In his long career as a somewhat ascetic parliamentary reporter, Brian Potvin would have been surprised if people found phalluses hidden in his work, but that’s just one of the ways his life has changed dramatically over the last decade and a half.
It began in 2000 when he came out of the closet. When he retired a few years later, his children bought him a course at the Ottawa School of Art. “I came out late and figured the next step was to become an artist,” Potvin jokes. “[One friend] says that in every painting of mine he sees a penis.”
The penises aren’t intentional — and they’re not the only thing people see; his work is abstract and invites different interpretations. “There was a painting I called Candles, because I saw candles in it,” he says. “But the first lady who saw it at the show said, ‘Oh my god, that looks like West Side Story.’ And she was right; it looks just like all the fire escapes.”
Potvin loved his work at the House of Commons but jumped at the chance to pursue a less stressful, more creative occupation. He started with acrylic and has lately been trying his hand at encaustic painting, where heated coloured wax is applied to wood.
Some of his pieces, including three of the encaustic paintings, are now on display at After Stonewall, which will celebrate its second anniversary with a Meet the Artist event on Jan 29 that Potvin plans to attend. His work has been on sale at After Stonewall since the bookstore and art gallery first opened two years ago.
“It was very important to me to have my art in a gay establishment,” he says. “I felt I was finally participating [in the community], and hopefully my stuff was good enough that [After Stonewall] could make some money off of it while I did.”