James Gobel

(Portland, Oregon, 1972 - )

I’ll Be Your Friend, I’ll Be Your Love, I’ll Be Everything You Need


Felt, yarn, acrylic and rhinestones on canvas

72 x 56 in. (182.9 x 142.2 cm)

Collection of the Akron Art Museum

Purchased with funds from the Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation, Steven P. Schmidt and Richard J. Krochka, and Museum Acquisition Fund


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Gobel’s men make visible the relatively unseen “bear” subculture of the gay community through pattern and material. His portraits of hairy, bearded, large-bellied men dressed in working-class clothing challenge the notion that homosexuality conflicts with masculinity. They counter the stereotypical image of the fit, smooth-shaven, highly styled gay man. In 'I’ll Be Your Friend', Gobel effects a push and pull between ideals of gay and straight masculinity. Is the heavy-set performer a heavy metal rocker or a Liberace-esque lounge singer? Gobel illustrates the pitfalls of attempting to categorize people by literally layering contrasting stereotyped identities. The title of this work plays on the lyrics to the 1986 song “Disenchanted” by British pop duo The Communards.

Mixed media