Joey Brock’s self portrait portrays his own coming out process.

Dallas artist explores struggle with being gay through a series of interviews and collage portraits

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Joey Brock’s new exhibit at Ro2 Art in downtown Dallas — In America — is about self-acceptance. Each of his works displayed began with an interview.

My grandfather was a Baptist minister,” Brock said, “and I struggled with being gay.” So he began his journey to self acceptance with a self-portrait. Using a variety of photographs of himself, he pieced together the portrait with 12 self-fragmented yet coherent pieces that together complete the puzzle of Joey Brock.

Fragmented, he said, was how he felt about himself for many years.

Audio of Brock’s interviews of his subjects play in the background as those models in Brock’s portraits discuss the idea of self-acceptance. Many of his subjects are gay or lesbian. Some are transgender, and others are straight.

One composite of two men includes images of Donnie, a dancer who works in the clubs on Cedar Springs Road, and images of Dylan, also from Dallas. Brock said the two images worked together well because “they’re very much who they are.”

Once he understood something about his models, Brock photographed them. But that was just the beginning of the process.
Each of the works is at least three layers thick, with the various pieces sewn together. Lips, eyebrows and hair are stitched onto the portrait. Everything is layered. Nothing is glued in these collage-portraits.

“Have you ever been discriminated against,” he asked his models. “How did it make you feel?”

And the collages express triumph over pain so powerfully that we began discussing how we’ve experienced discrimination and overcome it as I viewed the exhibit.

So how has the COVID pandemic affected his work? “For me it was an escape,” Brock said.

He works a full-time job, and, since the lock-down, has been working from home. So, he said, “I used the time.”

Of the 60 people Brock interviewed and photographed for this project, he’s completed about half of the portraits. Being home gave him time to complete several in time for this exhibit.

How has the pandemic affected Ro2 Art? Their Cedars gallery is still open, but they had just opened this second showroom downtown when the pandemic hit. That show closed before very many visitors had seen it. Brock’s In America show is just the second show Ro2 is presenting downtown.

Joey Brock: In America runs through Oct. 31 at Ro2 Art, 110 N. Akard St. To schedule a viewing or for questions contact