Openly Gay Skateboarder Brian Anderson Bares All in His First Zine
From pro skater to LGBTQ+ activist and icon, Brian Anderson shows a new side of himself in 'Cave Homo.'
Beeld: Brian Anderson
On June 12, professional skateboarder Brian Anderson posted a video to his Instagram account announcing the launch of an ominous project titled Cave Homo. The blinking loop offered little more than an @ mention directed towards an account that had a few tiled pictures of Anderson, including him taunting the camera, with his tongue poking through a black leather mask. The account revealed that Cave Homo would be the title of a zine, presumably about Anderson, who famously came out as homosexual last fall in an award-winning VICE Sports documentary directed by Giovanni Reda.
While not the first openly gay professional skater, Anderson is undoubtedly the most high-profile, an anchor on Nike Skateboarding's program for over 15 years and beloved by the community for his aggressive, yet floaty style of skating and big personality. Even so, detractors cried "shut up and skate" or "who cares?" but the larger response was the equivalent of a giant fist bump and a warm hug. What Anderson had done almost from the moment he looked at the camera and said "I'm Brian Anderson, I'm a professional skateboarder and we're here to discuss the fact that I'm gay," was transform himself into a an icon for the LGBTQ+ community. Since then he's continued on the path of activism and awareness.
"I know it's not going to be perfect and I could get get a bottle thrown at my head at a skatepark, but I'm ready for that too," he says, recalling how he felt on the evening before the documentary premiered. "I used to have my skateboard in my hand in the city and maybe once a month someone would come and want a selfie, now it's five people a day saying, 'That's that dude, who came out—that gay guy!' Sometimes I get home and cry just thinking about it all."
Anderson was approached by designer Luke Williams, a friend of his, to collaborate on a project with photographer Christian Trippe. The idea quickly morphed into a full-fledged zine, rooted in art, photography, and sketches that reveal more about his journey and exploration as a now openly gay man, as well as in his personal interests.
"You don't know what's under someone's clothing when you walk by them," he says. "To me it's a freedom and form of letting myself vent—it's not showy, just do you."
Created in a robust edition of 666 copies, Cave Homo is more a tool that has the currency and clout to convey a powerful sentiment, especially to those feeling isolated in cities and towns where being anything but heterosexual isn't accepted, than a scrapbook. While diversity is not only celebrated, it's a comfort that's almost built into the culture of Anderson's home in New York, that notion can be lost. But for Anderson and his cohorts, it's paramount: the skater cites Trump's presidency and anti-LGBTQ agendas as reason for the zine, event, and even Anderson's recent marriage to his partner, Andrew, partially out of legal concerns.
"Cave Homo was just something Brian had written out on a notebook," Williams says of the show and zine's title. "He kind of is one—this big hulking guy emerging from the closet as this new person. We had least 1500 photos and hundreds of Polaroids and four or five overflowing sketchbooks. There's no text intentionally, just a bit of an explanation of what this is in the back. It's a celebration of Brian's freedom."
While the zine signing and opening party featuring photographs, as well as Anderson's original paintings, will be New York-based, the power of Cave Homo being a print project has the potential to communicate Anderson's sentiment worldwide, especially to those still in the closet. As a teenager growing up in a large family in Groton, CT, dealing with his own issues of sexuality, Anderson not only found solace in skateboarding as an outlet, but a gateway into creative a greater creative expression.
"I love Mike Vallely," Anderson says of his childhood influences. " I loved this quote in Rubbish Heap where he said 'I'm a fag and everyone knows it.' Secretly in my head I thought it was so cool that he said that on camera. I still do. Outside of skateboarding, I know it's a go to person, but I loved Keith Haring—he's out and proud and I was really thankful that he ended up doing beautiful murals in Germany on schools—he was very appropriate—he created a children's book but then he'd do an art show with dicks."
For the paintings that will be shown along size massive prints from the zine, Anderson drew inspiration from the bright, snappy advertising of toy packaging and cereal box design of the 1980s. Though he's coy about the actual visuals in an effort to truly make the opening an unveiling of the work, going as far as to wrap them and block the windows of the space during installation to conceal the content, Anderson's open about his intention for the works he created predominantly during a six-day stay at a house in New Jersey this past winter.
"My husband and his brother inherited a house in New Jersey," he says. "I went there during a blizzard for six days and just painted and listened to music, it was the most zen thing I've ever done. I'm using images that reflect on my childhood when my family didn't have a ton of money. There were toys I wanted that my family couldn't afford. We grew up being surrounded and saturated by consumerism, these images—cereal boxes, you want all of this. When I'm finished, spray them with cologne and rub coconut oil on them to give them a shine."
Looking past the opening weekend for Cave Homo, Anderson mentions that he's working on a book, but the focus for now are moving 666 copies of the zine, with proceeds being donated to the LGBTQ suicide prevention non-profit The Trevor Project. As he feels his run of telling his story to the press winding down and is eager to craft the next chapter, one thing remains an unwavering constant and vital part of his personality.
"I'm always focused on skating and by no means do I want to leave it," he tells me on the morning of Go Skateboarding Day. "I wanna stay until i'm 50 or 53… even if my legs start going."
Cave Homo celebrates its release this weekend on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at 208 Bowery. An opening party will follow, while on Sunday, June 25 at 2 PM there will be a signing and reception with Brian Anderson.