If you're unfamiliar with the title of the blog post here's the context:
As 2017 begins, it seems now more than ever one must overcome fear and think positively. I remember saying in late 2015 on my 49th birthday that the coming year would be different; I made good on my promise and for that I am grateful. When looking back at 2016's photos I am reminded of all that transpired and I want to take the time to write it down so I remember. 2016 was a jam-packed year!
2016 began in Provincetown with dear friends of many years and I am surprised that the first pics of the interior of the space that would later become Adam's Nest were from the first day of 2016. I am eternally grateful for the friendship and encouragement of two of my partners in crime, Rich and Andy. 2017 will be an adjustment as our friendship will once again span the distance between Ohio and New York/Provincetown.
There was no escaping politics during 2016 and anyone who paid attention knew of my passionate support for Bernie Sanders. I have no doubt that as the year wore on I was hidden on many news feeds while others appreciated a different point of view. I never felt more engaged and informed and Lil' Bernie joined us for our trek up the cape.
If you look closely in Emily Engel's Lil' Bernie instagram feed you can see myself and Damon in there. Within the first days of the new year I saw Bernie speak at Town Hall about wall street. I stood for two hours in the frigid cold, but scored a seat second row center. It was a thrilling moment to be amongst people so passionately engaged in the conversation.
The year began on an incredibly optimistic note, and one thing is certain the need to remain informed, engaged and vigilant is more important than ever. #NotMeUs
Everybody typically remains within their comfort zones and I am no exception to the rule. The idea of actually opening a retail space had been on my mind for years and it seemed like the universe really transpired and placed an opportunity in front of me that I could not escape. 180 square foot space in Provincetown, next door to the always busy WIred Puppy, with back decks on the water, within a 30 second walk of my rental apartment... I think the optimism I had for America, seeing a candidate I felt so passionately about, who really expressed many of my long held views, really impacted me at the beginning of the year. I honestly never listened to a candidate speak that literally brought tears to my eyes. His words explicitly espoused so many of my values, there is no way I can watch a supporter's video titled "TOGETHER" and avoid getting goosebumps. The hope and promise that his candidacy gave to me was infectious. After a bit more hemming and hawing, and a few more conversations I decided to take the leap. I am eternally grateful to Damon for being a rational voice and a sounding board; ultimately by January 8th an offer had been made and accepted on the space that was to become Adam's Nest.
Technology is truly an amazing thing as I scroll through my phone and photo album it is like finding a treasure trove seeing what I had screenshot that really helped me along this year. There is no time like the present and I really tried to spend the year being present and not worrying non-stop about things I had no control over. The excitement of taking the leap and purchasing property for a retail space in my happy place was indescribable.
One of the things about being involved with Damon was having this ongoing conversation about "purpose". It started with a suggestion to read Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning and just spending time with him made me appreciate how much joy came from his activism and commitment to educating people on HIV prevention and PrEP. Our conversations and the growing numbers following his PrEP Facts: Rethinking HIV Prevention and Sex group on Facebook, led to the launch of a couple t-shirts to further the conversation about PrEP. These t's initially were offered on a shop titled offontheweb, an offshoot of a tumblr page by the same name; offontheweb. During the summer it was great to spread the word about PrEP and Damon did an in-store appearance.
With the launch of Adam's Nest the shop name changed, but offontheweb remains a place for more NSFW postings geared specifically as a shame free place on the web for gay men. Offontheweb was also the first place to come face to face with censorship as Instagram deemed the account in violation of its terms of service and shut down the account. I found it interesting as I was very careful in curating the feed avoiding overly explicit imagery and far tamer than many accounts I follow. Certainly the censorship was a precursor of times to come. As of late similar censorship has been happening to people I follow on Facebook in relation to political speech and queer artists. The closing of the account was fortuitous as I have now settled on get.offontheweb which was ultimately the inspiration for the name in the first place. Offontheweb will remain as a space for some of the more prurient interests in the world of Adam's Nest and is a collection of sex positive t-shirts that aims to ensure people are aware of PrEP as a means of prevention against acquiring HIV while also promoting a shame-free message about sex.
In the end of February I got a respite from the cold and visited family in Florida. The trip was punctuated with a trip to Miami to visit with Nesti and our beloved Nasdaq.
Sadly this was to be my last visit with Nasdaq and I don't know if I will ever get a dog again, although I hadn't lived with Nasdaq in over six years his passing left me nearly as heartbroken as when Lucy passed. Something else that has become increasingly clear in 2016 was "giving time, time". Nesti and I have been plaintiffs in a lawsuit for over six years and the silver lining has been learning to be friends again. The hardest part of saying goodbye to Nasdaq was knowing what that would be like for Nesti.
In the vein of HIV prevention education about PrEP I participated in a round table discussion amongst several gay men. The taping was held at Pace Prints gallery in Chelsea where they brought in a bunch of Keith Haring works and set the stage for the roundtable discussion. It was an eye opener having such a frank discussion about sex with total strangers, but rewarding in the sense of sharing our experiences to help fight HIV infection in New York State.
Damon facilitated the conversation amongst us and it was a no holds barred conversation. The conversation was used to develop a number of videos for the New York State Department of Health's site to promote PrEP education. It was the first of many conversations around HIV prevention that I become involved in throughout the year and there was an easy camaraderie amongst the participants and certainly further cemented the idea of "purpose".
