I think this had a lot to do with my own struggle with identity and sexuality. Theatre provided a wonderful platform in which I could create worlds and challenge ideas through existing texts, but I have always wanted to find my own voice.
I left the theatre world in 2014 to take up a corporate position as an art director working on creative campaigns for retailers. This is were I am now. I I love working with brands in the same way that I worked within in the theatre. Ultimately this role has allowed me the flexibility to work on my own art practice.
I have a very keen interest in queer art and with access to the internet and social media, the voice of queer artists has never been so loud. Artists like Venfield 8 and Bruce La Bruce are challenging the way we view male sexuality. This is really where my own practice has found its legs.
How did the idea for the Blue Penis Project come about?
I have always been interested in voyeuristic views of masculinity as a subject matter and portraiture is such a powerful way of capturing intimate moments in time.
For me, portrait painting as an art form has a heritage and tradition associated with it that creates a very different lens at which we can look at a subject. As a viewer we engage on a more inquisitive level than if we are looking at the same subject in photographic form.
I wanted to find a way to capture portraits of men, that looked deeper into their masculinity and challenged preconceived ideas of sexual prowess and notions of masculinity being measured by penis size. To me this is so reductive and causes insecurity, dysmorphia and a disconnection with one’s sexuality.
The Blue Penis Project came about as a celebration of masculine diversity and individuality. Like our faces or fingerprints, no cock is the same. They are close and dear to our identity though are rarely admired outside of sexual objectification. We plaster them all over social media and constantly use them as bait.
These portraits encourage us to look differently at ourselves and others. Painted blue they become “objects” of appreciation, full of detail and intricacies. No longer censored fleshy taboo, they are not pornographic or explicitly sexual. They are captured as forms, dynamic in shape and movement.
What are you hoping to achieve with the project?
I wanted to create a new series of work that would engage with the viewer beyond aesthetic. It needed to be interactive and have longevity, yet simple and honest. It needed to be something that didn’t take itself to seriously and could inspire a chuckle while being heavily loaded with context.
We had a showing of the first 6 paintings as part of a group show here in Melbourne and it was fascinating the way that people responded. Laughter, followed by discovery, followed by comparison engaged a frank discussion about dicks that was much less one dimensional and reductive than is generally the case.
I feel like the addition of each new portrait ads weight to the work, and the larger the work grows the more powerful it becomes as an artwork of substance. My first goal is 50, though I have given myself an end number of 100. At each of these milestones I hope to exhibit the work publicly.
I think Its also important to note that as part of the project there is going to be a small collection of apparel. Super playful, the clothing is a cheeky attempt at getting the work out in the public sphere. Making it accessible but also challenging public tolerance of nudity and sexuality.
What sort of response have you received from people?
I am not sure what I was expecting, though the response to the work has been incredibly positive. Men and women really get the work and seem to engage with the simplicity of the idea.
I think It’s in the balance of quenching our carnal desire in wanting to see dicks, with creating a platform for conversation and interrogation about what a dick really is beyond sexual context.
Its interesting to me that many of the guys that have modelled – both strangers and friends – have felt a sense of liberation, pride and love for their portraits. Some have even embraced them to the point of sharing them with friends and family after being adamant that they wanted to remain anonymous. It’s strangely therapeutic in a way.
The one question I do get a lot is why blue? Being of Portuguese heritage I have always been completely obsessed with “Azulejos” a technique of painting in blue on ceramic tiles. These tiles are synonymous with Portuguese culture and architecture and I have often referenced this in my work. Blue paint seamed like a natural place to start.
What the blue also does is remove the fleshiness and sexual taboo from dicks. They become sculptural forms that we can explore and engage with objectively, allowing the viewer to look a little deeper and explore the paintings without feeling the cultural guilt associated with public sexuality or pornography.
How can people get involved with the project?
Well I need 80 more guys! Anyone who is keen to have a portrait done should definitely get in contact. Ideally I shoot the models myself so that I can control the composition but am more than happy to take photographic submissions.
When you look at the work you will notice that they are all painted from a controlled profile view. This is incredibly important to the work. It sets up a consistency across the collection but more importantly It’s a spectator view not a selfie, ”the male gaze” so to speak.
If you are interested in being involved, please get in touch and I can give you some tips on getting the best shot.