How a self-portrait reveals truth for those who see it

Throughout our relationship, my wife and I have exchanged gifts. They have been occasionally hilarious (a pink rabbit ear hat), sometimes dangerous (a flamethrower), but usually practical and well thought-out (a high-end Japanese rice maker). Just before Christmas, she truly outdid herself.

One of her greatest joys is going to drag shows with her best friend. The two of them have been doing this for years, and I’m happy to have a quiet night to myself when they do. She often comes home late from these events and I’m usually sleeping when she returns.

After a particularly raucous evening at a charity silent auction, my better half returned late, stumbled into the bedroom, and announced “I got you a present” as she fell into bed, the room no doubt lightly spinning around her.

She had attended Fetch Please!!! A Drag Fundraiser for HIV Edmonton, organized by the fabulous and exceptionally well-dressed Ms. Gogo Fetch.

What my wife brought home is a challenging and controversial work of art.

It is acrylic on canvas, framed under glass. The painting is of a male nude, from below the belly button to above the knee. This self-portrait now hangs in my front room, opposite an Andy Warhol print of a banana.  

My initial surprise to this painting has grown into a fondness for the work in its bravery and execution. It is not cut of the same cloth as other works of art in Edmonton, save perhaps the Talus Dome. Its pink, purple, and cream tones blend well against the harder brushstrokes that form this somewhat hirsute and unaroused interpretation of the male form.

It is exceptionally divisive in its concept. Few subjects are potentially more offensive than male genitalia. Everyone who has seen this painting experiences strong emotion. The painting’s stark, detached, and well-proportioned nakedness reveals more about the audience than it does about the artist. The painting evokes a strong, polarizing reaction in everyone that sees it, revealing fundamental truths about anyone in its presence. It is good art.

I reached out to the painter, Edmonton’s Christopher Dahr, for his comments. He painted the canvas last January, and last fall Fetch convinced him to place it for auction.

“It was something that I had kind of made for myself, I suppose. I did want to put it out into the world, but I sort of always talked myself out of it. I think I was a bit worried about certain responses it could receive. Yet, I still loved seeing the reactions of the few people I would show it to.”

He adds, “I also just find it strangely liberating in a sense. I’ve always had a lot of issues with the way I look and how certain body parts are, a normal thing most any human deals with, but for some reason when I’ve recreated myself through art, it sometimes helps me to feel better and to not take it all so serious.”

As a result of the exposure received from the silent auction, Dahr has been commissioned to show more new work for The Vagabond Variety Show, and is a rising star in Edmonton’s visual arts scene. More of his work, and indeed this very painting, can be viewed on instagram @c_dahr.

It should be noted that in addition to being a heavy duty mechanic and the toughest guy in the shop, this writer is a connoisseur of fine art who has dated both men and women.

What I love most about the painting is that it was a gift from my wife. It is a symbol of her love for me, and a demonstration that she loves me for who I am.

I am proud to hang this painting on my wall.

Featured Image: Artist Christopher Dahr created the painting that Millie’s wife purchased. The painting pictured is another one he created called “Christopher’s pouched frontal”, Acrylic on canvas; 2018. | Christopher Dahr