Artists Kyle Alden Martens and Emily Lawrence both create playful work that subtly destabilizes traditionally heteronormative arenas—sports for Martens and mainstream porn and Martha Stewart cooking demonstrations for Lawrence—while making their audiences laugh through any discomfort of not knowing the new rules of the game.
For Martens, humour has always provided a way of “bringing people to subject matter that’s maybe more touchy or emotional,” he explains. Visual Arts News’ podcast host David Dahms chats with Martens about subjects ranging from where he finds creative inspiration to why it’s important to respect some people’s decisions to keep their sexual orientation a secret. The artist discusses how his own experiences growing up in “a painfully small town in Saskatchewan where the reality of queer people is something that’s hidden to make their lives easier” continues to inform the work he does today. “Within my practice there’s an underlying theme of being closeted or a hidden sexuality, or this repression out of necessity. Humour is kind of a way to bring that topic up without kind of being a downer.”
Emily Lawrence discusses topics ranging from the divide between art and life (or lack thereof) to the role of seduction as a powerful tool in her work. “I think initially people are drawn into the type of work that I make and very seduced, but once they’re there, there’s a lot that happens,” explains Lawrence. “When they’re in, people are maybe surprised or disgusted and there’s a flipping of [the seductive elements].” Lawrence employs a maximalist aesthetic in much of her work, “pulling people in with excess and spectacle,” while ultimately destabilizing constructs related to one’s identity and role in society. She takes on multiple identities when she creates work, playfully embracing a plurality of self. “I think that even when I’m present in my work, I’m creating a character and wearing a costume.”