Wednesday, May 28, 2008

After Homosexuality or Trivializing “Gay” Identity: an Artist’s Soap Box Lecture


When I read the term “Post Gay” in the June 17, 2008 edition of The Advocate I wasn’t exactly appalled. * Frustrated and angered describe best my emotional response to the over simplification and trivialization of my sexual identity. After all, as of June 2008 the struggle to obtain parity with our heterosexual brothers and sisters hasn’t exactly succeeded. And, even if it had, I personally am a gay man though I consider myself to be many things in addition to my sexuality. First, I am an artist. Secondly, I’m a Caucasian male artist, which means that I’ve probably had many more advantages than many of my black friends, as well as those friends of the opposite sex. I’m also a retired art educator, which means I am now beginning to understand the marginalization that comes with increasing age in our culture. I am middle class, though many on my mother’s side of the family can best be described as old New England crust - they would (if they were aware of the greater culture) probably describe themselves as "post Boston Brahman.” I definitely feel the squeeze being put on my class by a government that has favored the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor. Politically I am a converted Republican, a Democrat by choice, though of a conservative economic persuasion. Physically, I have had the advantage of being ectomorphic (ye gads, Microsoft Word doesn’t even know "ectomorph"), relatively handsome and well made, though my spine deviates to the left side by a few degrees, and I am slightly bow legged. I am also in the possession of moderate God given intelligence. Thus, by self definition and cultural definition I am, have been, and always will be "post gay."

However, none of these other characteristics, whether taken one at a time, or together in any combination affect the quality of my life nearly as much as does the fact of my being homosexual. Instead, my life long experience in our Western 20th and 21st Century North American culture has demonstrated that I must consider my homosexuality as problematic to many persons of the heterosexual persuasion.

Thus, wouldn’t it be prudent to wait until LGBT people are considered to be equal in every way to heterosexuals before announcing that we are beyond our homosexual identity?

* Harris, Chloe’, “Second Nature.” The Advocate Magazine, June 17, 2008. Los Angeles, (110-114).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rehoboth Beach in the Spring… just rambling

Or – Ode to Chartreuse – yes, it’s been raining and chilly, but the new leaves on the oaks outside my window seem all the more intense for the cool, cloudy wet weather. I forgot just how algid and grey mid spring can be, no matter – I feel more at home than I do in south Florida.

I’ve got to get my butt in gear and prepare the studio for work. I need to order art supplies, take new photos of the saltwater marshes in Sussex County, print photos, square up the photos and paper in preparation for mixing and sketching the rough image. I don’t use the squares for everything, but they do help to scale things up or down. Back in the sixties through eighties I had to fight with the powers that be in my local community back in Pennsylvania about using the squaring technique with students. I trained students to work from their own photographs, and to use the photographs of others only if the work would be used minimally, and if altered beyond recognition. I feel totally vindicated today with so many well-known artists admitting to the use of the very same techniques in preparation for their work. For instance, the artist Peter Doig, though not talking specifically about squaring up technique discusses the use of photographs in his work. "I'm not trying to make paintings look like photos. I want to make paintings using photos as a reference, the way painters did when photography was first invented."*

Looking out the studio skylights at the yellow-green foliage and gray sky, I keep telling myself not to let the weather get me down, after all, it’s not like I could be at the beach. I can’t see color well enough to work with the pastels in the dull rainy-day light, but I have enough work to keep me busy for forty days and nights. Drat! Got to watch saying such things! It just could happen. I remember springs and summers in the North that were gray, chilly, and damp constantly. Ah well, I have no control over such things imagined or otherwise. God, in his infinite and random wisdom will decide the matter.

I promised to post photographs of the decorations on our front lawn when we arrived in Rehoboth Beach last week.



It was great fun, and what a super welcome!

*artquotes.net, "inspirational art quotes and fine artists, http://www.artquotes.net/quotesartists.htm. Viewed 9:30 A.M., EDT.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Last Hurrah!

