Have you checked out this queer New York ‘Back Room’?

If you harbor a secret passion for artistic creativity, you may have wondered if you could ever make a full-time living from it. Some of us fantasize about such a life. Others try to turn their dreams into reality.

On one hand, it’s never been easier to get one’s art out there. For example, an estimated 120,000 songs are released to music streaming platforms daily. However, making a name for one’s self, and earning a living, is a whole other ballgame.

One man who has navigated the issue of making a living from art for the past couple of decades is Nathan Rapport (pictured above). Like so many others, his career as an artist has involved talent, hard work, luck and happenstance. It also led him in unexpected directions.

He’s now the curator behind a queer book space in the small city of Hudson, New York (“the only queer bookstore between Manhattan and Albany”), called The Back Room. He’s also the founder of Dream Brother, which curates a series of art books that showcases queer artists. VISION TWO, the second volume, was released last month.

Detroit and Drag

Rapport, 41, was raised in Los Angeles and then moved to Detroit, Michigan for school, where he studied fine art. He relocated to San Francisco, where he spent his 20s and early 30s. By day, he worked for an advertising agency. At night, he performed as a big-haired, rock-obsessed drag queen named Nikki Sixx Mile.

He then moved briefly to Austin, Texas.

“It was a blip on my radar but it was a formative time because I became a professional artist while I was there,” Rapport tells INTO. “I mean, I already was a professional artist, but in terms of quitting day jobs and really having some success. So I was working at a big local theater doing props, teaching painting classes, and I randomly had a terrible breakup and I made this coloring book out of just a need to make something.”

The book, Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, was inspired by his “post-breakup slutty phase”. It featured graphic images of queer men having sex, alongside quotes from song lyrics.

“Every page is an image mostly very unromantic, kind of detached group sex scenes paired with lyrics from songs that are notoriously pining – everything from Joni Mitchell to the Cure to Liz Phair, highly emotional love songs.”

Unexpectedly, “it resonated with people.”

A Huffington Post article in 2015 led to a flood of orders. Suddenly, Rapport had a successful publication on his hands. He embarked on a self-funded book tour and started to produce accompanying merchandise.

Los Angeles and ‘A Love Bizarre’

This led to him relocating back to Los Angeles. He became a regular vendor at queer art fairs. Then, along with a friend, he got the opportunity to open up a small store.

“A Love Bizarre” sold the work of around 150 queer creatives. As an artist himself, Rapport believed firmly in ensuring the artists got a decent cut. To sustain the space, it also hosted up to 3-4 different events each week.

Everything was going great. And then… the pandemic hit.

Rapport says that as A Love Bizarre was an events space, it could no longer function.

“Neither of us had trust funds to lean on. So we had to pull the plug,” Rapport said. “We closed pretty quickly. Within two weeks of COVID hitting we made the decision. And that was heartbreaking and devastating. It felt like the pinnacle of what I’d been wanting to do. Finally my own space. It was successful. How else am I ever going to do this?”

“How do I continue to do that? Support artists? Present queer art? Especially at a time when Instagram is really censoring and shadow-banning queer artists.”

Given the relationships Rapport had established in the art world and his self-publishing success, he hit upon the idea of producing a gallery in book form. The idea for Dream Brother was born: an online gallery, events organizer and book publisher. Each edition of its VISION anthology features eight LGBTQ+ artists, showcasing eight pieces of work, in a simple layout to echo how viewers might look at something while walking through a gallery.

Names included in VISION ONE were Lauralee Benjamin, Christeene, Zackary Drucker and Zach Grear. It came out in early 2022. However, just after publication, Rapport suddenly had to deal with some challenges in his personal life, including the death of a relative.

Birth of The Back Room

He ended up leaving Los Angeles and relocating to upstate New York. Originally planned as a quarterly publication, he had to put VISION on hold for longer than expected. Hence, VISION TWO (featuring Ana Benaroya, Zach Brunner, ggggrimes, Juanita MORE!, and Pansy Ass Ceramics, among others), only came out last month. A third edition is already in the pipeline.

The move to Hudson brought new opportunities for Rapport.

He says he “aligned pretty quickly with this space in town called KASURI. They are at their core a high-end fashion boutique, but they’re way more than that. They do a lot of community work.”

KASURI (359-361 Columbia St, Hudson, NY 12534) was founded by Layla Kalin. A conversation between Rapport and the store’s Director, Jonathan Osofsky, led to collaboration. KASURI had an unused room and the suggestion was made that Rapport could sell some of his books there. He still had a lot of stock left over from his former store. Rapport oversaw the creation of The Back Room, its entrance framed by vintage gay p*rn and lit by red light.

“It very much feels like you’re entering an old, ’90s, dirty back room in a video store or book store,” Rapport said. “We really leaned into that.”

There is also space for events. KASURI and Dream Brother host movie nights and finger painting events. It’s all focused on “exploring, celebrating and critiquing queerness in all its multiplicities,” says the KASURI website.

“Amplifying queers and their needs”

“Nathan and I met, truth be told, on Scruff,” Osofsky told INTO. “It quickly became clear we were the type of f*ggots who often find themselves using such platforms slightly against purpose, connecting with artists, writers, thinkers, weirdos who share sympathies and preoccupations with the construction of queer creative communities.

“KASURI has always been about fostering and amplifying queers, and amplifying/supporting their needs, their creativity and values. Not simply in an anodyne ‘safe space’ sense, but a nuanced, complicated, messy but beautiful platform of support for queer voices,” Osofsky added. “Within an hour, after we got the flirting and sharing pics out of the way, we had already begun to imagine ways we could support each other’s goals collaboratively. Bringing Dream Brother into the arms of KASURI has been brilliant. The Back Room, percolating in my brain for ages, came alive under Nathan’s direction and curation.”


The Dream Brother VISION books are available via The Back Room or online from the Dream Brother website. This is to ensure Rapport can eventually offer a decent return to the contributing artists (selling via other bookstores would make this difficult as they’d expect a sizeable chunk of the book sales). Besides their art, the artists also promote the book to their respective audiences online.

One of those to contribute is Bronx-based 28-year-old artist, ggggrimes. They told INTO they were attracted to the project, “because of the autonomy given to the artists. I loved choosing my own mission and selecting pieces from my portfolio without censorship! The other aspect that sold me on VISION TWO was the collaborative effort necessary to sell copies and assure mutual success.”

“Nathan and Dream Brother Gallery provided a unique collaborative atmosphere that led to an accessible, high-quality collection of artwork,” ggggrimes added. “As queer artists, our complex lives and stories lead to works deserving of financial support so that we can solidify our place in art history under our terms.”

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