As a gay-rights activist for the last four decades, Carl Raymond Schmidt's artwork has explored all sorts of related themes. Yet while many of his past series have been more somber or melancholy, a glance inside his studio at The Brokers Building immediately reveals his emotional state.
"It's a good time to celebrate," says the artist, referring to the recent Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage the law of the land. "That's why these paintings are more celebratory as opposed to being retrospective or historical, because it's like a new history. It's like, yay—fresh air and fresh space."
A large, bright canvas in the middle of Schmidt's small studio will serve as the anchor piece in his outdoor booth at the upcoming Art of Pride exhibition happening inside the Pride music festival at Marston Point in Balboa Park. The geometric-abstract painting, he explains, will serve as a backdrop for anyone who wants to take a selfie with him. He just asks those who do to use his #unclecarlpride15 hashtag so he can keep track of the photos.
"See this part in the painting here—that spells 'Love Wins,'" he says, pointing out the stylistic geometric lettering. "The whole idea is about letting people celebrate themselves and helping people feel like they're part of the larger community."
The makeshift selfie photo booth won't be the only interactive art inside Schmidt's booth at Art or Pride, which opens with a free reception at 4 p.m. Friday, July 17, and remains on view inside the ticketed festival through 8 p.m. Sunday, July 19. The artist—who'll be featured alongside other LGBT artists like Devon Browning, Steve Wroblewski, Ed DeSantis and Hank Gross—will also include some of his signature paintings on metal. Those works mimic aerial landscape views and include magnets in the shape of airships, which the public is invited to move around, changing the compositions. He'll also have paintings with moveable lettering tiles and he'll ask the public to spell out their own names then snap photos as a digital nod to the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
"People like to touch things so I let them," he says. "It becomes a shared experience—we all create the art, document it and then talk about it.'"