The men in his canvases offered both art and aesthetic without ignoring the body and its urges. Quaintance offered idealized male images to a rapt audience that was hungry for them, and he offered these images in a context that was rugged, masculine and romantic, as well as sensuous and erotic. He put Levi’s on the map as a garment that was sexy as well as serviceable, thus paving the way for the gay clones of the ’70s. In his models and in his paintings, Quaintance used Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans, long before racial or ethnic diversity existed in consumer culture (or in contemporary art). And he did so in a way that was natural and that avoided caricature and stereotype. At a time when cowboys and Indians still dominated the airwaves, he exploited gay America’s fascination with the West. To all of the cowboy-loving American boys who had grown into a need for a different kind of role model, Quaintance gave his own queered version of the American West. He created and breathed life into an actual and elaborate context, Rancho Siesta, where anyone who wanted to could vicariously live George’s vision.
Tens of thousands of fans loved the work of George Quaintance because he made them believe that Rancho Siesta was a real place, just like in the paintings, where queer boys could grow up to be loving, queer men and the homophobic real world would never intrude. That was so amazing, so unprecedented. People believed in it. Third saguaro on the left and straight on ’til sundown!
© Ken Furtado and John Waybright