Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Eternal

and Human Presence

I don’t usually display the pastel paintings in my art blog since I have a separate site for those, “John’s pastel Drawings.” However, I had promised to display this one in my July 20th entry. It is finally finished, and I’ve moved on to two smaller drawings. As a reminder, it is titled “The Perfect Day,” and it is based on the feelings I had when walking on the Beach in South Florida back in March when the sky, water, and weather conspired together to create a day like no other. I felt as thoroughly a part of the universe and God on that day as is possible for me to feel, calm and at peace with a sense of well being literally percolating through my person. At the same time, worldly concerns vanished, so this seascape is devoid of all evidence of human habitation.* It is the ocean and beach as it was before human kind, and as it will be after we pass, as perfect and close to the eternal as is possible on this one white, blue, brown and green marble. In other words it was as though I wasn’t present. Instead there was on the beach that day a sense of wellbeing and happiness.*2 That is all. Nothing more.

* To my mind, "The Eight Worldly Concerns of Buddhism" - all "motivation," "external behavior," - those behaviors that are learned from the culture - a baby's mind at birth is a clean slate - it is the original mind just arrived in the world from God. It has no worldly concerns. Sometimes, as an adult I am able to arrive at a spiritual state close to God when I am able to relieve my mind of most of its cultural training and come close to that original state of mind, that clean slate.

*2 I define happiness in this context as that sense of fullness one feels deep at the center of the chest. It is that simple. There is no more to it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Barack Obama Uses Crapper Too Often While Overseas!

“A new McCain ad that began airing Saturday in selected markets also chides Obama as disrespectful for making "time to go to the gym" during his European visit while at the same time canceling the visit with wounded troops.”*

My personal reactions to this ridiculousness are - Doesn’t this all begin to sound sort of like children arguing in the school playground? What happened to substantial issues? Feels like we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Next, they’ll be criticizing him for going to the bathroom too many times while campaigning!

ME: "I know, my journal is not supposed to be political."

ALTER EGO "It’s an Art Journal, John."

ME: "I just couldn’t stand the absurdity any longer."

ALTER EGO "Well, just don't do it again!

*“McCain campaign: Obama shortchanged injured troops,” AP, on,, Released approximately 4:00 AM EDT, Sunday, July 27, 2008. Viewed 10:22 AM EDT, Sunday, July 27, 2008.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Henlopen State Park Bike Trail

It seemed as though I stopped every few seconds to remove the camera from my backpack and shoot another section of pathway, or marsh, and I shot 183 photographs total. So, now I have amunition for at least 4 new pastel paintings. There must have been 100 or more people walking, jogging, and riding their bikes along the trail. The weather was perfect if a bit hot and muggy, crystal clear, like a hot day in the tropics complete with deep blue sky and puffy white cumulous floating gently over woods and marsh. The reflections of sky and cloud in the calm water stole the show for me, though the alternating layers of sun and shadow across the land and waterscape competed beautifully for second place. I don’t mind summer heat, so the day was perfect.

At the southern end of the path I came to a sign that pointed to Henlopen Cay, which I know is over by Gordon Pond in the area known locally as the North Shore. I thought that I might ride to the Cay, and so stopped at the entrance kiosk to read the map. Unfortunately there is no connection between Wolfe Neck, where I was riding and the Cay. Instead, I realized that I would have to ride into Rehoboth Beach itself, cross over to Rehoboth Avenue, take the new circle to Columbia Avenue, then to Surf, and ride north to Gordon’s Pond. People ride their bikes in heavy summer season traffic in Rehoboth Beach all the time, but I’m unwilling to take the chance because so many drivers today, but especially some of those on vacation, are competing in a demolition derby in which they use no common courtesy. They do not use turn signals where expected, and do use them where least expected, talk on cell phones, read road maps and magazines while attempting to drive, do not follow posted speed signs, and drive under the influence. In short, I refuse to become road kill. Instead, I will load the bike into the trunk of my Saturn and drive to Gordon’s Pond so that I can ride the Henlopen Cay trail on another beautiful day, something to look forward to.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Green Cay in South Florida and Griping

So, it’s been an incredibly busy week, and I haven’t been shooting new photographs and working on the pastels as much as I’d like. The economy has me down, though so far I haven’t lost anything other than a large percentage off the value of my stock portfolio. I suppose I could be one of those poor slobs who got taken with an interest only loan and has lost or is now loosing his/her house and home.* It’s just that I have the nagging feeling that much worse is to come, and with some trepidation I am hoping it comes before Bush leaves office.

