It's Not Easy Being Maxime Angel
Maxime Angel is a dear friend. She's also an HIV-positive transsexual who campaigns for AIDS and LGBT rights, and a sexually provocative artist. Before she started drawing dicks on pieces of paper and covering herself in milk, rank meat and her own HIV pills, she used to hitchhike across Europe and have sex with strangers for money. I called her up to chat a little about all of these things.
VICE: Hey Max! So, do you wanna tell me a little about your work? What's up with all the penises?
Maxime Angel: Basically it's about dualism – things that might look beautiful, but are infected; about me looking like a girl but actually being a "him"; about people being attracted to me but then rejecting me because of that. I want everything I do to be attractive and repulsive at the same time. That's why I make those portraits of people sucking dick and there's cum everywhere – they're so hyperrealist, and grotesque.
Do you find sex repulsive?
Again, it's a two-way thing. My dad raped me when I was little, and then, later, I was infected with HIV. Because of that I have a weird relationship with sex – I carry myself as this overtly sexual being on a day-to-day basis, but when it comes to the nitty gritty I pull away, probably because I'm worried I might be abused again. Ultimately I've become asexual, and I've stopped having sex.
"The seven veils represent the seven countries where homosexuality is punished with the death penalty. I stood still for an hour, wearing the veils and uncooked liver beneath with blood dripping all over me. I was sick for a week after because I got an infection, but at the end, when I'd taken each veil off and was completely naked, I started spitting and pouring milk all over myself to symbolise semen but also cleansing myself from the meat/death. It was really erotic. There were people wanking over it. This woman jumped on the stage and started pleasuring herself."
That must suck. Your work mostly depicts men, or parts of them at least. Do you prefer the male form to the female form?
No. I find female bodies much more beautiful, but I don't see women as sexual objects. I see them as a work of art that I don't want to touch, have sex with or defile. I don't mind defiling men, though, because men usually do that to women. In this way I feel like some sort of balance is being restored. I don't paint women in sexual or gory contexts, even though I'm happy enough to paint myself into the most horrendous situations.
Do you think that might be connected to the fact you were sexually abused?
Yeah – I was abused by my father, who's supposed to be the ultimate male figure in your life. Even before I was abused, I was genderless – I'd trot around in frilly dresses and stuff, but I still imagined my father as this big, strong man, my knight in shining armour; someone who would save me. But he didn't save me, he raped me. So yeah... I can't idolise men, even though I'm attracted to their bodies.
Is that why you got into prostitution?
Nah. I just had to find a way to survive without my family's money.
Do you ever feel bad about having done that?
I always used to feel dirty and tried to forget about it – that's how I got into heroin. But I'd also think, "Eh, if my father can have sex with me, anyone can." I also think that painting and prostitution aren't that different, really. I used to sell my body, now I sell my soul. Sometimes I like to think that when people come to my shows, it is me who rapes them, mentally.
Continued on page two.