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STUART SANDFORD ENCAPSULATES 1421 LAVETA TERRACE

STUART SANDFORD ENCAPSULATES 1421 LAVETA TERRACE

In many ways, my time living at TOM House was defined by Stuart Sandford. Not only were his works prominently featured in the house during my residency, but he shepherded me around the queer art scene in LA. I won’t go into too much detail about our friendship, but let it suffice to say, he’s a real pal and a true lover of the arts. Stuart’s work spans the erotic gamut: photo, sculpture, film, writing, and curation. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions around the world, as well as in numerous publications— my favorite, “The House of Stuart” in LALA Magazine. Although Stuart is back in his homeland (merry England), he is participating in an online exhibition via CULTUREEDIT / Tom of Finland Store in conjunction with Tom’s 100th birthday. The work is a celebration of the same ideals Tom believed in— gay joy and liberated sexuality. Check out the show online, and pursue available works. We look forward to your prodigal return to LA, Stuart!!!

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What were you doing creatively that originally led you to TOM House?

I’d recently begun working on a new sculptural project (my ongoing Sebastian project) and had spoken about it with Gary Everett, the then director of Homotopia (the UK’s biggest queer arts festival). He’d worked with Durk Dehner and Tom of Finland Foundation for a number of years and set up a meeting at Tate Britain whilst I was still in London.

What was living at the house like in the beginning?

It was difficult for me to adjust initially as the space operates essentially as both communal living space and also gallery/museum open to the public so there’s very little room for privacy and alone time, which is something I thrive with. It was all about getting into the rhythm of the space.

Stuart Sandford, Brent #6, 2014

How did you initially decide to do a series of Polaroids (1421 Laveta Terrace)?

I’d been working with photography in my practice since art school but had never really worked with Polaroids. I wanted to challenge myself with something different whilst also paying homage to a very specific time and place and Polaroid absolutely lends itself to those moments, those never to be repeated moments, moments of spontaneity, of eroticism, of stillness, and beauty. I contacted Polaroid and they sponsored the project, providing me with a camera and as much film as I could shoot.

Those polaroids are very sentimental to me, because I did my residency not long after yours, and in many ways they reflect my own experience. Can you talk about your ability to capture instantaneous moments, and why this is important?

The great thing about a Polaroid camera is how small it is, which makes pointing in peoples faces and other places quite easy and much less intimidating than, say, a full size SLR with lenses and flashes. It’s the reason I’ve always used 35mm point and shoot cameras too, they lend themselves to these instantaneous moments.

STUART SANDFORD, TOM'S PISSOIR (NIGHT), 2014

Your work, particularly your photography, brings memories of our escapades in LA. Can you talk about the personal nature of your work?

I have an intimate relationship with 99% of the people that I photograph, either as friend or lover and when I started taking photographs I was following a snapshot aesthetic popularized by many artist-photographers beginning with Wolfgang Tillmans and Nan Goldin. I wanted them to feel raw and vulnerable and intimate and even if they are staged/restaged they still document a moment in my life and those in my orbit.

Did your creative process change while living at TOM House? 

I don’t think living there changed my art practice per se but I did become involved in a number of larger more community focused projects, like the Queer Biennial for example, and I’m grateful to have been a part of shaping that as the film curator since its inception.

STUART SANDFORD, UNTITLED (CONNOR), 2014

Your work spans many mediums, from photography, to sculpture, to film. All forms which are represented in the new exhibition. Can you talk about how these forms interact?

All my work shares the same core themes and ideas that I want to present and explore, and for me it really is about the idea that dictates the most appropriate medium to express that idea.

As you know, I’m quite fond of the images of Brent Corrigan in the garden. Why did you decide to photograph such an infamous porn star? And why in the garden? How did it come about?

Well Brent was my number one all time porn star crush so it was a dream come true to meet him and shoot him. I think he had contacted ToFF about potentially hosting his birthday party at the house and I asked him to pose for me and he was very keen to do so. I’d never met or shot a porn star before so I wasn't sure how it would go, but after a couple of beers and some time just chatting it was a breeze. He surprised me with his intelligence and sense of humour. Oh and the garden was the perfect location for the shoot, somewhere calm, peaceful, beautiful, and serene as I wanted to capture something a little different than the norm, and I think I did.

STUART SANDFORD, SELF-PORTRAIT WITH LEO #3, 2014

As your work continues to evolve, themes of adolescent narcissism remain… Brent Corrigan, Sebastian, Sean Ford… How do these figures contribute to your message? And how has that message evolved over time?

Good question. Has it evolved? I’m not sure. It’s definitely become more mature and much more technically proficient but I think all true artists are obsessed with some idea, some theme, and really we just make the same work over and over again trying to explore/present that idea or theme and I think that’s okay.

The Sebastian Relic Series has been evolving since I met you. How did you come up with the idea to have friends and patrons pee on the bronze head?

I’d love to say that was my idea but it was actually a gallerist I work with that gave me the initial idea. As I was staying at TOM House at the time, it made sense to make use of the space and the people there and make it a communal art project for members of the community that orbit around TOM House.

STUART SANDFORD, SEBASTIAN (RELIC) NO 1, 2019

Who is peeing in the video? And what do you think this film adds to the sculpture?

That’s actually a friend of ours Bryce, don’t you recognize his cute bum? I took some documentation photos with him as well. I always saw that video in my mind when I started the piece, slow motion with pee spraying everywhere and glistening in the golden light of the garden, a golden shower for the Sebastian head, if you will.

Your work post TOM House continues to have a dialogue with the space. How has ToFF created a platform for your brand of sexuality?

The whole ethos of Tom’s work, for me, is a celebration of queer love, sex, and desire, and I hope my work resonates with that. I feel part of the TOM House and Tom of Finland family and can’t imagine not coming back to that amazing space and continuing a dialogue.

STUART SANDFORD, THE PALM TREES OF LAVETA TERRACE, 2014

What are you working on now? And when are you coming home to LA??

I have two new statues I’m working on that I hoped to have finished for the summer but because of the current COVID-19 state of affairs we all find ourselves in, they will be ready later in the year. I’m also finalizing my first book since 2017, which is of my Polaroid Collages. I began those at the end of 2018 and I’ve really enjoyed the process of making them. That should be out around June. Oh and I hope to be back in LA end of summer if all goes well, it feels like home and I miss it terribly.

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