The busy week is partially my own fault as I retained my dentist in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when I retired. I’ve been back and forth 5 times since we got back to Rehoboth Beach from South Florida in May. I know I’m ridiculously foolish for doing it this way, but I spent 20 years of my life looking for a dentist I trusted, one who would not inflict horrible pain, and who would not invent work to do on my admittedly terribly soft teeth. So, this week was another trip to the dentist in Lancaster, where we also stayed with a dear friend overnight so we could weed and mulch her gardens – a dirty and sweaty job in 90 degree heat. I’m not complaining except that for thanks we were accused of messing up her plumbing with adult wet butt-wipes! Ah well, – and to think I could have been doing a pastel drawing at home.

“Such is life,” as the same friend would say. I still love her dearly, and we will visit. However, we won’t be imposing on her hospitality for an over night stay again if we can help it.

Today I will ride my bike through the Rehoboth Beach to Lewes bike path – part of Henlopen State Park - so I can get some more photographs of saltwater marshes, and perhaps some shaded walkways to draw and paint in pastel. Then, back to work on the 32” x 40” pastel of “The Perfect Day,” so called because the water at Juno Beach was purest turquoise and the sky was practically cloudless, the ocean like a big lake of electric blues lit from within one ideal day back in March of this year. I’ll post the drawing when I’m finished. Meanwhile, I’m posting this photograph of a water foul from my Green Cay photographs. I’ve written about Green Cay in the past. I wonder why we aren’t trying to diversify our urbanization in South Florida with more reclaimed wetland and natural areas like this one. Could it be that greed gets in the way?

“No, John? There’s no such thing going on in this culture,” his alter ego said facetiously.


*Actually I couldn’t have been one of those folks with one of those disastrous mortgages. I would not have been that desperate. Greed rears its ugly head once again in order to take advantage of people desperate to own their own home.

Monday, July 14, 2008

High versus Low Art

Upon reading the Last entry in my Journal about the art of gay male artists titled Minor White I am reminded that there is another distinction that can be made between photographic work and/or artwork by all artists whether gay male, female or any other category we might choose. That distinction is high art versus low art.*1 For instance in my earlier discussions of the works by F. Holland Day and Baron Wilhelm Von Gloeden, I might have said that both aspired to create photographs that fit into the category “high art,” though from my haughty 21st century view point, I might also question whether either artist’s work fits into that category.

At the same time, the work of a photographer whose work I have not yet examined, “Bruce of Hollywood,” can definitely be categorized as “low art,” because he (Bruce) made no effort and/or pretence to fit his work into any category other than “Beefcake," (Or can it?).
In the case of Minor White, we know that he would have preferred, and definitely his life work demonstrates through the qualities invested in it that proper placement should be in the category of “high art.” That placement creates the seeming contradiction between my own categorization of White’s photographs of male nudes in my first category, “art about the male body.” However, I think it important at this stage of the process to say that gay male artists can create artwork about the male body with the intent that the work be categorized as high art, just as it might be possible for the same artist to create artwork about the relationship between his gay male identity and his knowledge of the world in general (my category #2) that utterly fails to fit into the category of high art, simply because of poor technique. Thus, I am making no claim that there is any relationship between the opposition, low versus high art and my own opposed categories one and two in this extended ramble.


*1 The substitution of the term "high culture" for high art is debatable, though often accepted in academic circles, and debating the conflation of the two terms might be the subject for another paper.

*2 Von Gloeden, Wilhelm, “Two Nudes in the convent of Saint Domingo,” in Wikimedia Commons,, last updated 00:43 November 6, 2006, viewed 1:04 PM EDT, July 13, 2008.

*3 "F. Holland Day: Menelek (33.43.158)". In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006), viewed 2:15 PM EDT.

*4 Bruce of Hollywood (Bruce Harry Bellas), “Keith Stephans Reclining” –, , viewed 1:04 PM EDT, July 13, 2008.

