Posts Tagged ‘sexual freedom

14
Jun
19

Exhibition and auction, photographs and text: ‘The Gay Day Archive 1974-83’ – photographs by Hank O’Neal; text by Alan Ginsberg

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 20th June 2019

Auction: 20th June, 2019 at 1:30 pm

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Daddies]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“Born gay and free”

I was born in 1958 and came out as a gay man in 1975, six short years after the Stonewall uprising, the nominal (the UK had decriminalised homosexuality in 1967) but official start of Gay Liberation around the world, especially in the United States of America. I survived the plague that hit in the early 1980s. A lot of my friend’s didn’t.

These fabulous photographs and lilting prose make wonderful bedfellows, shining a light on those very early years of outness, campness, empowerment and sexual and personal freedom pre HIV/AIDS. From Gay Daddies to Gay Teachers, from being nowhere (in sight) … to being everywhere. As Ginsberg eloquently proposes, “wearing their hearts on a banner for nothing but love.” Gay youth, dignity and equality, proud of my gay son whoever he may be.

There is such a sense of joy, happiness and love contained in these photographs. The two lads in “Untitled [summery mouths]” are redolent of the era. Cute as a button: platform shoes, tight flared jeans, keys hanging, hands clasped around, small waists, tight singlets, sultry curly hair. Disco love is in the air. I could have been one of these men, memories of those days, those halcyon 70s days.

There are heroes too. Marsha P. Johnson, performance artist, drag mother, transgender, gender nonconforming survival sex worker political activist human… probably murdered by thugs after the 1992 pride parade. And Harvey Milk, that assassinated visionary who became a martyr to the cause, marching in spirit with the crowd. The man carrying a wreath with his name – head down, black armband, gay rights t-shirt – is such a poignant image of the loss of a hero. And then Ginsberg’s text, “Harvey Milk died for your sins.” (He had initially written “our” but crossed it out).

That erasure is so important. I remember working at Channel 7 as a set painter in Melbourne in the late 1980s to pay for university. It was a typical male only workplace at the time, all “blokes”, and I was confronted one day by one of them about being openly gay. My response: I’m quite happy being how I am, it’s you that obviously has the problem. Why don’t you look at yourself first before you start attacking other people.

This is why it is so important that Ginsberg crossed out “our” and wrote “your” sins. LGBTQI people have not sinned. There just are. They have nothing to forgive themselves for. It is the prejudice of others that leads them to fight for dignity and equality. As one of the posters in the photographs says, “People should love one another regardless of race, religion, age or sex.” A men to that.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

PS. The exhibition of these photographs is only on for a few days. Please see them if you can.

The photographs and text are used under “fair use” for the purposes of freedom of speech, research, education and informed comment. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

A festive visual compilation by the NY-based photographer and author O’Neal of the parade signifying the Gay Liberation Movement. Pictured are an array of fun-loving and politically-motivated participants, several openly displaying affection. With photographs of the transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson. Silver prints, various sizes, with most of the sheets 6×7 1/2 inches, 15.2×19 cm., or the reverse; each captioned by Ginsberg, and signed and dated by O’Neal on verso. 1974-83. AND – An additional group of approximately 165 photographs by O’Neal of the NYC parades, comprising 95 silver prints, various sizes but most 11 x 14 inches, 28 x 35.6 cm., and the reverse, 5 are signed and dated by O’Neal and contain Ginsberg’s captions; and 70 smaller silver prints, various sizes to 8 x 10 inches, 20.3 x 25.4 cm., and the reverse, a few with O’Neal’s hand stamp and notations and many are dated, in pencil, on verso; with duplicates and triplicates. 1974-83.

Estimate $70,000 – 100,000

Text for the Swann Auction Galleries website [Online] Cited 30/05/2019

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WE ARE EVERYWHERE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WE ARE EVERYWHERE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

We all look pretty normal,
boy next door, handsome punk,
ad man’s delight, daughters of the
American Revolution.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Hikin’ Dykes]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Hikin’ Dykes] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Black white brown boy girl what idealism! –
wearing their
hearts on a banner for nothing but love

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY YOUTH 1969-1979]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY YOUTH 1969-1979] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

They Guy in the right looks like my daddy when
he was young (and alive).

