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By Reade Christopher Gloeckner
In the third grade I clearly remember an art project. I turned in a poor watercolor assignment and was asked by the teacher to try again. I was upset and angry, so I quickly painted with some orange and black paint and didn’t lift my brush off the paper. Within seconds I could see a tiger in a running motion. It was abstract. At that time I had no clue what abstract meant, but it’s clearly what I saw. I turned that painting in and will never forget the “A” grade I received.
I grew up with my biological father as Reade Christopher Gloeckner and knew of no mother. We lived in a car during a two-year period and I didn’t attend the 6th or 7th grades. Food and bathing were limited to once a week at a motel or food from the dumpsters at Ralph’s grocery store. At this time my father illegally changed my name. My first and middle names were tolerable but the last name was Gayman. We traveled to Arizona apparently on our way to either New York or Pennsylvania, but we never made it past Arizona. We returned to California and my father left me in a bowling alley. That began my journey in life.
I went to an orphanage where I stayed for about a year and put up with sexual abuse for the second time in my childhood. During that year the orphanage had a fair in which I was asked if I wanted to paint a poster. I accepted the assignment, both to prevent being abused and out of boredom. After the fair, that poster was hung in the rotunda, and when I was sent out on an outplacement to a foster family they told me to take the painting. I liked what I had created.
I arrived at the foster care home in the summer before eighth grade and I finally began to understand what it was like to have a mother. The family were of the Latter-day Saint faith. I ended up taking the lessons from the missionaries and was baptized in October 1969. I felt a peace and felt it was right. I thought for a while that I would make it in life. Most of the siblings were kind, caring and helpful, and I felt love for the first time.
In the 11th grade I took an art class, oil painting. We were asked to do a self-portrait. Given my background, I didn’t have any pictures of myself to do a self-portrait. After all, I was just a foster kid with a poor self-esteem, having been sexually molested early in life (and now again it happened in this foster family). I didn’t have the courage to inform the teacher, so I just painted a movie star. I received a “C” grade and was told if I had followed the assignment as given I would most likely have received an “A” grade.
I began dating a college girl while in high school. Her family was of Greek heritage and her father was a commercial real estate appraiser in a wealthy area in California, which afforded him a wonderful art collection of Miro, Chagall and others. I recall at the time that I was more fascinated with the art than with developing a relationship with Katherine.
Before my LDS mission I purchased my first serigraph (silkscreen print) by the commissioned Olympic Artist LeRoy Neiman. That started my art collection. Upon returning home from my mission I worked as a teller and started up my photography. It didn’t take long before I met a professional photographer at the bank who saw my work and said I was good enough and to keep pursuing it. In 1982, my work was shown at a gallery in Salt Lake City. However, this was during a time when pressure was to date and get married, so that I did. And my photography stopped.
Raising children was a nightmare emotionally, financially and physically, as I was juggling five jobs simultaneously. I finally put my foot down when the ex-wife started to talk about child five, which led us into a downward spiral. I confessed to the ex-wife that I had been unfaithful to her with the same gender, and this was more than she could handle.
As with many (but not all) in Affirmation that are past 40 years of age, we realized that being gay and married just wasn’t going to work out and divorce appeared the only solution. I had many bouts with severe depression and manic episodes, which my ex-wife put up with throughout our 20 years of marriage. This depression really hit hard during my employment and after two stints in the hospital in 2003, three months of therapy sessions, and an early retirement at 47 years old, my ex-wife had had enough. In the divorce settlement I got no visitations with my children unless I was supervised, as if I were a monster.
I was forced into homelessness until a gay friend invited me to live with him. It seemed like life started to go in a better direction. Then I made some poor choices and got involved with illegal drugs. I eventually committed myself into the psychiatric ward to free myself from this terrible downward spiral. I was in fear of taking my own life.
After I was released I only had this friend to turn to, but I quickly made a decision to ask an acquaintance of his (I’ll call him “Karl”), who owned an art gallery and antique shop, if I could sleep on his floor for a few days to work things out. Karl was kind to invite me to live with him and help him in his business. This began a great education in art. It was amazing to see and touch the collection of valuable items he had collected. There were around 2,000 original pieces of art for sale. But it was not all a happy experience there and I continued to put up with sexual abuse.
I met John, my angel, down in the desert on April 24, 2009, my birthday. Within 15 minutes John invited me out to a birthday dinner because there were no plans for celebrating it otherwise. I said, “No, that’s okay,” several times but John wouldn’t take no for an answer. We attended a fine dining restaurant with tablecloths and cloth napkins called “Blame it on Midnight” where I politely asked if I could order a swordfish dinner with dessert afterwards. John indicated to order whatever I desired. He would become my angel on earth. This I truly believe.
In May 2009, I received an email from a guy named Jason who wanted to meet. When we met, I talked a mile-a-minute and was so nervous that we found common ground quickly in running, and I agreed to coach him. Eventually, I somehow found the courage explain my circumstances to Jason and he genuinely opened his heart and small one-bedroom apartment in a poor area of Salt Lake to me. He never asked for a dime. I was relieved and felt life might get better.
