I first came across J. Morrison‘s work at the New York Art Book Far in 2008. It was hot and sticky in the maze of vendors pawning off artist editions and collectibles. He and his assistants, all wearing white short shorts, were busy screen-printing images of scantly clad men onto brightly colored totes. Many of J. Morrison’s images are of fit naked or semi-naked men with enlarged penises that eat their arms, ride on snakes or sprout limbs from their head. These mutated beefcakes are a nod to the body consciousness of mainstream gay culture and part of the artist’s larger interest in linking consumerism and masculinity.
His new project Space is The Place is a migratory performance art/event series that creates site-specific performances in temporary and unconventional vacant spaces. An outgrowth of this is a “flip fuck book” documenting Bunnyhead Porn. It offers readers a front seat to J. Morrison in the buff donning an oversized bunny head while striking very homoerotic positions (from the back and front). It reminds me of the scene in The Shining where Shelley Duvall’s character runs hysterically through the hotel wielding a knife to suddenly come across someone in a bear costume performing fellato on a man in a tuxedo. Similarly, the characters in J. Morrison’s always stick with you because they are are marked with a sexual perversity that is both captivating and strangely humorous.
When you put silk screens on utilitarian objects like shirts, totes and hankies, do you intend for them to be used or treasured as art objects?
They always start out being accessible ephemeral objects, and began as a way to easily produce my drawings and messages. Recently I started to take inventory of my projects, and realized I’ve disseminated literally thousands of prints. (I had a show at PS1 a few years ago in which I exhibited my paper towel rolls for use in the restrooms, and we went though over 150 rolls – that’s 9,000 sheets of screenprints that I printed!)
After time has gone on, I’ve realized people do save them like art objects. People have sent them around the world, some people frame them, hold onto them, etc.
A lot of your silk screens are of hunky men with mutated bodies – what is your inspiration?
I think a lot of it is from growing up in the Midwest and having a low self-esteem, and then moving to NY and trying to find where you fit it. (I’ve only lived in OH and NY.) I love people, but I’ve felt I’ve never really belonged to one group. So that’s where I think the dysfunctional and alienated figures come in. Secondly, I think it’s in response to the community here in NY – Chelsea in particular. I think a lot about what images I want to see in the world and why should they exist, and also being responsible for what you put out there. Do we want to see more American Apparel billboards? A&F in Times Square? 2xist underwear ads on the street?
I also try my best to make the screenprints that I send out into the world have some sort of message, whether it’s a political/social statement, or simply just a comment my own about body and the stereotypes I’ve encountered.
Come to think of it, I have seen your butt a number of times now in photographs and press material. Have you always been an exhibitionist?
Well no. But it is always in an art context! Someone recently told me I had a nice arse and I guess I never thought about using my body in a performance. (See also: Catholic Guilt!) Then I got to thinking how we’re all human and only live once, and who really cares anyway. In the past few years I started my own performance project called SPACE IS THE PLACE, which is kind of an invite-only event inspired by Paul McCarthy’s early performances. It’s been a great opportunity and learning experience to try and push my comfort level as well as what my audience is comfortable with. I think when you make yourself feel a little vulnerable in the right context it can be quite liberating. Plus a little nudity never hurt nobody!
And around the house, do you also wander around in the buff?
“Nude as the news” by Cat Power
If I were to come over now to your apartment, what would be the first thing I notice, or gawk at, or be disgusted by?
You would be immediately hypnotized by the 10” dildo on my kitchen table, and then disgusted by how much you like it.
Do you have a lot of your own art in your apartment?
None, actually. I only have friends’ works. I send so much of my work out there that I don’t think I could live with it.
I just came across your new publication “BUNNYHEAD PORN A FLIP FUCK BOOK” So the bunnyhead conceptual choice or a fetish for furry things?
Both. I’m interested in the subculture of naming ourselves after animals (bears, otters, cubs), but it also follows along with me appreciating these groups but never identified with one solely.
I suppose if you wanted to analyze it, the bunny is a way for me to play out a fantasy through a character. I also use it in a way to release sexual frustrations, i.e. “fucking like bunnies.”
So speaking of furry you are always rocking very impressive facial hairy. Part of the whole artist image? It must get you a lot of attention.
Aw thanks! I try to keep mixing it up – it’s good to have a new identity. It’s funny because depending on my facial hair, different people will approach me, look at me funny, and hit on me as well. I feel like I need a new look now, like growing hair on my nose or something.
What’s the best compliment anyone could offer you?
I like both you AND your art!
If I were your muse, what would you create? And please try to flatter me, it has been a long week.
Oh I would make a Roman statue of your beautiful self in marble. And if you weren’t happy, we could add or subtract as needed. Your ass would be perfect.