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Dominant/Submissive Love]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Allen Ginsberg

Irwin Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet, philosopher and writer. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and the counterculture that soon followed. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism, and sexual repression and was known as embodying various aspects of this counterculture, such as his views on drugs, hostility to bureaucracy and openness to Eastern religions. He was one of many influential American writers of his time who were associated with the Beat Generation, including Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

Ginsberg is best known for his poem “Howl”, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. In 1956, “Howl” was seized by San Francisco police and US Customs. In 1957, it attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it described heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state. “Howl” reflected Ginsberg’s own sexuality and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that “Howl” was not obscene, adding, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”

Ginsberg was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively. He lived modestly, buying his clothing in second-hand stores and residing in downscale apartments in New York’s East Village. One of his most influential teachers was the Tibetan Buddhist Chögyam Trungpa, the founder of the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. At Trungpa’s urging, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman started The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics there in 1974.

Ginsberg took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. His poem “September on Jessore Road”, calling attention to the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, exemplifies what the literary critic Helen Vendler described as Ginsberg’s tireless persistence in protesting against “imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless.”

His collection The Fall of America shared the annual U.S. National Book Award for Poetry in 1974. In 1979, he received the National Arts Club gold medal and was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Ginsberg was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995 for his book Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992.

Full text “Alan Ginsberg,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Miss Rollerind]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Miss Rollerind] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Miss Rollerind, queen of late 70s
disco world universe drama, observed by
a (gay??) black man on the asphalt.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [COME! DIGNITY + EQUALITY]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [COME! DIGNITY + EQUALITY] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Come all over the sky, look up!

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ADOLPH ANITA JOE – The REAL ThREAtS to HUMANITY!]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ADOLPH ANITA JOE – The REAL ThREAtS to HUMANITY!] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What a pleasant conversation they are having under Hitler’s head,
guy with handsome bicep chest, holding the banner aloft
lightly, and the eye passed smiling inquirer.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY MEN’S HEALTH PROJECT]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY MEN’S HEALTH PROJECT] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

See anyone there you’d like to leave VD with?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Good tight dress]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Good tight dress] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Good tight dress, totally olive oil lady
from midtown, but the top’s a baseball
capped ruffian whistling at the whore

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I’m PROUD of my Gay Son]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I’m PROUD of my Gay Son] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Resolute parents that have gone thru the mill
& seen the skeleton in the closet & come out of the
gruesome fun house into the light – now they’re on their own feet
older + dignified; with house dresses + majestic walrus mustaches.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Look at her! Mad but actually handsome]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Look at her! Mad but actually handsome] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Look at her! Mad but actually handsome

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Cops with personal mustaches]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Cops with personal mustaches] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Cops with person mustaches, shun photogs, big tit guy in pancake suffering their own vision in the sun, and a thin socialist dyke

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Rights]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Rights] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

You mean all that hair + teeth is gay?

 

 

Hank O’Neal

Hank O’Neal (born June 5, 1940) is an American music producer, author and photographer.

Photography

He began taking photographs while a teenager, and began to pursue the field seriously in 1969, when he bought a professional camera and began documenting recording sessions and jazz concerts that he was producing. Long before Berenice Abbott admonished him to always have a project, he undertook his first, in rural East Texas during 1970-1973. These photographs led to his first exhibition in September 1973, at The Open Mind Gallery in New York City.

In the 1970s he associated with a diverse group of photographers, notably Walker Evans, André Kertész and most importantly, Berenice Abbott, with whom he worked for the last 19 years of her life.

From 1970 to 1999 (in addition to undertaking many photographic projects), O’Neal also published numerous books related to photography. In 1999, at the urging of gallery director Evelyn Daitz, he had a major retrospective of his work to that point at The Witkin Gallery. Since that time, he has focused his activities toward photography, and continues to mount exhibitions yearly throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2003 his photographic career was summarised in a profile in The New York Times.