I’m sitting in my room at home in Delaware, looking out the window through dappled sunlight at the new chartreuse foliage on the oaks in our woods, bright red and pink rhododendron blossoms and freshly mowed lawn. It was 46 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, whereas insouth Florida it’s probably seventy-two at this hour. Mind you, I’m not complaining, just drawing a comparison between Palm Beach and lower, slower Delaware weather. Before we left south Florida we spent one last perfect day at the beach and I took this photograph of sailboats and the gentle waves of the Atlantic. I’ll miss the clear transparent aqua, turquoise, and emerald greens of the ocean in south Florida, the graceful curves of the coconut palms, the massive, concrete like trunks of the royal palms, and the clipped, park-like roads and parkways of the Southeast Florida mega-city. However, there’s a great deal to be said for the more natural state of our woods, farms, and rural roads in the northern states.

So, to cut to the chase, or the arrival in this case – we got back to Rehoboth Beach around 5:00 this past Friday evening, and were welcomed not only by the marvelous natural display of new foliage, blankets of purple Dutch Iris, and rich magenta pink azaleas and new “rhodo” blooms, but also by hot pink blow-up flamingo balloons hanging from the oak tree branches on the front lawn, bright yellow rubber “duckies” floating in the drainage ponds next to the driveway, multi-colored rubber tub toys all over the front entrance steps and entry to the house, and welcome home balloons wired to the mail box and columns of the front porch. Our neighbors had prepared the scene in anticipation of our home coming, and it made our approach through the white oaks of Sussex County and cool mid-spring shower extremely welcoming. I’ll post pictures of the scene next time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Baron Wilhelm Von Gloeden: Part III

*
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. I wrote Part I and II of Wilhelm von Gloeden on April 20, 2008, and April 12, 2008.
Aesthetics, Colonization and Perception

Wilhelm Von Gloeden’s photographs of boys and young men are steeped in a classical mystique through the use of body make-up, props and various manipulative photographic techniques. The fortuitous use of the landscape and classical ruins around Taormina itself provided an authentic ancient Roman vista. The purposeful manipulation of these elements created an Arcadian flair that appealed to a late Victorian and Edwardian sentiment.

The recent late 19th Century invention of the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” among others had just begun to allow a cultural misunderstanding of a segment of the population as “abnormal” sexually, and the homosexual as “other” was a new perception, perhaps not yet conscious in most Victorian and Edwardian minds. * Thus, an organized homosexual underground network was a relatively recent development. Because of these factors, Von Gloeden’s erotic photographs of young men were perceived for their aesthetic merits by most of the population. Only those educated and worldly men with the financial wherewithal who had sex with men whether homosexual, bisexual, or pansexual understood the erotic content of the photographs.

Von Gloeden as Perceived by the Citizens of Taormina

Wilhelm, however sickly must have had a powerful, and commanding presence. He had to have also been a caring person because the local residents of Taormina still refer to him affectionately as “The Baron.” Additionally, the young men he had sex with, no matter their actual sexual proclivities, often became lifelong friends. Realizing that “the Baron’s” money must have been extremely persuasive, I also refuse to use the standard Postmodern term “colonization” to describe von Gloeden’s sexual and financial activity in Taormina, because that terminology is at its worst, elitist, and at its best contributes to a limited perception of the social, cultural, and human dynamics of the time. In short, “colonization” as an esoteric term is condescending to the people, and that time and place in which humankind were perhaps less self-conscious about human sexuality. Suffice it to say that Wilhelm bon Gloeden literally put Taormina on the map, that he also employed his models as servants, put some in various businesses, and paid the dowries for at least several of their marriages. One model, Pancrazio Bucini became Wilhelm’s trusted assistant, and partner in life. In fact, upon Von Gloeden’s death in 1931, Bucini “Il Moro” received the entire estate. However, much of the photographic work was lost when the Fascist government confiscated and destroyed most of the files during the course of several raids and Bucini’s arrest from 1931 to 1936. Amazingly, Bucini defended himself in court and won. His heirs and descendents still possess over 300 of Von Gloeden’s photographic plates. *1 Thus, the good citizens of Taormina saw Von Gloeden, and, see him to this day, as a generous and kind, if somewhat eccentric member of their community.

