Linus Borgo’s naturalistic and diaristic paintings are autobiographical at their core

With a year and a half left in grad school, Linus is continuing to study painting intensely, seeing it as something that he will continue to try to master til he is 80 years old. “There are many things that I would like to say to the art world,” he says. “I would urge everyone, especially those in powerful positions at major institutions, to take a radically self reflexive approach to their work. If you look around and all you see are people who look like you and talk like you, that’s a problem, and you have a responsibility to do something about it.”
“Something I do these days that I didn’t used to do is I take many photos of each detail of a scene I am painting and when I’m on the bus, or drinking coffee in the morning I’ll zoom in really far to each image and look intensely at the very subtle colour variations,” Linus says of a technique that he uses more frequently nowadays. “My favourite is when I’m heading to my studio in the afternoon when the light gets all golden just before the sun sets. My studio is in Harlem and a lot of the buildings are this orangey-red brick and as the sun hits them in the afternoon, they are ablaze in their golden colour, especially when contrasted against a clear blue sky.”
Linus describes the way that his body has changed in the past decade. “In 2014 in my freshman year of RISD when I was 18 years old, I was in an electrical accident where I lost my left hand and had third degree burns all over my body. The way I related to myself and the way the world related to me changed overnight,” he says. “Five years after this event I started taking testosterone to transition. There are so many intricate complexities between disabled and trans identities to do with controllable and uncontrollable morphing of the body, care and community, the limitations of the body, prosthetics, surgery, and Frankensteinian bodily construction.” When he wears a prosthetic arm, people would stop him in the streets and ask if he was a cyborg. “I would always say no, until one day I thought, what if the answer is yes?”
Linus started getting serious about painting when he was 15, when his mother took him to a David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. “I had never seen anyone paint the way he did. There were oranges and purples in crazy places like tree trunks and bushes and I was so inspired. I went home and did a little acrylic study of one of the paintings and it taught me a lot about colour that I still use today,” he says. “The same year my mother took me to a Lucien Freud exhibition. I remember being entranced by the texture of the paint. It was so thick and gooey. The figures were so stark and unapologetic in their nudity, and yet there was a strong sense of vulnerability. I think this is something I’m still chasing in my own work.”