*5 “Minor White: The Eye that Shapes, 1989,” jpeg image, Princeton University Art Museum.'s%20webpage/Minor%20White%20the%20Eye%20that%20Shapes.htm. Captured 8:33 A.M., Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Biking and Photographing Saltwater Marshes

In order to make drawings of Southern and Central Delaware saltwater marshes I have been photographing everywhere I go, whether in the car or on my bicycle. Of course with gas prices above four dollars, I prefer too shoot from the bicycle as much as possible though that limits the area I can cover as I lug backpack, camera, water, and equipment in hot weather. I use my backpack because I like to keep the camera cool. That means I must also wear shirts to protect my shoulders and back from the chaffing straps. The July heat is a factor, because if I’m all wet and nasty it is extremely difficult to set and aim the camera without “sliming” it with perspiration salts. However, this is the best time of the year to shoot the marshes because the grasses are so lush and green, though I look forward to shooting marshes with fall foliage as well. These photographs are nothing special as photographs go, and they will only be used as aids for drawing. However, I will make some trips early in the morning for sunrise with mist, and I hope some of those pictures will be best used as photographs. My Ten megapixel Sony camera allows me to make 11 by 14 inch prints, and larger, without losing any detail for the first time since I’ve been using digital cameras, and that goes all the way back to the apple camera we had at work back in 1996. Hopefully I will have some fine art saltwater marsh photographs to post later this summer or in the early fall.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Minor White (1908-1976)

As part of the series of Journal entries about contemporary alternative gay male art versus traditional gay male art I explore the history and relationship of photography in general to gay male photography in particular.

Minor White was perhaps the most influential 20th century Fine Art photographer having been one of the founders and editor of Aperture Magazine from its inception in 1952. Some claim he was bisexual, others that he was homosexual. In either event, he was extremely conflicted about his sexuality, and worked most of his life to develop a disciplined spirituality in order to compensate for the conflict, first through Catholicism, and later Buddhism. That spiritual approach became the hallmark of his work, and exposes the lie to the “old saw” that sexual orientation, specifically of the homosexual variety, has nothing to do with art production.

I decline to write a summary of Whites life and accomplishments here because that has been done repeatedly and can be found in the linked title above and in my sources below. Suffice it to say that White through his professional life as photographer, editor, teacher, and writer compensated for his sexuality at a time when same sex love was extremely taboo and gave to Modern Art of the Twentieth Century its most important photographer.

White is best known for his approach to the photographic subject through "equivalents," and his extremely detailed and spiritual photographs of great contrast.*3 White said of his photographic process, (I)“...recognized an object or series of forms that, when photographed, would yield an image with specific suggestive powers that can direct the viewer into a specific and known feeling, state, or place within himself."(Gantz) His subjects include landscapes of upper New York State, California and Wyoming, Barns, and aged weather distressed walls, and industrial subjects. He brought the same photographic devout discrimination to his male nudes though he kept them from the public eye. The first publication of these was done posthumously in The Eye that Shapes, 1989,” (jpeg image above), Princeton University Art Museum.*2 Whether spiritual or not, these are male nude photographs, and they do not demonstrate the conflicted nature of Whites professional life, nor the relationship of one to the other. In fact the nudes almost seem separate from and in contrast to the entire body of Whites work. Place these male nudes next to the work of Lynes, or Ritts, and I believe the visual result is similar. Thus, despite his conflcts and the spiritual nature of his landscapes, I believe White’s gay male nude photographs belong in the first category of my list.


*1 & 2 I am unable to find uncopyrighted images of White’s work based on the male nude figure on the Web other than the book cover from the 1989 retrospective of his work. That book was published by Princeton University in that year and is based on the retrospective exhibition of White’s work from 1937 to 1976. “Minor White: The Eye that Shapes, 1989,” jpeg image, Princeton University Art Museum.'s%20webpage/Minor%20White%20the%20Eye%20that%20Shapes.htm. Captured 8:33 A.M., Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

*3 See Gantz, Ryan in Sources below.


Bunnell, Peter, ed. Minor White: The Eye that Shapes. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Art Museum, 1989.

Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph: Male Images from Durieu/Delacroix to Mapplethorpe. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Gantz, Ryan. "The Transmissions of Minor White" Viewed 9:32 A.M., EDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

Lockard, Ray Anne (2002). “Minor White (1908 - 1976)”. glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, ane queer culture,, © 2002, Updated 8:15 A.M> EDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

“Minor White,”
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Updated 00:30, June 8, 2008, viewed 8:10 A.M., EDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008.