An artistic look at Toronto’s gay nude beach & the gorgeous men who go there

Painting of two nude men on a beach overlooking Toronto's skyline.
“Good Neighbors” by Zack Rosen

This March, gay Toronto artist Zack Rosen is debuting a series of paintings that celebrate the unparalleled queer freedoms of Hanlan’s Point nude beach. “Take Me Back To Happiness” will be hung at the Northern Contemporary Gallery (420 Roncesvalles Avenue) from March 8 – 14, with an opening night extravaganza on the 10th.

Painting of nude men sunbathing on the beach.
“That Summer Feeling” by Zack Rosen (censored)

Hanlan’s Point holds a special place in the Canadian queer heart. Nestled at the back of Toronto Island, it has been a beloved queer meeting spot since the ‘50s and hosted one of Toronto’s first pride celebrations in 1971. The city has officially designated the beach as “clothing optional,” making it the rare government-sanctioned safe space. 

Painting of a group of nude men drinking bottles of beer on the beach.
“Sunset City” by Zack Rosen (censored)

The gallery show will capture Hanlans’ anatomical and natural beauty. Inspired by Keith Haring, David Hockney, and other gay luminaries, the works span a variety of sizes, painting styles, and mediums. A few of the smaller pieces were drawn live at the beach this past summer. Expect a healthy balance between gorgeous beachscapes and male nudes.

Landscape drawing on Hanlan's Point
“Between the Buttons” by Zack Rosen

Named for a haunting club track by DFA Records’ artist Crooked Man, the show captures all the ways that Hanlan’s Point represents an escape from the oppressive modernity of city life. The freedom of nudity, sexual expression, and access to nature make it a fleeting and beloved summer destination for Toronto queers. 

Drawing of a goose and a nude male torso.
“No Matter How Lonely” by Zack Rosen

“Take Me Back To Happiness”  brings the beach back to the days when summer seems furthest away. The paintings capture sunshine and joy, flirtation and longing, sadness, and hope. As the natural world faces unprecedented threats to its long-term integrity, “Take Me Back To Happiness” captures a time and place in Toronto’s queer life that might not last forever but can be enjoyed right now. 

Drawing of a nude sunbather laying on a striped towel next to a lake filled with geese.
“Birds Encouraged Him” by Zack Rosen

Zack Rosen is an urban pastoral artist and American immigrant who has exhibited works at The Northern Contemporary Gallery, The Gerrard Art Space, and Jinks Art Factory. He was an arts reporter for The Washington Blade and has written for Out, The Advocate, and Huffington Post Gay voices. Best known for alt-queer cultures blog The New Gay — where he got to interview and record song sessions with Canadian musicians like The Hidden Cameras, The New Pornographers, and Emily Haines — Rosen currently works as a dog trainer. 

RELATED: Take a look inside LA’s steamy Tom of Finland Art Festival

Don't forget to share:

Your support makes our travel guides possible

We believe that LGBTQ+ people deserve safe vacations that allow them to be their authentic selves. That's why our City Guides aren't locked behind a paywall. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated