August 29, 2018 at 11:02 am EDT | by Joey DiGuglielmo
QUEERY: John Paradiso
John Paradiso, gay news, Washington Blade

John Paradiso (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

For artist John Paradiso, the desire to create is different from what you might think.

“Making art in my studio is one of the only places where no one can tell me what to do,” the 56-year-old Albany, N.Y., native says. “And it’s the only place I feel comfortable making mistakes.”

Three vintage self portraits and two contemporary embroidery pieces by the artist are featured in “Queer(ing) Pleasure,” a new exhibit at the District of Columbia Arts Center (2438 18th St., N.W.). An opening reception is slated for Friday, Sept. 7 from 7-9 p.m. The show runs through Sunday, Oct. 14 when a closing reception and panel discussion will be held.

The exhibit, curated by Andy Johnson, illustrates the “radical queer potential of pleasure, challenging the too-often limited, white, hetero-centric logic of the erotic,” its press release states. “Through performance, photography, embroidery, video and sculpture, the artists trace new and existing networks between pleasure, erotics and queerness.” Details at

Paradiso’s photos are from the late 1980s, when he says his artistic focus was on risk and love.

“My partner at the time was a person living with AIDS and we had many friends who were sick and/or dying from AIDS-related illnesses during that time,” Paradiso says.

The two embroidery pieces were taken from old porn magazines and hand stitched and left in their stitching hoops. Paradiso says they’re “more about identity and masculinity.”

Johnson selected the pieces from Paradiso’s collection. It’s Paradiso’s first exhibit with the D.C. Arts Center.

Paradiso, who came to Washington 16 years ago with his partner, Tom Hill, makes most of his art in a small studio a block from his house though he also has pieces he can work on anywhere.

“I often travel with works in progress, so if I’m visiting my mom, I can sit there and stitch while we hang out.”

He considers art his primary work but says it’s not commercial enough, so he also has outside employment. He’s the resident artist and curator at Portico Gallery and Studios in the Gateway Arts District. He manages five visual art studios and a small gallery space there. Find out more about him at

Paradiso lives in Brentwood, Md. He enjoys cooking and nature in his free time.


How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? 

I came out in 1984. The hardest person to tell was my girlfriend. The worst person to tell was my dad.


Who’s your LGBT hero? 

There are many but I guess I would have to say Larry Kramer.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

 I have no idea. I’m a real homebody.

Describe your dream wedding. 

If and when I get married, City Hall with Gabrielle, my girlfriend from college, as our witness.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? 

Women’s right to choose.

What historical outcome would you change? 

What we did to our indigenous people and then slavery.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? 

Personally when I saw “Torch Song Trilogy” on Broadway in the late ’80s.

On what do you insist? 

Value artists.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? 

We just rescued the cutest puppy and I have been posting many pictures of her.


If your life were a book, what would the title be? 

“Honoring my Feminine Side While Striving to be More Masculine”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? 

See if it could make me gayer. I wish I liked musicals more.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?  

A power greater than myself; actually many powers greater than myself.


What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? 

Include everyone. And when you think you have, look around and find those that have not been included.

What would you walk across hot coals for?


What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? 

That all gay men are limp-wristed when only the really special ones are.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

High fives

What trophy or prize do you most covet?  

A Guggenheim Fellowship (I’m not even good enough to apply)


What do you wish you’d known at 18?  

That I would live this long and this well.


Why Washington? 

My partner got a job here and I would follow him anywhere.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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