Palm Springs and Tel Aviv have more in common than you might see at first glance.
Both cities have significant LGBT populations — 40 to 60 percent here and about 20 percent in Israel’s second largest city. And both are known as destinations for LGBT travelers.
If that’s not enough to make them sister cities, this month the two communities are sharing the work of Rafi Perez.
Arguably the hottest, out gay artist in Tel Aviv, with his paintings frequently used by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, Perez now has 10 pieces of artwork on display at IMAGES By Gideon Fine Art Gallery in Palm Springs.
He recently took a break from his easel to discuss his passion for art.
You portray a lot of gay men and lesbian couples and their families in your work. Why is it important for you to paint this side of LGBT life?
When I started making this series of artwork, of gay families, I was in a very good and established relationship with my boyfriend of five years. During that time my twin brother had his first child as well as my ex-girlfriend; I became involved with the upbringing and care of the babies. This prompted me to start painting situations that involve gay families. This series started in the year 2000 and I was one of the few artists (painters) that dealt with these issues at that time.
Tell me about the two styles of painting you frequently use — naive and realistic.
Many painters have two styles (David Hockney, Gerhard Richter and more). The ability to paint in a realistic style helps the understanding of creating good composition, shadows, use of light, colors, quality of line etc. And that allows me to express my passion of the male figure.
In my free naïve style I can be looser with my ideas and go into idealization and beautification of gay life, for instance, build a beautiful world and give hope for people and a positive point of view on life even when times are not as easy.
You’ve never been to the U.S., yet you paint scenes of New York, San Francisco, etc. What is the source of the images?
I research and study the architectural designs of the buildings of the city of New York including different periods and styles. I incorporate this into the scenery of Tel Aviv, the light, the harbor, the beach, etc. — which I am familiar with — to create a kind of a mix between these sceneries and the famous buildings of New York like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Carnegie Hall, etc .
How has your work been a part of Tel Aviv’s growing reputation as gay friendly?
Tel Aviv is one of the most liberal, tolerant and openly gay cities in the world. About 20 percent of the male population in the city is gay, and being the cultural and economic capital of Israel the city attracts a lot of gay people from all over the world. Somewhat similar to LA and New York being cultural melting pots in the U.S.,
I paint the buildings, parks and sites from the famous Bauhaus architectural part of the city of Tel Aviv, with its cloudless sky and intense sunlight, and incorporate into those scenes gay families and the gay pride colors.
What do you love most about being an artist?
The freedom to express my emotions and love to people whether they are in my personal life or they are strangers, the opportunity to help people understand and accept the gay life point of view, and for gay people to appreciate and believe in true love between two men.
IF YOU GO
What: Opening reception for exhibition of Rafi Perez painting.
Where: IMAGES By Gideon Fine Art Gallery, 2682 Cherokee Way, Palm Springs
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 12. The show runs through June 10.
Information: www.imagesbygideon.com, (760) 250-1521