I'm so excited to introduce you to our second 'meat LOVES' artist, Mr Ben Youdan.
Liverpool based Ben works with collage and mixed media. His work explores themes of sexual expression, queer identity, notions of masculinity, and the male form's beauty, taking inspiration from popular culture. His work has been exhibited internationally and was featured in Madonna's "Rebel Heart" Tour. He is also a former Artist in Residence at The Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles.
Ben has created ten one-off, unique pieces available exclusively through the online store
and I caught up with him to talk about his work, the joys of the North and Madonna.
Wow! Ben, I’m so thrilled that you’re the second meat LOVES artist and SO pleased with the collages you’ve made to sell in the meat store. Tell us a bit more about them.
You are very welcome, the pleasure is all mine. I have admired your “meat” for a long time so I was delighted when you approached me. I have attempted to create something that both embodies the philosophy and aesthetic of Meat and remains true to my own work.
They are an unashamed celebration of freedom and sexual expression. A colourful portrayal of cruising during a time when human contact beyond our immediate circle is impossible. A fantasy vision inspired by reality. For me Queer identity is intrinsically linked to the concept of re-appropriating space. Queer sexuality exists as a minority within a Hetero-normative world so we find and create our own spaces in which to express our sexuality and identity. The essence of collage is to re-imagine the environment we inhabit in the way queer people have been doing for eternity.
A lot of work featuring images of men.
Absolutely! It is just instinctive really. I have been drawn towards men in a state of undress for as long as I can remember so it is only natural they should feature in my work. Although the male form is something I’m sure I will return to again and again I am currently working on an idea for an exhibition that will encompass the female form in all its glory along side that of the male. The working title is “Authentic queers and phoney Virgins.” It is at embryonic stage at the moment and may not be realised for a while yet but I am really excited about it.
It’s also quite fetishy right? Is fetishy even a word?
Well if it wasn't a word before, I guess it is now! Yes, I can’t deny it. I have been an out and proud kinky queer for many years now. My particular interest is leather but I find beauty in all manner of kink. Although my work is a fantasy vision its roots are very much in personal experience.
Inclusivity also seems to be very high on your agenda, right?
Most definitely. It sounds a bit trite and cliche but I am absolutely genuine in my belief that there is beauty inherent in all people regardless of age, size, shape, colour, orientation or gender identity. It is important for me to portray this in my work but hopefully not in a tokenistic way. We all have the right to explore and express our sexuality, even if you don't look like a Tom of Finland drawing.
I've been looking at your portfolio a lot. You like a glamorous icon too right?
Oh, yes. I certainly do! I think there is a very special link between queers and their icons. Its amazing how often we forge these affections as children, long before we are aware of our sexuality, and they often remain with us forever. Frankly, If you can’t enjoy an image of Cher covered in pink sequins then I feel sorry for you!
You’re the second Northern meat LOVES artist, which, as a northerner myself really thrills me. Does the North influence your work?
I’m certain it does, probably in ways I am not even conscious of. I have been very lucky and travelled and worked quite a lot in Europe and America and of course the influence of places like Berlin or L.A. is significant. However, I like to think that there is an element of my work that is forever Blackpool on a Saturday night tinged with poppers, WKD, and broken glass.
I know Liverpool quite well. It’s quite an artsy city right?
It certainly is. Liverpool is a city that has always punched above its weight culturally. Liverpool creatives of all kinds are known throughout the world. Even in the dark days of the 1980s the arts in the broadest sense were thriving in the city.
And it's pretty queer.
Very much so. Pete Burns, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Lily Savage and The Vivienne to name but a few. It can be a tough place and a warm place in equal measure. I learned this the hard way as a teenager stood at a bus stop in the inner city in wet look PVC trousers and a chainmail top made from safety pins!
So I gotta ask. What’s the story with you and Madonna?
That was great fun . As a queer child of the 80;s and 90's I grew up with Madonna. My husband, Jon, is a huge fan and in the build up to her Rebel Heart tour there was an open call for submissions from artists all over the world to submit a piece to be used as a backdrop. He said to me “you should definitely send them something”, so I did and then forgot all about it. Anyway to cut a long story medium length, about three months later I was shaken awake at 7 o’clock in the morning to be excitedly informed that my piece had been featured, in a very prominent spot right on the chorus of Rebel Heart! She has wonderful taste.
Check out Ben's work exclusively for meat HERE
For more on Ben: @BenYoudanArt