Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bonnet House


We had family visit us during the Thanksgiving Holiday. In the past we have always done the visiting, so this was a nice change. I knew that our family likes to explore, and we have pretty well explored the immediate environs of North Palm Beach County in the past, so I went on line and googled both Broward and Palm Beach Counties, discovering Bonnet house in the process. Briefly, it was built from 1920 to 1925 by Frederic Clay Bartlett for his wife Helen Birch, and was used as a vacation home by his second wife, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett until 1995. It is the only 35-acre site of preserved natural habitat in all of Fort Lauderdale Beach. The house is at once pleasant, a bit dowdy and un-stuffy, but quirky small mansion / vacation home in the Moorish style. We had a fabulous time exploring the place and will definitely return. It was some find, and I will write more a bout it in my next entry.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cary “Candyass” Leibowitz


I’ve been looking all week for a gay male artist whose work is not about the magnificent male physique, and who has become increasingly well known during the final decade of the 20th and first decade of the 21st centuries. Today, I found him, and it shouldn’t have been so difficult as he has achieved certain notoriety in the Art World. Born in 1963, Candyass, A.K.A. Cary Leibowitz is 19 years younger than myself, a mere child at forty-four. However, he has accomplished a body of work that is consistent in its subtle and humorous ironic dissing of cultural norms such as gender, masculinity, sexuality, ethnicity, and the commodification of all these. His artwork consists of cheaply produced groups of found objects that he alters with hand painted or printed slogans containing stereotypical, and humorous reference to the above mentioned “cultural norms.” These clichés, often self-deprecating, subtly refer to cultural tropes that allow the shabby objects to carry a much broader and ironic cultural signification.

Candyass’s artworks have as antecedents "ready made" objects such as Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), Picasso’s Bull’s Head (1942), and Joseph Cornell’s much more elegant assembled constructions based in saved and found objects. So, Leibowitz has a rather special historical lineage in the Art World that lends a degree of legitimacy to the work not obtained by many other works. In fact Cary Leibowitz functions in the rarified intellectual atmosphere Duchamp claimed for himself through all his ready made objects.

How so you may ask. Well, his chosen moniker “Candyass” is an ironic reference to the stereotyping of gay males as pansy, swish, faggot, fem, fruitcake, candy-ass, and so on. Thus, his “chosen” name functions as an exact reversal of Duchamp’s “Fountain.” *2 Duchamp by so signifying the urinal, removed the actual object from it’s mundane cultural location and purpose to place it in the rarified atmosphere of Public Art. Instead Leibowitz uses the chosen label "Candyass" to remove his legitimate personal identify and place it in the realm of debased cultural stereotyping. I am inclined to feel a bit legitimized myself (finally) in the separation of Twenty-first Century Gay Male Art into two categories – 1) art about the magnificent male physique, and 2) art about a special “gay male vision and its relation to gay male sexuality” – because of “Candyass” alone. Though in this context we are also talking about gay male vision and its relation to cultural texts mirrored in the individual. Thus, I may have found a third but extremely complex and subtle differentiation in the gay male artist’s approach to art production.

In any event, I’m loving Carl Candyass Leibowitz!

Notes


*1 Objects from "Accumulated Crap for Collectors," 1989 to 2005, at Clifford-Smith Gallery, http://www.cliffordsmithgallery.com/2index.html, viewed 12:41 A.M. EST, Saturday, November 22, 2008. (It is known that one time use of images for scholarly purposes is acceptable in most circumstances.)

*2 The Concept of reversal to which I refer here was developed by Jacques Derrida in the following texts, and amplified by others including Jean-Francois Lyotard.

Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976)

The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoffrey Bennington & Ian McLeod (Chicago & London: Chicago University Press, 1987).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Weeks After Election 2008: Thoughts of an Artist


With an idealism remembered fondly from my youth, I want Barack Obama to be the great one, the man of the moment, the man chosen by destiny, and all those clichés one associates with the greatest American presidents; George Washington (the one whose Surname was Washington), Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and I am sure there are others who I should name to that august pantheon. However, enough is enough. The point is that we need a leader today who is capable of uniting the nation as the second Roosevelt did with his fireside chats, the ethereal symbol of the visible nationwide organizations that gave real people jobs, the working people that were the reality of his leadership in lifting us out of the Great Depression. I hesitate to use Abraham Lincoln as an example because we look at him through the lens of assassination, and I want Barack Obama to be remembered as a great president because of the important things he does to bring us together as a people, as well as those great and important things he does after leaving office. For example, I think of Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity as well as The William J. Clinton Foundation that had taken on climate change at a time the sitting president had refused to recognize the problem, worldwide HIV/AIDS and malaria as well as childhood obesity among other problems. Yes, I want Barrack Obama to be the man, the great man of the moment!

And, it seems, so do many others. The pundits are already talking about an 8-week to two-year window for him to achieve enough of his proposed projects to keep public opinion on his side. The Republicans are talking about the same window of opportunity before they can pounce and take the country back. Damn!

This recession/depression - the result in part of 8 years of an oil oligarchy Republican administration, has gone unrecognized for at least one year as it gathered momentum until the extremely visible crash two months ago - won’t have bottomed out for another two years minimum, and they want Obama to have solved our problems before that. What idiocy! No wonder our nation is in trouble.

Oh, I do so want this man to be the great one and transcend all the short sightedness.

Here’s my little bit of hope sent out into the universe as a prayer.

And, I plan to stay positive even though my show opens in less than 4 weeks at a time when Art is the last thing on most people’s minds. I will, however, at the least, get to see most of this body of work hanging in the Town Center Council Chamber. That will be “awesome!”

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.

Bibliography


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.