Thursday, October 30, 2014

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon

An Early Graphite Drawing of the "Personal Icon" series, “Flash” directly references my childhood

Ming, the Merciless has captured Dale Arden and Flash Gordon. “Flash” has been or is about to be tortured. As a ten year old - hopeless science fiction addict and gay boy (though if you had asked, I would not have been able to tell you why I was titillated) - I watched every episode with bated breath, hoping to see Buster Crabbe stripped to his somewhat revealing shorts. However, this 32” x 40” graphite drawing was made in 1978 at age 33 as part of the series of personal icons I created during the decade 1975 to 1985.* As one of the earlier drawings the technique is less skilled than the later works. In 1978 I was using the jet black pencil point directly on the paper whereas beginning in 1980 the blacks and most grays were laid in using powdered graphite and cloth, rubbed into place, and subtracted from to expose lighter grays and white where necessary. So, this drawing has a more heavy-handed appearance than the later artworks. However, this less defined, and to me somewhat awkward work is in keeping with the quality of the original photograph. Like the drawing the photo was also a bit fuzzy and looked as though it might have been made from an actual frame of the original, already fading film, which was of extreme contrast.*2 At the time I was striving for a Photo Realistic quality though I don't think it was quite realized in this particular drawing.

A Bit of Meta Criticism

I've had friends tell me that I am too self-deprecating when critiquing my own work. However, the artist always knows his/her own flaws better than any viewer, and that includes all art critics who sometimes dis an artwork thinking they understand its flaws.

Two Notes

*In 1978 Buster Crabbe was seventy years old, my current age, and in five years my icon would be dead.

*2 The film series has since been cleaned digitally and is preserved in the Library of Congress, National Film Registry as a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" film series. And, I bet I am just one of many gay men of my generation who grew up with Buster Crabbe as one of their heroes and/or icons.

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