The Powerhouse in San Francisco just received a new mural on its exterior wall. The artwork, by queer, Latino artist Simón Malvaez, is a reflection of how some people expressed their sexuality while keeping a distance from others during the pandemic. It depicts a naked man taking a selfie with his phone.
The artwork was commissioned by Sniffies, a sex-positive website helping gay and bi men connect with one another. Before you roll your eyes and say, “Not another gay hook-up app,” Sniffies is actually a bit different.
It’s a website but offers the geo-location perks of an app. It launched around three years ago, and its creators say they’ve resisted creating an app because app stores currently don’t allow explicit photographs to be used as profile pics. Keeping it as a website means not having to deal with that sort of censorship. And it also means Sniffies is pretty NSFW!
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Sam Stone, the gay, editorial director of Sniffies, told the Bay Area Reporter, “Sniffies is popular across the U.S., certainly in San Francisco as well. We started our talks with Powerhouse a couple of months ago.
“As we were speaking with [Powerhouse general manager] Scott [Richard Peterson] about how to bring Sniffies to San Francisco, we thought of ways we can add to the community and so we wanted to commission an artist — a queer artist — for the mural who can speak to the spirit of San Francisco as well as to Sniffies.”
Malvaez was born in Tijuana, Mexico. He studied graphic design in Mexico City. He’s lived in San Francisco for the past three years.
He told GayCities he’s branched out into doing murals only in the last year. He and his friend, fellow artist Juan Manuel Carmona were responsible for the recent Queeroes mural, depicting a dozen different LGBTQ legends, on the side of the San Francisco LGBT Center on Market Street.
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In a statement about his latest work, Malvaez said, “I use the selfie as a symbol for empowerment. During these times our phones have been our biggest tool to explore our sexuality. Not only with dating and hook-up apps, but also as a way to create content ofn ourselves, having the power to share new art forms with whoever we want.”
Malvaez says the scene in San Francisco is beginning to pick up again after months of closure during the pandemic.
“I do feel like the queer scene is coming back, but I also feel like we as a community are more aware of social issues such as inequality and racism that some places in the city still needs to deal.”
You can check out more of his work at simonmalvaez.com, which offers exclusive art pieces, pins, and bandanas. He says he’s currently working on a couple more mural projects in Los Angeles and designing a line of underwear.