Regularly working in self-portraiture, Shimoyama’s work is deeply personal. His practice is a testament to how creating work from an introspective and specific place allows its impact to be felt universally. “In all the mythological-looking paintings, I’m using my own body, almost as a surrogate, to explore a multitude of other bodies that identify similarly to me,” said Shimoyama. “It’s sort of like using my body as a kind of archetypal character, through which I explore those narratives. I’m kind of constructing my own invented mythology of the queer Black male.”
The other figures in Shimoyama’s paintings, often friends or acquaintances, stare out with a penetrating gaze and eyes made of beads or jewelry. His distinctive use of sequins, glitter, and cloth translate into a glamorous and playful look and feel, drawing inspiration from a range of seemingly disparate worlds—from drag culture to Black women dressed in their Sunday bests. “I’m looking at the way that people construct a new kind of powerful image of themselves using these synthetic materials,” he said.