Books (text and illustrations)

  • The Eddie Condon Scrapbook of Jazz (St. Martin’s Press, 1973)
  • A Vision Shared (St. Martin’s Press, 1976)
  • Berenice Abbott – American Photographer (McGraw-Hill, 1982)
  • Life Is Painful, Nasty and Short … In My Case It Has Only Been Painful and Nasty – Djuna Barnes L 1978-81 (Paragon, 1990)
  • Charlie Parker (Filipacchi, 1995)
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Filipacchi, 1997) French language edition
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009) English language edition
  • Hank O’Neal Portraits 1971-2000 (Sordoni Art Gallery, 2000)
  • Billie & Lester in Oslo (A Play with Music, 2005)
  • Gay Day – The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade (Abrams, 2006)
  • Berenice Abbott (Steidl, 2008)
  • The Unknown Berenice Abbott – Steidl (October 15, 2013)
  • A Vision Shared – 40th Anniversary Edition – Steidl (December 1, 2016)
  • Berenice Abbott – The Paris Portraits – Steidl (November 22, 2016)

Books (photographs only)

  • Allegra Kent’s Water Beauty Book (St Martin’s Press, 1976)
  • All the King’s Men (Limited Editions Club, 1990)
  • XCIA’s Street Art Project: The First Four Decades (Siman Media Works, 2012)

Portfolios

  • Berenice Abbott – Portraits In Palladium (Text Only, Commerce Graphics/ Lunn Limited, 1990)
  • Hank O’Neal – Photographs (Text and 12 gravure prints), Limited Editions Club, 1990)
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Text and 12 photographs), Glenside Press, 2007)

Text from “Hank O’Neal,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [MY SON IS GAY AND THAT’S OK]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [MY SON IS GAY AND THAT’S OK] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

She’s an old anarchist from the
30’s. She read Marcel Proust in the
slums of Barcelona. She used to be a movie
Star in Berlin in 1923. Now she lives
in Queens in disguise as a typical american
mother.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GOD is GAY]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GOD is GAY] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

According to Barbelo Gnostic theory,
God reflected on himself (or herself) & thus shone Sophia,
the First Word-thought, who thereat made sex
with herself and birthed the first Aeon,
Laldabaoth

 

 

Barbēlō refers to the first emanation of God in several forms of Gnostic cosmogony. Barbēlō is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as ‘Mother-Father’ (hinting at her apparent androgyny), ‘First Human Being’, ‘The Triple Androgynous Name’, or ‘Eternal Aeon’. So prominent was her place amongst some Gnostics that some schools were designated as Barbeliotae, Barbēlō worshippers or Barbēlōgnostics.

Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός gnostikos, “having knowledge”, from γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish Christian milieux in the first and second century AD. These systems believed that the material world is created by an emanation or ‘works’ of a lower god (demiurge), trapping the divine spark within the human body. This divine spark could be liberated by gnosis, spiritual knowledge acquired through direct experience. Some of the core teachings include the following:

  1. All matter is evil, and the non-material, spirit-realm is good.
  2. There is an unknowable God, who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings called Aeons.
  3. The creator of the (material) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior spirit (the Demiurge).
  4. Gnosticism does not deal with “sin,” only ignorance.
  5. To achieve salvation, one needs gnosis (knowledge).

Laldabaoth is the demiurge (a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual) from Gnostic Christianity.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [a big crowd]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [a big crowd] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

a big crowd of boys + girls + …? – but
that tall girl looks worried, doesn’t she have a baloon?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [STONEWALL CHORALE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [STONEWALL CHORALE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Masculine & Feminine Sopranos!
marching on the Stone
floor on Manhattan, & pl…? Life

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WHERE IS your HUSBAND TONIGHT?]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WHERE IS your HUSBAND TONIGHT?] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What pretty wives!
are they photocopies of men?
do they smoke cigars in secret?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [singing to skyscrapers]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [singing to skyscrapers] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

They’ve been meeting in secret + public
for years, & now sing to skyscrapers.

 

 

Today, at least a million spectators line the Pride parade route along Fifth Avenue. But, in its earliest days, the celebration was a much smaller event characterised by NY-style high energy, pithy signage, raucous crowd chants, extensive cruising and great music (remember disco?). Most of O’Neal’s photographs focused on NY’s West Village or Christopher Street, the epicenter of gaydom. A range of sub-cultures associated with the LGBTQ+ community are depicted: young and longhaired post-hippies, bare-chested muscle men, drag queens, fairies, leather-ites, Gay Daddies, protestors, pastors, parents of gays and the hikin’ dykes.

Some participants hold placards, including those protesting Anita Bryant, the once popular singer, who emerged as an strident anti-gay crusader in the late 1970s and teamed up with the divisive evangelical figure Jerry Falwell. A banner for the Gay Men’s Health Project is a harbinger of the tragic era to come.

