My work is an ongoing exploration of identity. It is influenced by the impact of the AIDS epidemic during the 80's and 90's and growing old. At times, the work is a statement about my experiences navigating a sex–positive lifestyle among a prevalence of sex-negative messages. At other times, the work is my way to honor my feminine side while striving to be more masculine.
Before the year 2000, my work was about life and death. Since then, it is about life in general.
After moving to Washington, DC in 2001, and reflecting on past visits to the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall, ACT-UP's first political funeral, and the march on Washington for LGBT rights (In the 1990's), I was inspired to make quilts that spoke of survival and sexual liberation. This became my MEN WORKING series, which led to the SOFT PORN, and the PAPER QUILT/COLLAGE series. The three series combine images of men and masculinity, using working methods that are considered traditionally feminine, such as sewing, embroidery, hand quilting, and scrap booking.
In the SOFT PORN series, I hand stitch contour drawings of men taken from gay male pornography. Pornography, for me, has been both a sexual outlet and a place to find inspiration. As a young gay man, pornography served as my first gay sexual education. As a maturing gay man, i use embroidery as a medium that channels the stich work I watched my grandmothers do throughout their lives. This series takes the overt sexuality of pornography and places it into the context of nostalgia, the home sewn, and a more romantic point of view. ( I also include my Leather Pansy pieces in this series)
In the MENWORKING series, quilts are made of items found at construction sites, images of men appropriated from the internet and fabrics with pansy prints. Men Working, Caution, Danger Do Not Enter are some of the signs and symbols I use metaphorically to refer to messages influenced by disease and homophobia. I use images from the internet to reference sexual exploration in modern life for gay men. The pansy fabrics speak to derogatory slurs, while helping to make the pieces pretty.
In the PAPER QUILT/COLLAGE series, I use found images on paper and collage the pieces together. In some pieces I use machine stitching for detail then mount the piece on wood panels, in others I collage paper and fabric.
Historically the word “pansy” was used as a disparaging term for a man or boy who was considered either effeminate or homosexual. The irony is that the pansy is a very hardy flower. I use pansy imagery throughout my work to reference all the derogatory slurs I have heard throughout my life.
A term once meant to be ugly and hurtful remaining resistant and pretty.
John Paradiso earned a BFA at the State University of New York (Purchase) and his MFA at the State University of New York (Buffalo). He is a mixed media artist and describes his work as metaphorical and based upon such issues as identity, sexuality, health, and love. He has work in private and public collections including the Kinsey institute and a portfolio of seven photographs in the National Picture Collection at the Library of Congress, (AIDS portfolio), and the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
John has served as a health educator and caregiver in the HIV/AIDS community for over twenty years where he developed educational programs and provided peer-based counseling. More recently he was a an Artist-in-Residence at the Washington Hospital Center working with adult cancer patients, their families and caregivers. He currently works as the Gateway Community Development Corporation's Curator of Programs at the 39th Street Gallery,Gateway Arts Center in Brentwood, MD.