Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Finds Cape Henlopen

We’ve now had almost a week of summer weather. It seemed it would never come, but its here! I took this photograph of dunes near the end of Cape Henlopen the afternoon the clouds began to break and sun to filter through the overcast. At the time, I had no idea that it was the end of our long, cool and damp spring. However, looking back at this photograph, I can see the change in the quality of light, and the way the breaking clouds allowed the sun to spotlight the furthest dunes was a harbinger of warmer dry weather to come.

How lucky we are in southern Delaware to have this cape protected from development primarily because of Fort Miles and the Second World War.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Gay Saint Sebastian in Art

Carlo Saraseni, St. Sebastian (1610-16)*

Today I want to take a more personal look at my own gay connection to the images of Sebastian’s arrow impaled body. On the surface, the empathetic gay male connection to Sebastian is obvious – after all, the repeated penetration of his body is a gay male trope. The plethora of Saint Sebastian images begins with Byzantium in the East, and the middle ages in the western Mediterranean. And, all are based on the double martyrdom at the hands of his mentor/emperor, Diocletian. The first attempt by the emperor to kill Captain Sebastian by archery firing squad failed, because Irene, wife of Saint Castulus, rescued Sebastian and nursed him back to health. After performing several more miracles, and not having learned his lesson, Sebastian lectured the emperor about his evil ways. The pissed off Diocletian had Sebastian beaten to death and thrown in an outhouse (total B&D imagery).

I have a thorough conscious and partially subconscious link with the images of Sebastian transfixed in ecstatic pain as the arrows piece his flesh. The association has been created over time, reinforced by every real or imagined slight suffered at the hands of heterosexual family members, friends, co-workers and enemies. Because of that association I have wondered at the extent to which the cultural bias has festered to become such a thorough persecution complex. After all, I am certainly not a saint. As testimony to that connection, I created a drawing of myself as Sebastian back in the 1980’s. Today, my shadow self protests, “How cliché.” In fact, I embarrass myself, because as we, the LGBT people, slowly gain acceptance – the vision of Saint Sebastian as martyr and victim is incorrect. I don’t believe the saint saw himself as martyr. Instead, I think that he might have described himself as an agitator, even revolutionary in the cause of Christianity.

* Image obained from Wikimedia Commons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SaraceniSebastian.jpg) 8:05 EDT, Thursday, June 25, 2009. The following quote is from Wikimedia. “This image is in the public domain in the United States. In most cases, this means that it was first published prior to January 1, 1923 (see the template documentation for more cases). Other jurisdictions may have other rules, and this image might not be in the public domain outside the United States.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Stormy Weather

The savage beauty of the beach in stormy weather is more beguiling than those sunny and hot days we all crave. Just stand on the sand and feel the hoary wind sandblast your face and listen to the crashing surf. However, enough is enough! I think everyone is ready for this dismal weather in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic states to be over.

Perhaps today, the first calendar day of summer, it will clear and be magnificently crystalline with the sun sparkling off gentler waves.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Passion of Christ: a Gay Subject?

Dichotomy reversal, to stand an idea on its head, is done so often today that we don’t notice it being performed. We all do it in the name of whatever cause we personally espouse. Gay Jesus is just such a flip, and it has angered many a heterosexist Christian. In fact, the Website Jesus in Love specifically addresses the reversal of the normally understood straight Jesus. While my personal Jesus is neither straight nor gay, he is simply the Son of God. And, though I see Jesus’ gender as totally unimportant, the exploration of gender and sexual assignation as these relate to the Son of God is inevitable in this time of conflict concerning the secondary position of LGBT people in our democratic society. So, the straight versus gay conceptualization of Jesus fascinates me as much as it rankles others, and I was titillated last week when I encountered a set of aesthetically masterful photographs that address the idea. They are the Passion of Christ by German photographer Robert Recker. The handsome young models in religious tableau elicit a plethora of responses including the erotic, and I found myself wondering if the handsome blond Jesus of heterosexual protestant religious art elicits such an ignominious response in straight women. And, worse, what of the images of Christ's torture and flagellation, for instance, William Bouguereau's The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
I couldn’t help but answer my inquiry with a resounding, OF COURSE they do! I’m sure such a response is totally taboo in polite heterosexual religious conversation, and is never discussed. However, the taboo is handled obliquely in the Arts, as in “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar.

