On the scene: Get Equal Benefit at Maxine Salon
At times, the relationships between various journalists, artists, and designers can be, to say the least, quite contentious. Whether it be the battle to break the story or the ascent to the title of visionary, it seems that the arts are as often defined by competition as they are creativity. But Saturday night’s Get Equal benefit, hosted by local gay male culture mag Mint Male at Maxine Salon, proved that when egos are set aside there is potential for creative and political development.
Maxine Salon seemed to be a curious choice of venue, but the two story-layout of the salon and its two decks looking out onto Rush street created a vibrant party atmosphere. While the downstairs area served as a gallery for the artists at the event, upstairs 40 plus guests gathered to taste wine from Spanish boutique wine sellers, Enye Wine Group and nosh on cheese and fruit plates. As with all parties featuring free wine, the night got increasingly interesting as time passed. Later in the evening, models and guests took part in photo shoots in a photo area designated by Mint Male where the models proved that they are extremely flexible.
Uniting various queer artists, documentary makers, performers, and writers, the Get Equal benefit was a night of celebration that highlighted the charitable organization’s fight for LGBT rights. Though the founders of Mint Male, Josh Shores, Joey Grant, and Lisa Kimmey, certainly could have centered the event on their June/July issue, they instead coordinated elements of the party to support the fight for equality.
The new issue of Mint Male covers a broad range of gay lifestyle topics (the magazine had articles ranging from LGBT health stats to an article about the environmental benefits of biking), but its main focus is political. Celebrating Pride Month while stressing the necessity of political activism, the main features this month provide a historical review of the political struggles of the LGBT community as well as the contemporary battle for equal rights. While reading through Mint Male's overview, one is reminded of the players involved in these battles as well as the court cases that could bring about historic change (the challenge to Prop 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, had closing arguments on June 16th).
Even the magazine's cover and fashion spread, featuring underwear by men's fashion designer Richard Dayhoff, has political angles. Beyond giving the magazine sex appeal, the shoot visualizes the political struggles of gay individuals by situating the models in various battles. Outfitted in Dayhoff's premium briefs and painted like warriors, these models mimic fighting scenes inspired by Japanese anime characters in abandoned warehouses. The juxtaposition between the cold architectural elements of the shoot and the vibrant painted bodies of the models illustrates the importance of individual participation in political movements.
The magazine also highlights some national campaigns that have done work for the LGBT community like the NOH8 photographs and photo art by John Ganun. Like the NOH8 campaign, Ganun's works, part of the openartismovement.com, features gay celebrities taking a stand against discrimination. The collection featured in Mint Male places these celebrities in the famous WWII, "We Can Do It!" propaganda ads to demonstrate the solidarity of the gay community as well as its members commitment to progress.
Aside from highlighting the importance of the contemporary gay rights movement, the Get Equal event also supported the LGBT community by featuring the works of various artists. While party goers mingled they perused through coal portraits from local artist, Cody Cranch. Though the formula for Cranch's pieces is simple, beautiful men rendered with pencil on paper, the compositions are complex and the facial expressions are varied and wonderfully evocative. Also on display were some of Dayhoff's underwear designs as well as Paul Richmond's "cheeky" celebrity paintings—great conversation starters for the evening.
With Pride weekend approaching, Mint Male's party was great way to begin the celebration but also provide exposure to the various organizations that are working to secure rights for the community. Mint Male will continue its celebration by collaborating with the Harrington College of Design on a float for the 41st Annual Chicago Pride Parade. Though egos can often clash when artists unite, when there is the issue of equality at stake, it seems that these individuals can look beyond themselves and collectively move towards a progressive future.