Unit 1 Reopens With "Man-Cave" Paintings of Local Scenesters

The last time we spoke with Jacques de Beaufort he was shutting down a project that had been a large part of his life for two years, Unit 1. Located in his combination home and studio, Unit 1 was an attempt by the Lake Worth resident and associate professor of Visual Art and Art History at Palm Beach State College to inject much needed life into the Palm Beach County art scene. Despite its many successes fusing the music of both local and nationally touring acts with original artwork from area artists, ultimately de Beaufort had to move on. He found his energy as an artist had been sapped by the day-to-day of running an art gallery and that simply wouldn’t do.

Seven months on, de Beaufort emerges a reinvigorated spirit with a new endeavor, "Deep Inside the Man-Cave." Re-christening Unit 1 simply as the Jacques de Beaufort Studio and Gallery, de Beaufort is set to unveil 44 portraits of men (including a self-portrait), all friends of his, on December 12. Many of the images have already been disseminated on Facebook and in the latest issue of Pure Honey Magazine. He’s banking, however, on people attending the showing for two reasons: one, to experience the artwork live and in person, and two, because, well, so many in the crowd want to see their own faces hung up in a gallery. And if neither of those are incentive enough, PureHoney is putting on a free rock show at the gallery beginning at 10 p.m., featuring Psychomagic and Snakehole.

The idea for "Deep Inside the Man-Cave" blossomed out of a friend drawing de Beaufort first, before he returned the favor, and then “on a whim” deciding to do a bunch more friends. “That’s the best kind of idea,” he says, “the kind of idea that just arrives without too much searching.” Thirteen initial drawings turned into 26 which then became 35, until suddenly, nine months later had passed and de Beaufort had birthed 44 rich, eye-popping pieces, all done in pastels, pencil, and white conté, on pastel paper. He hopes this snapshot of his community will “give the scene some kind coherence, a sense of unity.” He adds jokingly, “At a certain point I almost felt like a yearbook photographer.”

In order to create each homage, his subjects, creative types ranging from artists to musicians, sat for photo sessions which then de Beaufort painstakingly converted into works of art, each piece often taking between six to seven hours.

“I tried to give every single one my all. I didn’t want to be like, let’s just bang this one out. That’s hard when you’re trying not only to get a likeness of somebody, and this is something I realized about portraiture, how it’s sort of a lost art. It’s much different than photographing people. When you have to draw them, you have look really carefully at that person and find that special thing that makes them, them, which we take for granted.”

It wasn’t until the work was complete that de Beaufort began to reflect on what he’d just spent the better part of 2015 doing. “I didn’t really stop to think about much along the way; once it was going, it had its own momentum.” Known previously for his paintings of beautiful women exhibiting different levels of eroticism, sometimes with nary a thread of clothing, de Beaufort wondered silently and aloud why he had chosen to draw portraits of just men.

“I can see the beauty easier in men than I can in women because I am a man. I have a subjectivity I can bring to it that I can’t bring to women. When I draw women, there’s this chasm, the gap between me and the woman, because there’s something about her I don’t understand about her. There’s this mysterious thing.

“I can see something in them [men] that’s more familiar. I don’t mean beauty in the aesthetic sense; like I don’t think any of them are ugly, even if they’re funny looking. I still see them as cool guys and their look is interesting and they all do something creative which makes them attractive.”

As for the title, "Deep Inside the Man-Cave," de Beaufort felt like he needed to comment on the obvious masculinity of the series, taking a simultaneously humorous and insightful approach. The event will host a dude / bro costume contest where the winner with the best outfit will receive a free portrait drawing courtesy of de Beaufort. Beyond that comic take though, after it was all said and done, there seemed to be a bigger picture that became clear to him.

“After doing the thing, you can figure out what it means. After it was done, I was able to think about how it would intersect with all this gender stuff floating around in a very serious way. For me, it's been kind of a bummer to see all this rhetoric about toxic masculinity, the is gross oversimplification of it, but that men are evil. I think that whole criticism is very simplistic. There's great things about masculinity, you can't just throw the whole thing [away.] It's toxic femininity. Have you ever seen the movie Mean Girls? There's fucking terrible people on both side. You take gender characteristics to any extreme, you can find a negative thing in it. It was disheartening for me to see masculinity as an idea just pathologized because it can be very positive; men are protectors, we have strength, there's a bunch of great stuff that men do.”

These grand ideas on gender and the relationships between men and women extended into the musical content of the showing as well. Of the two bands booked for the evening, there was one in particular de Beaufort is especially excited about. “One of them is Snakehole, which is this all-girl hardcore, heavy metal thing, which I really wanted because I wanted there to be kind of a delegate from the fem [side], female rage. Snakehole and 'Man-Cave'; I wanted to have the yin to the yang.”

In the end, de Beaufort managed to create a balance between the broader aspects of the series and the individual importance of each subject. “If anybody gets anything out of it, aside from it being a portrait of local friends and local yokels, I want them to see the human face of men, in this really simple, non-threatening way. That there's many different varieties of masculinity.”

One of those varieties made him cognizant of some very basic, but important facts about the human condition.

“One of the guys I drew died during the process, Chris Palacios, passed away. He's the guy who ran Coastars Coffee. I was thinking about him a lot because I did his image the day before the funeral and that was really heavy. That's when I came to the realization that everyone's special. This guy's gone and he was someone's little boy at some point. Drawing his memory, even though he passed on, it made it really meaningful. I ended up drawing him in this kind of angelic way, real cliché, but it seemed appropriate.”

Exactly how the public will react to the drawings is something of a mystery, but de Beaufort has high hopes. The pieces will be on sale at the show, those whose faces adorn the canvases get first dibs, but it's clear from our conversation he's more interested in the effect it has on people's minds than their wallets. And like any other person, male or female, he's faced with a number of questions after a prolonged state of immersion in one singular task, in this case they're both about the exhibition and the great afterwards.

“I hope people come, they enjoy it, and it gets people talking. I'm curious to see how people see it. My problem now is, now I gotta figure out what I'm going to do next.”

"Deep Inside the Man-Cave"
Opens December 12 at the Jacques de Beaufort Gallery, 1202 Lucerne Ave., Lake Worth. Live music begins at 10 p.m. 

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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd who happens to write words (and occasionally take photos) for Miami New Times. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you. His wealth of useless knowledge concerning bands, film, and Batman is matched only by his embarrassingly large collection of Hawaiian shirts and onesies.
Contact: Angel Melendez