During the year I was introduced to Jordan Eagles and had the opportunity to participate in his evolving Blood Mirror work. Unbeknownst to many, since the AIDS crisis in the 80's the FDA had put a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood. In December of 2015, the FDA updated its policy that would allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they are celibate for a full year. There is no celibacy requirement for heterosexuals, regardless of their risk for contracting HIV. A UCLA Williams Institute study found that lifting the ban completely could save up to a million lives annually.
In March, I was one of 50 gay PrEP advocates, to donate a tube of their blood in protest of the FDA’s ban. This blood was added to the evolving sculpture Blood Mirror.
In 1983 the discriminatory ban may have made some sense, but in 2016 with all we know it is simply discriminatory. The importance of the issue became even more clear following the horrific shooting in Orlando and the immediate need for blood donors. Countless gay/bisexual men were ready to donate, but could not.
Jordan's work became the center piece for the Blood Equality campaign which speaks to promote science over stigma. The irony of the timing of the initial launch event was all to poignant as it followed the day after the shooting in Orlando at City Hall in NYC and later at an event on the Highline. As they say "be the change you want to see in the world"; in 2016 I took it to heart.
A few weeks later I did the 5+ hour trek to Provincetown to close on the property that was to become Adam's Nest, the date I closed was March 23rd. I had started to reach out to artists I followed on social media and had collected, but beyond that the only thing completed was the icon. I had been sitting with the name for over 10 years, but as each day passed it would become clearer what the shop would be.
A few weeks later I was back in Provincetown and enlisted the help of John to see what needed to be done. We managed to get the place spackled and the logo onto the window. John left me to finish the spackle job and clean the walls and pledged to meet me again to get the space sorted. John's help and encouragement has been invaluable. Looking back I'm glad I have the pictures as those year-rounders I met over the summer joked about my slow reveal.
If you have never visited Provincetown maybe a few pics will help explain what I fell in love with about this town. I have to pinch myself to believe I actually own a piece of this paradise. The last sunset and sunrise on this mid-April trip follow:
It wasn't until mid-May that I had another weekend in Provincetown painting and cleaning up. As much as I enjoy the 5+ hour drive listening to NPR, I am grateful that the back and forth will abate dramatically going forward. This would be the last roundtrip before the final drive that would keep the car on the Cape throughout the summer. I left Provincetown knowing my next visit would be getting the shop open.
Back at home in Brooklyn I had only a rough idea what I was going to do, and I had yet to settle on a font or anything beyond a name and my icon. I am grateful for Nesti's help getting a font sorted and happy of his involvement. Though I now could get vinyls done for the shop window, I was still running around meeting artists.
I managed to get in touch with a collage artist "Naro Pinosa" I'd been following on Instagram and Tumblr. I had an idea and we managed a back and forth conversation via google translate and sorted a way to work together. It has been a thrill to watch him get loads of attention while the collaboration was coming together. It's been a total treat to see people take to his collages and we are certain to be working together into next season we opened the shop with a series for Bear Week and brought another series in for Women's Week. Naro's "Winking Bear" was the perfect image to use to launch the shop around Provincetown.
Paul Moreno and I had met a few years back through Charlie Welch, the two have an ongoing project called KNOWSGAY which has inspired and influenced me.
I loved Paul's work and we had followed each other's tumblrs and Instagram accounts. I got to see a reading of Paul's at The Bureau of General Services—Queer Division (BGSQD) at The Center and knew that we'd figure something out. When I went to meet Paul and look at his work he showed me a popper hanky that would ultimately become a t-shirt for Adam's Nest.
The day I picked up the work, Paul recommended checking out James Morrison's show in Bushwick and I am hopeful to be able to bring something to Ptown in 2017 with James' Homocats. We have design sorted for 2017 that we expect will be as warmly received as our Popper's tee.
It was on one of my visits when it started becoming evident the various connections amongst my friends who would ultimately be part of the summer that I launched Adam's Nest. Shortly before I met up with Paul, Avram Finklestein had popped by his studio to look at Paul's work for use in a film called After Louie in the works from Vincent Gagliostro and Anthony Johnston. I was excited to be able to share Vincent's Metro Boys photographs and look forward to sharing more next summer, Vincent's instagram features many of these voyeuristic photos.
There is no doubt that the connections will strike others here as an interesting way the universe worked its magic for me in the last twelve months. For me it really strikes home the idea of everything happening for a reason and suddenly prior paths taken and introductions made start making sense.
Brian Kenny is an artist I found randomly on my Facebook news feed back in 2010. I had been following Guy Berube's La Petite Mort Gallery and when Brian's Won Man came across my feed, I had to have it.
Won Man (2010)
mixed media on vintage American shooting target paper
I purchased a few other pieces of Brian's over the years and had some ongoing conversations with both him and his now ex Slava Mogutin. Both Brian's work and Slava's photography and some joint work from SUPERM are amongst my cherished items in my collection.
Over the years I had the chance to meet up with Brian on several occasions about doing something together. It got to the point of him questioning my seriousness. I had reached out again about collaborating when I saw one of his Head Count engravings on his instagram feed, and I assured him this time I was serious as I had purchased a retail space in Provincetown. It was the bear below that became the inspiration behind the animal t's we did together.