At last week's press preview for Jeffry Mitchell's 25-year survey at the Henry Art Gallery, a questioner asked about a piece of art that Mitchell made way back in 1988, when he was in Philadelphia for art school at Tyler. It's called Circle of Hate, and it's lithography, ink, and silver leaf on tissue. It's a mandala of aggression. A pattern of perfectly symmetrical repeating figures flash penises or spread-labias and toothy smiles, bunched up around small monstrous creatures and ringed by a fringe of frightened faces. This doesn't make sex look like fun.

A full shot of Circle of Hate.
  • Photos by The Stranger
  • A full shot of Circle of Hate.

  • Closer.

The fringe. Watchers afraid to be roped in?
  • The fringe. Watchers afraid to be roped in?

The undertone of rage is tied to the strict, fascistic symmetry, Mitchell said—the way a certain tight aesthetic has reflected a masculine impulse for control in Western culture.

His response? Get fucked, guys. Literally.


I've only recent started to let go of some of that strict symmetry I've often used. And there's something fascistic about that symmetry. Fascistic aesthetics have an easy kind of erotic appeal. And I understand that that kind of order is appealing. But I think in order to evolve, we have to move away from that.

Because that? That's the tight asshole. That's the clenched sphincter. I'm interested in relaxation as an evolved state. If you get involved in heavy gay sex, in S/M, if you can participate in that, I think you'll be less likely to go out and shoot people and start wars.

Men believe in the sovereignty of their bodies. Women don't have this luxury. So I think men getting fucked—and not every man has to get fucked in the ass, but—there's something important there in getting away from this illusion, delusion, that leads to so much of the suffering in this world. The delusion and chase for control.