In 2011, I found a property for sale in a gated community. It was a clean mobile home for $4,000. I called John and he said he was coming down in two days. As we looked at it John said, “Do you remember me saying I could make a difference in your life?” To which I said, “Yes.” So he followed with, “Here is what I’m going to do, I’m going to give you the money and you will purchase the mobile home so it’s in your name and you’ll never have to worry about having a place to live. You will have a roof over your head and be warm.” Then he said, “When it’s done, we will go shopping for groceries and fill your refrigerator so you won’t be hungry.” I just couldn’t believe what I had heard. What a huge blessing this was to me.
Yet still so much remained to move forward. I still hadn’t come to full grips with me being gay. I couldn’t totally accept it. I didn’t want to be gay. I was still so lost. The only thing besides John keeping me sane was the art I had been purchasing. I had been quietly collecting the art of three artists I had researched. I was lucky in purchasing this art for pennies on the dollar and it was amazing how fast my collection was building.
One day I decided to return to painting. It had been 1973 since I had painted from a blank canvas. I remember praying and also asking guidance and help from David Margetson. I had decided that I wanted to use a palette knife rather than brushes and I switched over to a new medium of acrylic paints. I was amazed and energized at how the thickness of the paint went on. I somehow was guided and on some form of automatic pilot. It seemed effortless and smooth and natural as if I had been painting for years nonstop. I couldn’t really explain it. It became my goal to paint 100 paintings by years end.
The subject matter and titles of my paintings came easily. It wasn’t forced. It was like I was born to paint. I would paint from 11:00p until about 3:00a then go to bed. When John woke up to come down on the couch, he would say, “Are you still up painting?” He was amazed I could function on only three hours of sleep. He kept asking, “How do you do it?” I replied, “It’s being gay and bipolar and all the junk I have to put up with. Trust me you don’t want to trade!”
I began doing spiritual themes and events of my life. I painted Phantom of the Opera (the musical I attended in Los Angeles when married), “Today’s Digital Wallpaper” about our phones’ wallpaper, “Midnight Express” about prayer to Our Heavenly Father, and even poinsettias to celebrate the Christmas season. With each finished painting I gained more confidence, but I still leaned on David Margetson as he was increasingly giving me positive feedback about my work. He did this out of his own heart without compensation and during crisis times for himself.
Walking with Jason in downtown Ogden, we met an artist in a gallery by the name of Kris. She was understanding and kind and felt empathy for our situation. I showed her some art on my phone and grabbed some I had in the car, and she invited me to bring them back a week from that Wednesday and the board would look at my work and would jury the art. The board later voted me in with a caveat that I finish my edges or frame them. I worked hard to finish most edges, which was far more difficult than I had anticipated. Although I struggled a little, I could always depend on the help of David. He was always available to provide me with the appropriate input to see that I was successful. David played the most key role in building my self-esteem as an artist and that led to me becoming the gallery’s newest guest artist.
In April 2016, I contacted John Gustav-Wrathall, President of Affirmation, about donating items to hold an auction for Affirmation as a way to pay back the scholarship I received to attend my first full Affirmation Conference in Provo. During this time I had determined that I wanted to do a special painting. I was inspired and completed an 18″x 24″ titled “LDS LGBT Rising Above to Teach True Love.” I had help from Jason in putting on the auction as well as Steven Buhler. In the background David Margetson was still there supporting me.
I was also fortunate to have Steve Buhler acquire Daniel Freed’s art and Drew Armstrong’s photographs into the auction as well. It was so great to see others supporting what I had started and meant so much to me. It felt like I was finally belonging to a family. The auction was a big success in raising just over $1,500. Nearing the end of a beautiful experience I had at the conference in Provo, I approached John Gustav-Wrathall and thanked him for my opportunity to serve and indicated I’d be happy to continue doing these auctions as long as I’m on this earth. He indicated his willingness to support me in this venture. I felt so blessed as a few Affirmation members approached me about doing commissioned pieces for them. What a huge impact this made in my life as Grant Kratz and Peter Howland have my paintings hanging In their home.
Things are better and I feel I have more of a purpose in my life for the remaining years here. As of November 2016, I’ve been invited to be a full time resident artist of the gallery. Much is due to John my angel, David Margetson who mentored me to this point, Jason my partner who supports me even in my manic and severe depressed cycles without hesitation, Jayne (neighbor in the desert) and the body of Affirmation members who have accepted me for who I am and have shared their stories both bad and good. If it were not for Affirmation, I would still be suffering and struggling for survival.
The biggest thanks however goes to Our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I have come up from the depths of hell to be among His blessed children to give back to others and show others that life does exist for those of us who are LGBT and we have meaning and purpose. He’s the one that has given me my talents and it’s been through my experiences here on earth, including finally coming fully out as being gay. I have been guided into painting by Our Heavenly Father through His other children such as David Margetson as well as others that He has put here in my path. If I hadn’t come out, I would not have ever painted, and It isn’t a coincidence. It’s His purpose.