Making The New Normal
Oppression takes many forms, but Donavon Sinclair has managed to reveal its true face on canvas. Donavon’s work depicts emotional, enigmatic figures that often struggle through uncertain situations. These figures can’t be identified by gender, race, class or other social statuses, but each piece manages to allow viewers from any background to ultimately relate to his characters’ adverse circumstances. Donavon has experienced his own adversities as a queer artist, but he believes those experiences have ultimately helped to inform his art.
“I really appreciate those experiences now, because they were just a taste of how much it can suck to be you. While I have been hurt, I’ll never understand certain types of oppression ― but I still want to show that oppression is messed up, and that individuals can find a common ground through realizing that. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to connect people.”
In addition to these personal experiences, Donavon’s figures were also inspired by Spanish Artist Oswaldo Guayasamin’s depictions of struggle. Guayasamin created similar figures whose expressions spoke to Donavon ― particularly in one specific piece.
“It had a gender tied to it, but it was solely the portrait of an emotion. It was really contorted, the hands were really long, distorted, and beautiful. They were water colors, and they had stains and bleeds, and they weren’t perfect. It was cool to see that ‘yeah people have real issues to go through, it’s not all peaches and cream.’”
Donavon began drawing and painting at an early age, mostly to embody similar figures he saw in his head. By high school, his fundamental skills had blossomed, and his family and friends urged him to continue chasing his passion. And once he began studying art at Portland State University, his teachers and fellow artists helped him to uncover a new emotional pulse in his work.
“Here in Portland, people would tell me ‘talk about that nitty gritty stuff that everyone is too uncomfortable to talk about.’ I would ask my teachers, ‘Is that okay? To curse or use sexual themes? And they would always say ‘Yes! Do it! If it makes me uncomfortable, I’ll probably like it even more.’”
This positive push helped to inform Donavon’s latest series, which is largely inspired by his relationship with his boyfriend.
“It’s been more about creating a more welcoming and direct affirmation of positive imagery towards queer relations and intermingling with different forms of love. I want to represent two beings in an intimate setting with one gesture.”
To do this, Donavon uses a single line to connect multiple characters in a conjoined abstraction. He uses brittle elements like charcoal, and conte, juxtaposing them with vivid paint and some open canvas to portray the raw nature of romance.
“I don’t want to create this completely idealized, false sense of a relationship, so I have parts of the canvas that are exposed. Some parts are painted, some are very smooth, other parts are very jagged. The way the charcoal is applied, some parts will be rough ― I’ll literally be stabbing at it. Other parts are really smooth and relaxed. That shows relationships are not smooth, they’re not perfect. There’s good, there’s bad, and the exposed parts kind of represent how I don’t think they’re ever going to be complete. You’re always learning, and growing, and creating. So the piece is never done.”
Expect to see Donavon’s work on display in Out Art Outlet, a brand new online gallery that hopes to exclusively promote media and visuals from the LGBT community. He says the hope of this gallery is to ultimately help normalize media from this community. “There is no normal, so let’s make this normal”