Galleries, Gay Male Art & Bear Bodies!

Kenney Mencher rarely works with galleries anymore. It’s not because he can’t and hasn’t: In the past, Mencher has been represented by seven commercial galleries. He’s had eighteen successful solo shows and participated in almost as many group shows. Before he started painting overtly homoerotic themes he worked with prestigious galleries in numerous cities, including Santa Fe, San Francisco, and Dallas. 

However, he still suffered from a bit of censorship, he’s also had his work removed from several galleries and most recently been told that his work is “too gay” for a gallery in Palm Springs.  The director explained that they would take some of the paintings however, the titles were also “too gay” and would have to be sanitized.  By the way, the gallery director is gay.  

Mencher, who mainly paints bears and mature men has even had trouble getting a gallery to take his work even in the haven of Provincetown. He’s got quite a few collectors there and who visit there.  So maybe his work just isn’t that good?  It is.  His five hundred collectors and over two thousand sales would argue that at least in terms of dollars and cents, lots of us are living with his art in our homes.  So, what’s the problem?

Mencher responded that he isn’t alone.  His friend, artist Benjamine Lester, ( also a full-time artist, has a large base of patrons who support what he does.  Patrons compete to by Lester’s work and he also does a brisk business doing commissions, all this despite only working with one or two commercial galleries. Mencher points out, “Benjamine and I are able to be artists because we have such great support from our patrons.” Lester and Mencher patrons collect and follow the artists through social media and their websites.  Both artists self-represent because it’s almost impossible to get a high-end commercial gallery to represent them, mainly because the work they make is “too gay” and possibly represents the wrong kind of gay.  Both artists specialize in representing the “Bear World.”

According to Mencher: “High end commercial galleries who sell art for the gay community, largely choose art that is very conceptually based and if the imagery is the gay male form, they are only interested in a narrow segment of the gay population.  Usually art that represents a young, thin well-muscled body.  Think the photography of Horst, Mapplethorpe, and Herb Ritts. When one asks the average person to name an artist who specializes in gay imagery, Tom of Finland is the artist most think of.”

It’s just hard to get recognition that the mature male body is beautiful outside of a small defined community.  There are some photographers and websites who are helping.  For example, Vincent Keith and his website Mascular does a smashing job in representing a segment of the population. In fact, the bear art world is so small that Mencher and Keith collaborate.  Many of Mencher’s paintings are based on Vincent Keith’s photography. 

Mencher describes his collaboration with Keith,

“I had seen Vincent’s work in the web and was blown away by the quality and the subject matter.  I was also impressed with Keith’s work as the organizer of Mascular and we had seen each other’s works on the web.  I contacted him and he was very gracious.  When I sked him if I could make some paintings based on his photography we entered into a mutually beneficial partnership. Keith’s models and the way he photographs them have inspired at least a dozen of my paintings.  He’s been very generous with me.”

Now, Mencher like Lester, has chosen to go for a more grass roots approach to getting his work out to the community.  He has a good relationship with Charlie Evans, the owner of the Lonestar Saloon in San Francisco that caters to the Bear World audience.  Last August he had a show of his work there and he and Charlie have plans to collaborate on more projects.

For More information on Kenney Mencher and to see his art for sale head here.
Head to Masuclar Magazine to see more of Vincent Keith’s Photography.

Join him by visiting his site at,

BWM Staff

Our Staff Writing Team works hard to bring you great content and share news & events from the bear community and beyond.