The Unusual & Eccentric Bear Art Exhibition.

For my reporting class, I wrote this article with the most unusual angle of showcasing bears from the gay community. Very interesting.

Small Downtown Gallery Showcases Gay Bears
February 20, 2008

An usual mix of spectators crowded around a small Downtown gallery. It had its usual San Franciscans dressed in black halter tops and black turtlenecks from high-end designers like Versace. The other visible crowd was an eclectic group of large husky men. They sported beards and were dressed in either plaid flannels, trucker hats or rock shirts. These men were supporting the gallery’s theme, which were focused on bears. Not the animal, but on the popular gay slang. What’s a bear?

“A bear is an abnormally hairy, large man with a beard,” said Jordan Kovak, 24, a Banana Republic sales associate who stopped by the gallery. “It’s a subculture within the gay community. They wear plaid flannels, leather and some look like rock stars. The artist is a bear himself.”

Artist James Gobel presented 8 to 10 portraits of bears at the Marx and Zavattero gallery, formerly known as the Heather Marx Gallery.

“The craftsmanship is very meticulous,” said Katarina Volchek, 26, an art student at the Academy of Fine Arts. “He has a sense of vibrant colors that contrast the baroque background in the paintings.”

Gobel, 36, created each painting with either acrylic felt, wool felt, or yarn on canvas paintings. “He definitely takes a long time. He used live models, some were his partners,” said Chloe Keyoung, 28, the gallery’s assistant.

Each portrait has similar features: large, bearded men in colorful, Americana apparel holding candles within the backdrop of a baroque background. Gobel’s theme is a lonely game of hide and seek, titling the exhibition, “Bear Hunting.”

“My favorite painting was the bear with the John Deere shirt,” said Keyoung. “It was featured in SF Weekly, so it gained a lot of recognition.”

James Gobel was born in Portland, Oregon, and graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1999 with a Master’s in Fine Arts.

“He’s one of our artists, and has been with us for a couple of years,” said Keyoung. “He lives in San Francisco, but he had a Las Vegas art show last year. He’s even represented by the New York art gallery.”

Gobel’s exhibition is located in San Francisco’s Union Square Downtown.

“I was a little uncomfortable cause it focused on art on the gay culture. But after a few minutes, you begin to enjoy the uniqueness of the style,” said Volchek. “Some galleries are so boring with their abstract art.”

The show opened on February 14 and will be open to the public until March 29.

“The crowd is interesting. It was really busy on Valentine’s Day. Some are gay, some are straight. It’s mixed,” said Keyoung. “If you’re a homosexual, you’ll love it cause you could associate with the art. Obviously, there’s a lot of bears.”

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