Who are you, where are you and what do you do?
My name is Ana Benaroya, I am a freelance illustrator and designer living in New Jersey, pretty close to New York. I spend my days doing a blend of commercial and personal work… all of which is usually pretty colorful, graphic, and somewhat humorous. All my work starts by hand and usually ends up on the computer. Besides drawing and trying to be an artist, I enjoy getting out of the house and exploring New York. I also enjoy eating and drinking coffee.
What are you currently working on?
The most exciting thing I’m working on right now, I sadly can’t speak about… but I will say its several posters for a huge music venue in NYC. Besides that I’m actually working on another poster for a blues festival in Missouri and several editorial projects. In my personal work, I actually just self published a book called Men Eating Fruit and I’m working on a series of paintings on florescent paper.
When did you come out and what was the story?
I came out to my friends in college and to my parents the summer after college. I didn’t really date in high school and only came to the realization (or rather accepted the fact) that I was gay my second year in college. The coming out story to my friends wasn’t dramatic at all, they pretty much figured it out on their own. Plus, I went to art school where these things are commonplace and very acceptable, which might have been a factor in my own self-acceptance.
After college I moved back home and was dating someone at the time and felt like I didn’t want to have to lie or pretend I was someone I wasn’t while living under the same roof as my parents. It wouldn’t be fair to them and it wouldn’t have been fair to me (and my own mental health). So, one night as I was actually just about to leave for a friend’s house, I awkwardly walk into the living room where my mom is in the process of taking out the trash and my dad is watching Fox News… and I address them both and say “I have something to tell you…(long awkward silence as I literally feel as though the words won’t leave my lips)…I am dating someone…and they are a girl.”
They were both silent for a little while but then my mom comes over and hugs me and says that she isn’t totally surprised and that they both just want me to be happy. My dad agreed with her… and that was that! Pretty painless and I am lucky that I have parents who love me no matter what.
How does being queer affect your work, if at all?
It definitely does affect my work but not in an intentional sort of way. By that I mean I don’t try and make work with a particular message or political statement. But the people I draw definitely do sometimes blur the lines between gender-roles, not in appearances but perhaps in mannerisms or actions. There is nothing I love drawing more than an effeminate muscular man, haha…as strange as that might sound. I’ve always thought I have the taste of a gay man but I’m trapped in a lesbian’s body.
I enjoy drawing women as well, but I try to be very conscious of how I depict them. All the women and men I draw have some sort of sexuality about them… but with women I walk a fine line between sexualizing them and creating a parody of how they are typically portrayed in popular media. I always try and make something a little imperfect and a little bit off-putting when I draw women. Whereas with men I have no problems turning them into a sex object.
In your mind, what should gay pride be and how would you celebrate it?
To me, gay pride is not something that happens once a year at a parade, it is something you must live your entire life. It doesn’t need to be loud and in your face, it should be quiet and strong. Once I accepted myself and who I was I really felt my whole world and my whole being change. I became a better, happier person and I actually think my artwork improved. It is this inner strength that people need to be proud about and share with the world.
Although being gay can cause hardships and bring out ugliness at times, I truly believe it is a blessing. It allows you an outsider’s look at society and at how the world works – and this outsider’s perspective is what allows you to be a more innovative and interesting person. In a way, it allows you to be free of the constraints that society places on most people. I certainly wouldn’t trade it for anything.