Jonah Strub is an emerging artist who explores themes of kitsch, humour, and queer
identity through painting and sculpture. He employs bright colours and anxiety-provoking,
flamboyant compositions that reference the traditions of pop art and high camp. His work has
been featured at exhibitions and in juried art shows in and around the Greater Toronto Area
where he lives and works. His work is most accessible on Instagram at @vicksvapostrub.
Q: How does your understanding of queerness impact your work?
A: My understanding of queerness revolves around the culture of queerness in the fact that it
encourages flamboyancy, and being the biggest personality that you can possibly be. I think the
culture of queerness is also influenced by campiness and drag. Queerness makes me think about
the history of art, and of artists like Keith Haring. I like bright colours, and rhinestones, and
kitsch and camp. I feel like my work thematically isn’t necessarily queer, but because I have put
so much of myself into my work, it is queer. I want people to be drawn to my work like they are
drawn to queer culture.
Q: I think your words on wanting people to be drawn to your work like they are to queer culture
is an interesting comment. Can you expand on that a bit more?
A: I just feel that so much of mainstream culture throughout history has been influenced by the
queer community. If you look at The Club Kids – they directly impacted fashion. The gay balls
influenced music, like Madonna’s vogue, and dance styles. And now drag is becoming
mainstream and directly influencing the way that women apply makeup, and dress. Our
performance styles are becoming the norm, and gay clubs are becoming the norm for straight
people to go to. I just think that the spirit of the gay community is so lively, and fun, and so
beautiful – It’s loud and bright and sparkly and colourful, and I think that people are drawn to it. And while there may be some appropriation – I think it’s for the better, I think it’s making
Hummuspalooza – Jonah Strub – Oil on Canvas – 39 x 48 – 2018
Q: It sounds like your understanding of queerness incorporates notions of freedom. In what ways
do you feel like your work encompasses freedom?
A: My art is directly influenced by the pop art movement, and the high kitsch movement, which
stem from artists like Kehinde Wiley, Jeff Koons, John Currin, and the later works of Cindy
Sherman. These artists take things that are recognized by society, considered kitschy, tacky, and
really low art, and display and exploit these objects as if they’re masterpieces. They take
something that’s not necessarily considered high art, and elevate it to a place that is high art,
while also making people critique kitsch, and everyday objects. I think that it’s a really fun, free
way of creating art. I think that these artists paved the way for other artists to do whatever they
wanted and call it art. I think that’s so beautiful, and I love taking things that are a part of my
childhood, and my identity and placing them within a context where other people can look at it
and see parts of themselves in it. That’s why I love representational art, and pop art, because
people can see themselves in the art. People can understand the art and it’s funny and relatable to
them – that’s where I’m coming from.
TLC (Tomato, Lettuce, Cheese) – Jonah Strub – Oil on Canvas – 39 x 48 – 2018
Q: Within this two-part series, you placed objects around the subjects in your work. What are
these objects meant to represent, and is there a theme that ties the individual objects together?
A: The whole point of the objects is that they don’t mean anything. It’s just a bunch of random
crap. I looked for the tackiest, most terrible things possible that made the least sense with each
other, and put them in a painting to make the busiest, stupidest painting that I could possibly
make. I want people to be able to read into it, and make their own conclusions from it, because I
think that’s the best thing about art. My favourite parts about my paintings are how tacky they
are and how anxious they make people feel. The paintings are just full of tacky things, that you
would never see in an oil painting. I was really focused on attention to detail, and being precise.
The fact that I spent hours and hours painting the beak of a Furby is just hilarious to me – I just
think that is so funny.
Q: You’ve mentioned that you see yourself as a developing artist – what’s next for you?
A: I’m going to make frickin’ enormous paintings that are going to be so chock-full of stuff. I
want to make my paintings a lot more overtly queer, and I think that I’m interested in putting a
little more meaning in the objects that I use in my paintings. In the upcoming year, I’ll be
working at the Gay and Lesbian Archives and I’ll have access to a lot of historical gay objects,
and symbols. So, I think I want to subtlety incorporate those into my pieces. I’m really interested
in moving closer into abstraction and removing the figure from my paintings. I also want to
include both abstract shapes and real objects in my paintings. As you can probably tell, my
paintings are very fixated on inflatables, and I want to start making my own inflatables, but also
continue sculpting. I love metal work and I think it’s very graphic. I also want to get a lot more
digital influences into my work because I do think that our culture is so inspired by digital
images. So, I think that digital influence is really going to make a huge splash in my upcoming