Ginsberg first saw the photographs in 1982 and, according to O’Neal, was inspired to add his distinctive captions to the backs of the prints. His brief handwritten notes, which often reflect personal or historic observations, strike a wonderful tone. A caption that accompanies a picture of a group of men holding the banner WE ARE EVERYWHERE reads, “We all look pretty normal, boy next door, handsome punk, ad man’s delight, daughters of the American Revolution.” A shot depicting two men dressed in ancient Roman costume reads, “Clark Gable and Nero on a date, smiling for the 1920s Hollywood photogs.” His lengthy caption for the Johnson print (featured on the catalog cover) reads: “If I keep dressing up like this I’ll save the world from nuclear apocalypse. But will anyone love me for it? I’ll save the world anyway I know that looks good.” And still others honour the courageous and brave: one participant holds a wreath bearing the name Harvey Milk; Ginsberg wrote, “Harvey Milk died for your sins.” (He had initially written “our” but crossed it out).

O’Neal’s photographs were reproduced in the book, Gay Day: The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade, 1974-1983 (Abrams, 2006), with a Preface by William Burroughs. Interestingly during this same period Ginsberg had revisited his own Beat-era photographs, which were shot in the 1950s and processed at a local drugstore. He developed a unique hybrid picture-text style, adding detailed, handwritten mini-narratives to the lower margins of the prints, which captured his vivid, visual memories.

Text for the Swann Auction Galleries website [Online] Cited 30/05/2019

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [HARVEY MILK]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [HARVEY MILK] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Harvey Milk died for your sins

 

 

Harvey Milk

Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Although he was the most pro-LGBT politician in the United States at the time, politics and activism were not his early interests; he was neither open about his sexuality nor civically active until he was 40, after his experiences in the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

In 1972, Milk moved from New York City to the Castro District of San Francisco amid a migration of gay and bisexual men. He took advantage of the growing political and economic power of the neighbourhood to promote his interests and unsuccessfully ran three times for political office. Milk’s theatrical campaigns earned him increasing popularity, and in 1977 he won a seat as a city supervisor. His election was made possible by a key component of a shift in San Francisco politics.

Milk served almost eleven months in office, during which he sponsored a bill banning discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. The Supervisors passed the bill by a vote of 11-1 and was signed into law by Mayor Moscone. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, who was another city supervisor. White had recently resigned to pursue a private business enterprise, but that endeavour eventually failed and he sought to get his old job back. White was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter, which was later reduced to five years. He was released in 1983 and committed suicide by carbon monoxide inhalation two years later.

Despite his short career in politics, Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. In 2002, Milk was called “the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States”. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.” Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Extract from “Harvey Milk,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Blacks are most truthful]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Blacks are most truthful] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Blacks are most truthful,
it all goes back to
african religious ?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Judy Garland]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Judy Garland] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Judy Garland’s got big-veined
fists & activist boyfriends singing

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [PEOPLE SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [PEOPLE SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Well I’ll take 2 of these + 3 of those.
How old did you say you were?
Does that mean I have to sleep with 90 year old girls?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [summery mouths]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [summery mouths] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Young meat Catholes (?)
appreciating each other’s
summery mouths

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA SLEEPS WITH BIG BUSINESS]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA SLEEPS WITH BIG BUSINESS] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Anita O’Day is still singing.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA DEAR SHOVE IT]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA DEAR SHOVE IT] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

I’ll bet Anita had affairs in
high school with her girlfriends.
Pretty Girl.

 

 

Anita Bryant

Anita Jane Bryant (born March 25, 1940) is an American singer and political activist. …

In the 1970s, Bryant became known as an outspoken opponent of gay rights in the US. In 1977, she ran the “Save Our Children” campaign to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Her involvement with the campaign was condemned by gay rights activists. They were assisted by many other prominent figures in music, film, and television, and retaliated by boycotting the orange juice which she had promoted. This, as well as her later divorce, damaged her financially.

Victory and defeat

On June 7, 1977, Bryant’s campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance by a margin of 69 to 31 percent. However, the success of Bryant’s campaign galvanised her opponents, and the gay community retaliated against her by organising a boycott of orange juice. Gay bars all over North America stopped serving screwdrivers and replaced them with the “Anita Bryant Cocktail”, which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to gay rights activists to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.

In 1977, Florida legislators approved a measure prohibiting gay adoption.The ban was overturned more than 30 years later when, on November 25, 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy S. Lederman declared it unconstitutional.

