Written by Jacqueline Ryan
If Porn Art were a university degree, painter and performance artist Brent Ray Fraser would graduate magna cum laude. The textbook definition of sexy – look it up – is this drop-dead gorgeous, perfectly chiseled, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, thirty-four year-old super stud. He’s hung like one too, much to the delight of the thousands of adoring ladies who have breathlessly watched him grind and peel away his cop and cowboy costumes, revealing his ample treasure beneath. A crowd pleasing male stripper by design – one of only a handful of a dying breed – Brent Ray Fraser passionately loves what he does, and makes no apologies for it. And, he shouldn’t. He’s glorious!
His evolution is understandable. As a child growing up in Surrey, BC, Fraser was painfully shy and introverted, and as an artist with an innate talent for drawing, he found it difficult, if not impossible, to connect his art with other people. By his sixth year at The Emily Carr University of Art and Design, when his father’s idea of picturing the audience naked still didn’t help him overcome his plight of shyness, he thought it might work in the reverse: What if he was the one who was naked instead? During that same time he also wanted to find a way to intertwine his art with eroticism… Eureka! With that, a life-altering concept was born and has evolved into what it is today. Creating paintings with his body before a live audience has carved out a unique niche for Fraser. He’s made a name for himself as “The Artist Stripper,” and he hasn’t looked back.
BRF: “It’s ironic considering where I was in grade one to what I’m doing now. I used to hate having people watch me draw, and now I’m painting naked in front of thousands of people, with my penis! It’s totally topsy-turvy! It’s meant to be. The only downside to doing it – not that there is much of a downside – is just the controversy that surrounds it and the assumptions people make based on it. I didn’t tell my parents for years because I thought that they would be ashamed of me, but really when you think about it, what’s to be ashamed about expressing yourself with your body? The body is a beautiful thing, right? And if you can entertain with it… *laughs*… people will think that you take money for sex, or that you do weird things sexually with people. It’s shunned. But it’s like pornography; damn near everybody watches pornography, and if you say you don’t you’re probably lying. It’s one of those things that’s not quite mainstream, and my goal is to bring it out! Share and share alike!”
The last time I saw him in action, Fraser, who I shall now refer to as per his usual moniker, BRF, was performing at The Taboo Naughty But Nice Sex Show. In a scant red wrestler’s singlet, he attracted a massive crowd pressed shoulder-to-shoulder forty feet across, to drink in a live show where he proceeded to punch-paint with boxing gloves on huge canvases, and stamp out innumerable prints of his painted member. Those happy spectators went home more than satisfied.
Jacqueline: “Give me a feeling of what art means to you when you’re in the midst of it.”
BRF: “The midst starts right from the idea. I consider myself a process-based artist, the journey is the actual art. The act of creating – THAT is the art. The painting is just a by-product of the act. It’s the nerves and all of that – it’s the whole shebang! It’s pure happiness! It’s hard to put into words… It’s what I was born to do, it’s who I am. When I have the energy of the crowd, it just passes through my body and then my body becomes the tool creating it and it’s more like becoming the art… I AM the art… The audience is the art. The smile on my face and the smiles that I get, is the payment for all the hard work. It’s just fucking awesome!”
For the past ten years, BRF has spent the majority of his time in his grain silo-turned-studio; a dot in the middle of the country farmland outside Vancouver. Inside, it is filled with riches, and everywhere you turn your wandering eyes fall upon color and form, the playful and the curious – including a delicious candy collection, a disturbing set of antique children’s gas masks, muffin tins applied as wall coverings, the groovy wall of lava lamps, and sex, oh yes, sex in the context of art, is everywhere…
During my visit to his two-story silo, I was privileged to sit with the artist while he hand-painted his signature skulls onto black tee shirts soon to be coming up for sale on his website. Vials of his pheromone infused sweat will also be available for your olfactory pleasure, and next up for grabs, you too can adorn your mantle with a self-portrait sculpture of his replicated, monolithic penis. I’ve thought long and hard about getting one myself.
BRF: “I want an army of them,” he laughs, “It’s immortalizing my manhood and it’s a comment on my sexuality and my life. I wanted to make an art piece and document it.”
His recent appearance on The Real Housewives of Vancouver has afforded him even more celebrity, but he doesn’t let any of that go to his head. He simply enjoys the experience and looks forward to his next adventure. BRF has recently added a few Reality TV-esque cameras to his own studio experience, allowing his voyeuristic fans an intimate peek inside while he creates his art in a provocative and interactive setting. He is now gaining global online exposure, thereby taking his performance art to a gargantuan new level. Is there anything he won’t do? If it doesn’t hurt anybody and he feels comfortable with it, BRF is pretty much game for anything.
BRF: “A painting on the wall is me. So why don’t you literally put yourself up on the wall and call yourself art? I’ve done it all… If you can think of something I haven’t done, let me know and I’ll do it! I’m open to anything… within reason… it has to be artistically based.”
Here is someone whose mind is as wide open as the Montana Sky, and you just have to appreciate that it’s all about perception. We can accept it, we can deem it vulgar, or we can simply try to understand that people think differently. BRF finds what he does rather poetic and beautiful. He is comfortable with his choices, and genuinely happy with his life. I admire his devotion to his art form, and this boy gets a hall pass from me because he lives his one life the way he wants to. Not too many people can truly say that.
