Photograph by Shikeith
Philadelphia Native Shimoyama is now based in Pittsburgh, where he teaches at Carnegie Mellon University. A Yale M.F.A. graduate, his paintings borrow materials from drag culture—glitter, feathers, and rhinestones—and explore issues related to race, masculinity, and illusions of wealth. His debut solo museum exhibition, Cry, Baby, is at the Andy Warhol Museum through March 2019. Come back to GQ Style tomorrow for the second installment of “Fresh Paint.”
GQ Style: How did you arrive at your painting style? What factors influenced your development most?
Devan Shimoyama: My painting style came about from my love of experimenting with all kinds of materials, drag culture, and fashion. I remember when I was first starting to paint, I was fascinated by how unconventional painting materials would mix together to create these psychedelic, shimmering encrusted spills. I'd play around with spray paint, quick-dry enamel, and fabric dye. Those eventually led to my interest in other unconventional painting materials that are much more in line with what drag performers use to get a look together, like rhinestones, glitter, feathers, et cetera, which they're using to create the illusion and fantasy of a wealthy, beautiful fictional character.
The last solo exhibition I had was titled Sweet, which was exploring the toxic masculinity of black barbershops. More recently, I've begun a body of work where I am depicting black individuals tending to their homes and thinking about the importance of black ownership, whether that ownership is businesses, properties, et cetera. I just have been thinking about the importance of people of color actually being able to have more agency and not become such easy targets for displacement and gentrification.
I would love to actually collaborate with a fashion designer and create a line. I love fashion so much, and I would be completely invested in creating everything, even creating custom fabrics and accessories. I think that designers like Kerby Jean-Raymond from Pyer Moss have found a really nuanced way to intersect art, activism, and fashion in such a smart way.
What do you do when you need a break from making art?
I need mindless activity. I hang out with my two dogs (two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, named River and Bowie), or I play mindless games like Stardew Valley or watch guilty-pleasure reality-TV shows.