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Artist Zach Brunner Illustrates the Perfect Scenes of Gay Domesticity
If you've been on gay Twitter, or the gay part of any social media platform where people share a lot of imagery, it's likely you've seen the work. A soothing illustration of two guys laying around. Maybe they are eating pizza in bed, maybe they are gaymers, or some other permutation of an at-home coupling. The caption might read something like "me & who" or "couple goals." The likelihood is, that was the work of Zachary Brunner.
Though Instagram gets often ragged on for its censorship guidelines, or for the superficiality of it all, for some creatives it's an invaluable platform on which to build an audience and share their work. Gay visual artists, in particular, have used it to connect with people the world over, even in spite of the seemingly homophobic implementation of censorship tools, and the ever-changing, always demoralizing algorithm. Brunner, who has created graphic novels, and done work for companies like Kiehls and Stella, has been one artist to use the platform in this way.
Amongst his work, Brunner has developed a series of sorts depicting scenes of gay domesticity, often centered around being in lockdown to the pandemic. Here, we talk to him about that work and the importance of it.
When did you start creating art?
I started creating art as soon as I could hold a pencil. There's never been a time in my life were I wasn't always drawing.
Was this meant to be a series or is it just a theme that recurs in your work?
I didn't really have any plans for a series, it just sort of developed as new ideas popped into my head.
I began the series with my Quarantine Isolation drawing, focusing on the depression of isolation almost everyone was experiencing at the start of the lockdowns. People related to it way more than I anticipated. I really enjoyed drawing that scene and decided to continue exploring a series, with the central theme being living our lives in lockdown while confined to these tiny spaces that hold our whole existences. New York City is such a strange place to live. There are so many people, with all our personal belongings, our feelings, our experiences, all crammed into these tiny apartments, each stacked on top of each other.
Why is it important to create this work?
I think it's important to show these quiet little scenes because we don't really see enough content of just normal queer people living their day-to-day lives. It's a reminder that queer people are just...normal people. Growing up, I had no idea what it looked like to be gay in our world, that a gay life was even possible. I had no examples in art and entertainment of what an average queer life could be. Part of this series is trying to show that we're typical humans who do normal things.
Is this based in your actual experiences or idealized?
Yeah, all of them are based in some way on my own real experiences while either single or in relationships.
What does it feel like to watch it go viral all the time?
On the positive side, I think it's really interesting to see all these people relate to something that felt so personal while I was creating it. It's a reminder that even in lockdown, we're all going through the same thing.
The downside of going viral is that lots of people see it, including the StraightsTM. Once I started posting drawings of boyfriends together, I started getting so much hate. Hundreds of comments of the vomiting emoji face, people saying that being gay was disgusting, that it was wrong and I should take down my posts. I turned off commenting because frankly I don't care about their opinions and I have no tolerance for their homophobic bullshit. Its not my responsibility to explain and validate my existence to random haters on social media. It's kind of amazing how people who don't follow me will go out of their way to post mean things on stranger's accounts. You can kind of get trapped in a positive instagram bubble sometimes, and this has been a harsh reminder that there are still lots of really awful people in the world. However, their vitriol has only motivated me to make my drawings even gayer.
Has there been a particular response that has stood out to you?
I will say I'm hurt by the amount of people who said my "Pizza and Drag Race" drawing was unsanitary for eating pizza in bed. Don't judge me for eating pizza in my bed. It's my bed and I will eat pizza there if I damn well please.
Is this work that you will continue to create?
It's transitioned from a quarantine series to more of just everyday regular queer life, so I can see the series continuing as long as I come up with new concepts. I just moved from New York to Los Angeles, so it will be interesting to see how a change of city might change the perspective of this series.
See Zach Brunner's Other Work
This series isn't the only one Brunner has done. Though he doesn't think of his work in "series," there are a number of threads in his work. One collection, sees the artist turning the Sailor Scouts into feminine himbos. In another, they've reimagined muscled hunks as super heroines.