Struck by the correlation between the AIDS epidemic and COVID, Thelen set out to create joy amongst the chaos. maximum joy was constructed against the backdrop of an escape – from isolation to another form of seclusion, a sojourn at the beach.
The installation is primarily comprised of singular, washy, gestural watercolor drawings Thelen produced on his seaside stay, inspired by the color palette of the beach and the sounds of Welcome to The Pleasuredome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, an album Thelen first discovered in high school and recently rediscovered. For these images, he focused on isolated images – faces, figures, objects, body parts.
Simultaneously, Thelen was making drawings inspired by recent connections with others through the initiation of the Drawing Room's Zoom Drawing Club, an online meeting-place where like-minded, lonely drawers could connect and draw together every Saturday. COVID, self-discovery, mortality, geriatric sex in the time of crisis, space travel, queer theory, political and social outrage are all themes explored in Thelen’s monumental assemblage, maximum joy. The addition of other objects, such as books and fireworks, come together to form a larger, narrative self-portrait.
As part of maximum joy, Thelen will present a special zoom drawing club for the Davidson College community.