Bryant led several more campaigns around the country to repeal local anti-discrimination ordinances, including campaigns in St. Paul, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and Eugene, Oregon. In 1978, her success led to the Briggs Initiative in California, which would have made pro-gay statements regarding homosexual people or homosexuality by any public school employee cause for dismissal. Grassroots liberal organisations, chiefly in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, organised to defeat the initiative. Days before the election, the California Democratic Party opposed the proposed legislation. President Jimmy Carter, governor Jerry Brown, former president Gerald Ford, and former governor Ronald Reagan – then planning a run for the presidency – all voiced opposition to the initiative, and it ultimately suffered a massive defeat at the polls.

In 1998, Dade County repudiated Bryant’s successful campaign of 20 years earlier and reauthorised an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by a seven-to-six vote. In 2002, a ballot initiative to repeal the 1998 law, called Amendment 14, was voted down by 56 percent of the voters. The Florida statute forbidding gay adoption was upheld in 2004 by a federal appellate court against a constitutional challenge but was overturned by a Miami-Dade circuit court in November 2008.

Bryant became one of the first persons to be publicly “pied” as a political act (in her case, on television), in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 14, 1977. Bryant quipped “At least it’s a fruit pie,” making a pun on the derogatory term of “fruit” for a gay man. While covered in pie, she began to pray to God to forgive the activist “for his deviant lifestyle” before bursting into tears as the cameras continued rolling. Bryant’s husband said that he would not retaliate, but followed the protesters outside and threw a pie at them. By this time, gay activists ensured that the boycott on Florida orange juice had become more prominent and it was supported by many celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Paul Williams, Dick Clark (Bryant had made several appearances on his shows, especially his namesake television show), Vincent Price (he joked in a television interview that Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance referred to her), John Waters, Carroll O’Connor, Linda Lavin, Mary Tyler Moore, Charles Schulz, Billie Jean King, and Jane Fonda. In 1978, Bryant and Bob Green told the story of their campaign in the book At Any Cost. The gay community continued to regard Bryant’s name as synonymous with bigotry and homophobia.

Extract from “Anita Bryant,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I deserve a cute boy’s kiss]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I deserve a Cute boy’s kiss] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

I deserve a Cute
boy’s kiss for this truthful hat. And he’s
so sensitive, look at that
tiny white dog!

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [BORN GAY AND FREE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [BORN GAY AND FREE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What a pretty mother! Brave
handsome courageous + true.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Marsha P. Johnson]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Marsha P. Johnson] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

If I keep dressing up like this
I’ll save the world from
Nuclear Apocalypse. But will anyone
love me for it? I’ll save the world
anyway. I know what looks good.

 

 

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992) was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen. Known as an outspoken advocate for gay rights, Johnson was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, Johnson co-founded the gay and transvestite advocacy organisation S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), alongside close friend Sylvia Rivera. A popular figure in New York City’s gay and art scene, Johnson modelled for Andy Warhol, and performed onstage with the drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches. Known for decades as a welcoming presence in the streets of Greenwich Village, Johnson was known as the “mayor of Christopher Street”. From 1987 through 1992, Johnson was an AIDS activist with ACT UP.

 

Performance work and identity

Johnson initially called herself “Black Marsha” but later decided on “Marsha P. Johnson” as her drag queen name, getting Johnson from the restaurant Howard Johnson’s on 42nd Street. She said that the P stood for “pay it no mind” and used the phrase sarcastically when questioned about her gender, saying “it stands for pay it no mind”. She said the phrase once to a judge, who was humoured by it and released her. Johnson variably identified herself as gay, as a transvestite, and as a queen (referring to drag queen). According to Susan Stryker, a professor of human gender and sexuality studies at the University of Arizona, Johnson’s gender expression may be called gender non-conforming in absence of Johnson’s use of transgender, which was not used broadly during her lifetime.

Johnson said her style of drag was not serious (or “high drag”) because she could not afford to purchase clothing from expensive stores. She received leftover flowers after sleeping under tables used for sorting flowers in the Flower District of Manhattan, and was known for placing flowers in her hair. Johnson was tall, slender and often dressed in flowing robes and shiny dresses, red plastic high heels, and bright wigs, which tended to draw attention.

