The title of Gerald Davis’ triptych Fagboy 1986 announces its autobiographical basis right from the start. As a young adolescent, Davis dreamed of becoming an animator in the vein of Walt Disney, and his extended time alone, drawing, seemed weird to his brother and his friends, and the name stuck (“fag” being code for “outsider” in the slang of a 12- year old boy in 1986). Recounting the narrative from the perspective of the adult artist, Davis infuses the easily slighted sensitivities of early teenagerdom with the wry detachment of hindsight. The drawings’ washed-out palette of delicate pink evokes the muzzy glow of the Hollywood flashback, as well as the perceived oddness (and suggested effeminacy) of Davis’ obsession with drawing, both then and now.
Sprawled happily on the bedroom floor, the young Davis copies an image of a cartoon character as a threatening foot appears as the door; then, pinioned in the kitchen, the phrase FAG BOY is scrawled on his chest; and finally, we see pages of his sketchbook with drawings of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, along with a scrap of paper that reads “Animation is not faggitty!!”, followed by many hysterical exclamation marks. The narrative is one of martyr-like persecution, and there is a sly allusion to religious images of the suffering saint here – both in the triptych format and the image of Davis’ body receiving the humiliation, like St Sebastian. Yet Davis’ detachment is such that his suffering younger self is looked on from afar, distorted and exaggeratedly spindly, an alien who used your name, as our younger selves can sometimes seem.