Out New York-based artist Rey Arzeno cleverly uses his considerable talents to craft delightfully geeky and stunningly beautiful images – images that beg to be framed and admired. His latest project, a series of art nouveau pinups featuring fan-favorite cartoon characters from the 1980s and ’90s is a delightful dose of nostalgia with a new flavor.
The Advocate sat down for a chat with this talented artist about the inspiration for this fabulous series and how being queer influences his work.
The Advocate: What inspired you to create this amazing pinup art nouveau series?
Rey Arzeno: This series came about because Eric Guerrero, my partner in crime and cofounder of Rage Gear Studios, is an art nouveau obsessioneer. He’s been on a never-ending quest to create an art nouveau piece for years. One night, he suggested that our next project be pinups of our favorite ’80s-’90s cartoon heroines. It dawned on me that to cure his ailment, we would draw them all in art nouveau style.
Does being queer influence your artwork?
Absolutely! I live to be an equal opportunity objectifier. Being queer enables me to draw men just as sexy as women. And let’s not get that twisted. As sexy as I do draw women, being queer allows my respect and admiration for them to come through. They’re powerful, confident, beautiful, and objectified all at once. It’s so important to me that they have agency. I’m probably less generous with the men. In fact, I’m all for reversing the roles a bit.
What was your gateway art drug into the world of geek culture?
Ancient Greek art and mythology. When I was exposed to the glorified nude statues on an elementary school trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I fell in love! I mean, how awesome is it that I could totally stare at these idealized male bodies and have no one really question it? I was entranced and if you think about it, that’s basically how superheroes look. Except that their skin is much more colorful, a.k.a. spandex. Comic books are today’s mythological stories.
What geeky things are you currently obsessed with?
Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Adventure Time, and The Mindy Project ... wait, that’s not geek, but I love Mindy. Guess that’s more queer. I’m looking forward to Constantine. I still follow Marvel’s mutant titles and limited series from other companies such as IDW’s Locke and Key. Of course, movies also. Those blockbusters are so hard to resist. All we’re missing is a gay hero in one of them. Northstar in Age of Apocalypse! Make it happen, Bryan Singer!
You must have a favorite superhero character, right? Who might it be?
Rogue of the X-Men. Of all of the mutants, her struggle was just so much more appealing to me. Even within her own community, she had trouble feeling comfortable in her own skin. I feel it mirrored my youth. Being part of the Latino community, already a minority, and having trouble within that community being gay. She handled her situation with strength and sass.
See selections from Arzeno’s homage to the women of ’80s and ’90s cartoons below and soak up the geeky goodness of more creations from this talented artist on the following pages.