Additionally, I felt guilty that I had an erotic response to Becker’s images of Christ and his disciples. I couldn’t help myself, and I’m sure that Becker would be pleased with my response since the beautiful rendition of light and shadow in these images is testimony to the photographer’s pleasured glance. I’m also sure that if the images were shown to a random sample of people, including gay men and straight women sensitive instrumentation would record appropriate biological responses. Additionally, some of those persons, straight or gay, would also cover their response with fear and anger. Thus, by expanding and projecting my reaction to others I play with the idea that the subject is taboo in a completely circular flow of logic. In any event, Becker’s work created my erotic response and this brief discussion about it. And, yes - on a purely psychological level, I like the photographs tremendously.

* The image, William Bouguereau - The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880) was obtained from Wikimedia Commons. It appears with the following notation. “Public domain. This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Merry-Joseph Blondel

Merry-Joseph Blondel (1771-1853) was a successful French neoclassical painter in the tradition of David. He won the Prix de Rome in 1803 for his painting of Aeneas and Anchises. He also obtained a gold medal in the Salon of 1817 for his painting, The Death of Louis XII, which is in the Augustins Museum in Toulouse. As a mature artist he worked as a decorative painter and is responsible for walls and ceilings in the Galerie de Diane at Fontainebleau (1822-1828), the Palais de la Bourse and the vestibule to the Galerie d’Apollon, best known, The Fall of Icarus (1819).

The painting shown above, The Death of Hyacinthus, while homoerotic, was painted solely with the intent to illustrate the ancient Greek mythological tale in which Hyacinthus, the youthful lover of Apollo is accidentally killed by his mentor, as the two played quoits. As such, the painting illustrates a historical reality in which the subject of homosexuality was simply part of a classical oeuvre that artists of neoclassical persuasion in the mid 19th century explored in their fascination with antiquity. In fact, the word “homosexual” did not come into existence until after Blondel’s death. * In the 21st century, the subject is of course; politically incorrect at the least since the love for a youth by an older man (God or not) is pejoratively pederasty.

Above all, this painting is a work of art. Thus, if anyone happening upon this journal by accident or purposeful intent is offended whether by the visual impact and/or subject matter, please refrain from placing your own prejudice on my intent.

* Karl Maia Kertbenny (1869) intended his classification system of sexual types to replace in part the pejorative term “pederast.” These types were in part; homosexual, heterosexual, monosexualists, and pygists.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation

Back in 1996, as part of my exploration of the Art scene in New York City, I discovered the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation. I discovered the art of Jack Balas, Tom Bianchi, Bill Costa, Wes Hempel, and Delmas Howe through Leslie/Lohman. I also discovered that the collection included work by many of my favorite gay male artists including Paul Cadmus, Peter Hujar, Marsden Hartley, Keith Haring, Richard Atilla Lukacs, Robert Mapplethorpe and Wilhelm Von Gloeden. These few names barely scratch the surface of the collection held by the foundation. While working on my doctorate in the 1990’s, I found the foundation to be very helpful, and it became a part of my monthly Art perambulations in the city. Specifically, I visited Leslio/Lohman during an exhibition of Dalmas Howe’s work and had a lengthy discussion with Sal Monetti about the Southwestern artist’s work, and Sal proved to be helpful with research for several NYU papers.

Additionally, the foundation Website is very extensive, and anyone who researches gay male art and / or artists should consult it and contact the organization personnel as I have always found them to be very helpful. I regret to say that though my will includes the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, I have only just become a member. I have been sadly remiss in this act of negligence.