When I think of Brent Ray Fraser, my experiences with him bring one surprising word to mind: Wholesome. He has been the consummate gentleman during every moment I have spent with him. Obviously, the casual observer may think that incongruent considering his subculture lifestyle, but nothing could be further from the truth. He loves his mother, has dinner with his dad every Friday, cares about animals, the environment, and enjoys spending time with his nephews. Fraser very much lives an artist’s lifestyle, which can often mean hour upon hour in solitude working tirelessly on his paintings or conjuring up art performances for charity, as he did with his bra installation with proceeds going to fund Breast Cancer Research.
Jacqueline: “Could you tell me a few details about your bra installation?”
BRF: “I donate artwork to charities year round. I love helping others, especially with my art. Breast Cancer is a charity I’ve donated to for almost 6 years. My mom battled and beat breast cancer twice. Eternally grateful, I decided to create a massive project as a tribute to her, and many other battles, with hopes to raise money and awareness. What started off as a small 2ft by 3ft bra painting, turned into a 7ft by 14ft sculptural work of art. I didn’t anticipate the enormous support I gained over the span of the project. I started asking every single women I knew for their old bras to create the small painting. The media caught wind and I began getting bras from all over the world. I’m currently working with an events company in Montreal to do a similar project to help raise funds for Cancer there.”
What BRF would like for people to see is who he really is as a person behind the appearances and judgements. BRF is a bona-fide talent who lives and breathes his art. Every moment of his existence and ounce of his magnificent being is consumed by it, and it’s impossible not to feel inspired by the way he lives his passion. His truth is undeniable: ART IS ALL.
BRF feeds off of pushing all the boundaries, or painting over them altogether. “I love color, I love movement, I love gesture, I love texture… I love everything else under the sun.” A nonconformist, of art school he says, “I feel art school doesn’t really teach you too much, it just helps you embellish what you already have, but earning my degree, it made my dad happy.”
BRF: “Well, people have an idea of what a person is based on what they see, and I just want people to know that there is more to me than just painting skulls… There’s more than meets the eye, and you can’t really judge a book by it’s cover. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. I really wish everybody could get to know me for who I really am aside from the public persona that I portray. Art is like a diary. You only get to see who I am if you look at my art over the years. You will never truly find out until the end of my life. There is so much in my head that I would like to do, so be patient with me, and you will find out who I am. Come along and enjoy the ride… There’s a seat beside me.”
Let’s touch on his art, shall we? (Oh yes, the innuendo is limitless). His art is revered and prolific, especially his landscapes and abstracts, erotic paintings, and notably his toy gun series and signature skulls. BRF has never held a real gun, but he likes the idea of using toy guns as art – photographing firearms like AK47’s with flowers bursting out of the barrels, and transferring them onto canvases using a secret process. These works are wildly popular with collectors and represent the yin and the yang, war and peace, as it were, and are highly thought-provoking. “With all of the garbage that’s going on in the world with killings and guns, I’m just trying to counteract it a little bit.”
The also highly popular skulls have tremendous meaning for the artist; For personal reasons, BRF has had to look death square on, and by painting his skulls he literally faces his fears. He feels that because skulls hold the brain and represent life, it is a direct contradiction to how they are usually depicted as a symbol of death. He says of them, “These are happy skulls because they’re all smiling.”
Lately, as photos began surfacing of BRF traveling around the world posing naked on toilets and public places prohibitive of such dirty deeds, I had to wonder what his motives were behind this naughty behavior.
BRF: “When I was 10 years old I saw a photo of my father studying naked at the dinner table taken before I was born. His pose reminded me of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” My dad is a brilliant man and my mom always told me he was a bit of a wild child in his university years. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I love my father very much, so this project pays homage to his life, while putting a personal BRF spin on it.”
” I came up with the idea to pose like “The Thinker” on select toilets in and around Vancouver… to start. The toilet is a place for thought and reflection on life. Well, for me it is. This makes it a perfect atmosphere for art. Plus toilets are all over the world and each have a unique look. Hotels, restaurants, public restrooms, churches, alleys, parks, planes, trains and automobiles…and palaces. So many toilets, so little time. These risky gorilla style shots were done at unauthorized locations, often with a tripod. Fast and furious you could say. I almost got arrested in Times Square and ran from the Bobbies at Buckingham Palace. The original idea of sitting on toilets manifested into standing urination shots. The same pose at different locations around the world. The human figure is beautiful no matter what its doing. The purpose is to create a series of figurative books showcasing my nude toilet adventures. ‘The art of urination.’”
Most recently he has been photographed crucifixion style, hanging like Jesus on a cross he built with his own hands. I asked the artist what it meant for him to do this.
BRF: “Yeah my cross. I bear it daily. It’s a metaphor for sacrifice, love, strength, commitment and of course martyrdom. My life is devoted to my art and with that comes many challenges and rewards. I’ve always wanted to build my own cross. Two reasons: First because you can’t buy them at Home Depot. Second because I love building things with my own hands. I chiseled that thing and actually felt like Christ the carpenter. It was a rewarding experience to say the least. Especially when I was hanging in the field. No words to describe. Just wait till you see my Jesus work out video. I decided to do a naked workout video prior to being crucified. Again, something I’ve always wanted to do.”
I had to ask myself how he could possibly upstage himself. The answer came quickly when I noticed a collection of wedding dresses hanging in his silo. Fraser explained that one day he’s going to marry his art. Full on. His plans include painting and framing the actual wedding gowns in an epic installation, and inviting the entire city to come out and attend a ceremony joining him in holy matrimony to his one and only. He’s doing it because his mom always wanted to see him marry. Therefore, to his beloved art, he will say, “I do.” *sigh* True love. There is no greater art than that!