Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Delmas Howe: The Western Male Physique, Howe’s Vision, and Gay Male Sexuality

One of the final entries on this topic
Delmas Howe paints, in oils, rugged, magnificently muscled Western men in the canyon, gulch, and butte settings of his home state, New Mexico. The landscapes are detailed and done in rich vibrant primary and secondary colors, backgrounds concave as though viewed through the camera lens rather than the human eye. Often Howe uses various foreground structures and/or one point perspective to anchor the composition to the edge of the picture plain. Interestingly, this practice seems to flatten the foreground, and the variance between flattened foreground and hollowed background leads to a greater sense of depth and space within the canvas.

Philosophically, Howe says, and I am paraphrasing, that he has been fortunate to live in a time and place in which he was able to obtain an education, travel, and be exposed to both rural Southwestern and urban East Coast life styles, discovering who he was in the process. He believes his artwork displays the result of that process.

Rereading the Introduction to Rodeo Pantheon (1993) written by Edward Lucie-Smith, I refreshed my memory as to how hopeful outsiders could be in the early years of the “gay nineties.” Even though the far right had already succeeded in attacking the National Endowment of the Arts for supplying public funds to various artists on the fringes (mostly gay and including Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano) Lucie-Smith was pleased at the time that the visual arts provided a platform for those of us on the fringe of the culture (reads races other than Caucasian, religions other than evangelical and Catholic, sexualities other than heterosexual). He even sites Mapplethorpe as an example of token acceptance on the part of the mainstream culture though Mapplethorpe’s exhibition at the Corcoran in 1989 had been the cataclysmic calamity that marked the end of any possible societal acceptance of visual art produced by anyone who might fit the category of The Other. Since that time, the mainstream visual art, that which is funded in part by public funds, has become increasingly bland and non-committed to anything that might resemble the now politically incorrect, neutralized and passé Avant-garde. Lucie-Smith does, however, correctly identify Howe’s work with the postmodern use of 18th and 19th century classicism, and that puts Howe firmly at art’s (for the time) “cutting edge.” Additionally, I would place both Howe’s and Mapplethorpe’s art in my first category (See entry for Monday, November 19, 2007), “gay art about the magnificent male anatomy," and that first category is subsumed within the second because gay male art, including the myopic view of the male body has always been about the relationship of the gay male vision to sexuality, and that includes the artists I have examined who lived before the term “gay” meant anything but happy. As I look back through all the entries on this topic, the separation of the two categories is artificial and false. Instead of creating two separate categories as I originally intended I have now broadened the first to include that which many gay male artists including Delmas Howe have already been doing. In other words, gay male art about the magnificent male physique is already about the relationship of gay male vision to sexuality.

*It is understood that a single use of a low quality reproduction of an artwork for scholarly purposes is acceptable and does not infringe on copyright.


Lucie-Smith, Edward, Rodeo Pantheon. Gay Men’s Press (London) 1993. Copyright ©Heretic Books 2000 Ltd., viewed Monday, November 10, 2008, 10:10 AM EST>

Gay Men’s Press Website, http://www.gmppubs.co.uk/, viewed 8:30 AM EST, Monday, November 10, 2008

Howe, Delmas, Delmas Howe, http://www.delmashowe.com/home.html. Viewed 10:00 AM EST, Tuesday, November 11, 2008.

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