Notes

*In 1889 Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his extremely influential Psychopathia Sexualis used the terms heterosexual and homosexual which he borrowed from an earlier book on human sexuality by Gustav J├Ąger, who had in tern borrowed these from a group of terms for various human sexualities coined by Karl-Maria Kertbeny in 1869.

*1 Koymasky, Andre and Matt, “Wilhelm Von Gloeden – The Boys of Taormina,” The Living Room, http://andrejkoymasky.com/liv/glo/glo01.html. © Matt and Andrei Koymasky 1997 – 2005, viewed 8:43 AM EST, March 3, 2008.

Sources:

Von Gloeden, Wilhelm, and Pohlmann, Ulrich, Authors, Wilhelm von Gloeden: Taormina. Hamburg, Munich and New York: teNeues Publishing Company (1998).

Yahoo, gayhistory@yahoo.com, Von Gloeden. http://vongloedengayhistory.free.fr/, viewed 9:33 AM EDT, Saturday, May 10, 2008.

Goldman, Jason, “Gloeden, Wilhelm von, Baron,” glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer Culture. http://www.glbtq.com/arts/gloeden_w.html. © 2002, glbtq, Inc., last updated October 29, 2006, viewed 10:02 AM EDT, Saturday, May 10, 2008.

Koymasky, Andre and Matt, “Wilhelm Von Gloeden – The Boys of Taormina,” The Living Room, http://andrejkoymasky.com/liv/glo/glo01.html. © Matt and Andrei Koymasky 1997 – 2005, viewed 8:43 AM EST, March 3, 2008.

* Wilhelm von Gloeden, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_von_Gloeden, modified 7:55 AM., April 12, 2008, viewed 9:38 AM EDT, Saturday, May 10, 2008.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What Would Scarlet Say? (An Artist Looks at His Favorite Beach)


When the east wind blows around the south side of a Canadian high pressure the Gold Coast ocean rages. It may be eighty- two degrees Fahrenheit in the sun but on the beach the wind is howling at 35 miles per hour, and the surf pounds close to the dune grass and sea grapes. It seems to me that our favorite beach shrunk by another 100 feet this past winter. My brother-in-law who is a Jupiter, Florida native swears that a shrinking beach is part of a natural cycle here, and that the beach will grow back soon enough. He doesn’t believe global warming exists. Neither does he believe in computers, and so hasn't noticed that our slower- than-a-snail's-pace U.S. government, in the form of the Environmental Protection Agency, has Webpages dedicated to the reality of "Climate Change."

I fear that global warming has already begun to nibble at the Florida coast. Most of south Florida is less than 3 feet above sea level, and the worst case scenario for climate change involves a three foot rise in sea levels. Will we need to build dykes around the entire state? Do we have the sense, character and resources to do so should it prove to be necessary? I fear not.

Ah well, as Scarlet O’Hara says, “Fiddle-de-de, I’ll worry about that tomorrow."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Company and Gallery Mailings


Visitors, especially family can be a full time occupation, one that I don’t mind for a few days at a time with a suitable space between. However, when the family is “Southern,” as in Southern United States, they tend to stay for prolonged periods of time, sometimes weeks. Such is the case currently. I have had limited time to work during April, and have finished but one over-sized pastel drawing. To be sure I am pleased with the drawing, but I should be producing at least two of these a month, plus one or two smaller works and/or one to two photomontages as well. I did finish one photomontage, update all my production files, and put together a new package to mail to galleries, and sent out 5 of these with return mailers (SASE). The package includes artists bio and statement, pamphlet with images of my work, business card, burned CD with images of both pastels and photomontages, PowerPoint presentations of both types of work, my bio, and artist statements, as well as images of past announcements, posters, and news articles. Each package includes a separate letter based on an exploration of the area and specific gallery to which I am sending the materials. So, now that I look at it, I’ve not done poorly under the circumstances, and I do love the folks that are visiting. So perhaps I should stop complaining and just enjoy the company.