Appendix 1, "Interview Transcript"
Larson: Sean Gyshen Fennell is an artist at Willamette University.
How are you doing Sean?
Gyshen: Doing pretty well Lars, how are you?
Glad to have you on the program but I’m not real happy about that
artwork. I mean it’s a private university you can put what you want on
the walls. I’ve had a lot of people trying to figure out what this
artwork means. These naked figures of people who appear to be in
embraces that would indicate they are homosexuals and then torn up pages
of something at the bottom of the photos. Why don’t you tell us what
it’s all about.
I’d love to. First of all the goal of the icon project is to yield art
that investigates societal constructs and visually stimulates the viewer
and to facilitate discussion. Which is why I am very happy to be on your
show because that is what the work is intended to do. The text that is
in the background is actually some of the measures that were passed,
excluding gay marriage, Measure 36 and the smaller icons that are below
are the Patron saints such as St. Anthony of Padua or St. Patrick who
are the patron saints of the oppressed people and excluded people. And
the figures in fact, in the icons are homosexuals and its trying to draw
lines between these and investigate the current political and religious
Does one of those figures work for Kate Brown, the senator?
I am not familiar with that.
Sure, you don’t know the people you took naked pictures of?
I know them very well but I don’t know what they are doing now. I
actually moved to St. Louis. I am attending graduate school.
OK So here’s the concern I have. Why would you show a ballot measure
passed by Oregonians overwhelmingly torn up at the bottom of the picture
Well, it is actually not torn up. It’s in its completion there is gold
leafing over the entire image which I guess gives it an appearance of
So it’s not really torn up?
No, it is not torn up. It is in its completion.
It’s in completion?
All the text is there it is just that some of it is obscured with gold
Okay, So it wasn’t intended to look torn up.
Okay. Now the figures appear to be posed in a way that I thought it
looked like icons like you’d seen in Russian icon, the little kind of
circles around the head and a little gold leaf.
So you are depicting homosexual figures in photos as saints.
I am referencing Byzantine Icons and religion through those forms. I do
not consider the objects to be venerated in any way. I am merely using
No, now what’s the visual language when you depict homosexual figures in
a photo as saints?
I am referencing the saint figures as well as drawing attention the fact
there are saints within the religion such as St. Anthony of Padua for
oppressed people yet the religion in of itself is oppressing individuals
and saints themselves have been martyred. And...
(Interrupts) How is religion oppressing homosexual people?
Well, I mean it’s pretty clear within the legislation
your show that all Christians should be offended by images like the ones
Well no no, I am bothered by images if they if they if they are comments
on religion by taking homosexual figures and portraying them as saints.
I don’t think any religion on earth makes people saints by their
personal behavior or homosexual behavior. And I don’t know how it is
you think religion oppresses people with regard to their sexuality. You
have a choice as to which religion you participate in. Tell me which
religion oppresses homosexual people.
Well right now Catholicism especially the Vatican is saying homosexuals
cannot be ordained. I mean for example...
Well well but that’s the rules of their group. If you are a homosexual
and you want to be ordained, you go to a different church.
Well are you saying homosexuals should not be able to be Catholic?
Well that’s what the Catholic Church has decided. Does a church have the
right to set the standards for its religion?
I mean for example. If... I like I like to drink whiskey on occasion.
I try to do it in moderation and I try to do it only on the weekends
with friends and when I am not going to drive. But if I wanted to
join the Mormon Church Sean, I can guaran’ damn tee you that the Mormons
are not going to let me in as a whiskey drinker.If I say, well you ought
to change your rules and let whiskey drinkers into the Mormon Church
they’d say Lars, one of the tenants of our religion is that you don’t
drink booze. So why would a booze drinker want to join the Mormon
Church? Why would a homosexual want to become ordained as a member of a
church that doesn’t... you know that does not believe that homosexuals
should become priests?
Well drinking whiskey Lars is a choice where I do not believe
homosexuality is a choice and there are these people who have been
brought up as Christians....
No but joining a church is a choice, becoming a religion is a choice.
Can we agree on that?
Joining a religion is a choice..
I could choose to become a Catholic tomorrow, I could choose to to
convert to Judaism tomorrow so but why would I want to join a church
that doesn’t respect the way I conduct my life?
Well possibly that was the church you were brought up in and that is the
community you feel comfortable in and perhaps that is the faith you
actually believe in yet it discriminates against you and you should
still have the choice to join that religion, I believe.
Do you think the people should be offended by your art work?
If people are offended by my artwork I think that is fine. The work in
of it’s self is there to facilitate discussion and hopefully draw
connections and get people to start thinking about that there are
certain societal constructs that prohibit people from doing things
You’re trying to get people to think differently, right?
I am trying to bring a different prospective to these issues that have
intertwined through out history. I mean homosexuality in the church and
art is nothing new. It has been there for an extremely long time.
Good point. Sean I’m up against a clock but I appreciate your time
sir. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much.