Johnson sang and performed as a member of J. Camicias’ international, NYC-based, drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches, from 1972 through to shows in the 1990s. When The Cockettes, a similar drag troupe from San Francisco, formed an East Coast troupe, The Angels of Light, Johnson was also asked to perform with them. In 1973, Johnson performed the role of “The Gypsy Queen” in the Angels’ production, “The Enchanted Miracle”, about the Comet Kohoutek. In 1975, Johnson was photographed by famed artist Andy Warhol, as part of a “Ladies and Gentlemen” series of Polaroids. In 1990, Johnson performed with The Hot Peaches in London. Now an AIDS activist, Johnson also appears in The Hot Peaches production The Heat in 1990, singing the song “Love” while wearing an ACT UP, “Silence = Death” button.

 

Stonewall uprising and other activism

Johnson said she was one of the first drag queens to go to the Stonewall Inn, after they began allowing women and drag queens inside; it was previously a bar for only gay men. On the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall uprising occurred. While the first two nights of rioting were the most intense, the clashes with police would result in a series of spontaneous demonstrations and marches through the gay neighbourhoods of Greenwich Village for roughly a week afterwards.

Johnson has been named, along with Zazu Nova and Jackie Hormona, by a number of the Stonewall veterans interviewed by David Carter in his book, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, as being “three individuals known to have been in the vanguard” of the pushback against the police at the uprising. Johnson denied she had started the uprising, stating in 1987 that she had arrived at around “2:00 [that morning]”, and that “the riots had already started” when she arrived and that the Stonewall building “was on fire” after cops set it on fire. The riots reportedly started at around 1:20 that morning after Stormé DeLarverie fought back against the police officer who attempted to arrest her that night.

Carter writes that Robin Souza had reported that fellow Stonewall veterans and gay activists such as Morty Manford and Marty Robinson had told Souza that on the first night, Johnson “threw a shot glass at a mirror in the torched bar screaming, ‘I got my civil rights'”. Souza told the Gay Activists Alliance shortly afterwards that it “was the shot glass that was heard around the world”. Carter, however, concluded that Robinson had given several different accounts of the night and in none of the accounts were Johnson’s name brought up, possibly in fear that if he publicly credited the uprising to Johnson due to her well-known mental state and gender nonconforming, then Stonewall, and indirectly the gay liberation movement, “could have been used effectively by the movement’s opponents”. The alleged “shot glass” incident has also been heavily disputed. Prior to Carter’s book, it was claimed Johnson had “thrown a brick” at a police officer, an account that was never verified. Johnson also claimed herself that she was not at the Stonewall Inn when the rioting broke out but instead had heard about it and went to get Sylvia Rivera who was at a park uptown sleeping on a bench to tell her about it. However, many have corroborated that on the second night, Johnson climbed up a lamppost and dropped a bag with a brick in it down on a cop car, shattering the windshield.

Following the Stonewall uprising, Johnson joined the Gay Liberation Front and participated in the first Christopher Street Liberation Pride rally on the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion in June 1970. One of Johnson’s most notable direct actions occurred in August 1970 when she and fellow GLF members staged a sit-in protest at Weinstein Hall at New York University after administrators canceled a dance when they found out was sponsored by gay organisations. Shortly after that, she and close friend Sylvia Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organisation (initially titled Street Transvestites Actual Revolutionaries). The two of them became a visible presence at gay liberation marches and other radical political actions. In 1973, Johnson and Rivera were banned from participating in the gay pride parade by the gay and lesbian committee who were administering the event stating they “weren’t gonna allow drag queens” at their marches claiming they were “giving them a bad name”. Their response was to march defiantly ahead of the parade. During a gay rights rally at New York City Hall in the early ’70s, photographed by Diana Davies, a reporter asked Johnson why the group was demonstrating, Johnson shouted into the microphone, “Darling, I want my gay rights now!”

During another incident around this time, which landed Johnson in court, she was confronted by police officers for hustling in New York, and when they went to apprehend her, she hit them with her handbag, which contained two bricks. When Johnson was asked by the judge why she was hustling, Johnson explained she was trying to secure enough money for her husband’s tombstone. During a time when same-sex marriage was illegal in the United States, the judge asked her what “happened to this alleged husband”, Johnson responded, “Pigs killed him”. Initially sentenced to 90 days in prison for the assault, Johnson’s lawyer eventually convinced the judge to send her to Bellevue instead.

With Rivera, Johnson established the STAR House, a shelter for gay and trans street kids in 1972, and paid the rent for it with money they made themselves as sex workers. While the House was not focused on performance, Marsha was a “drag mother” of STAR House, in the longstanding tradition of chosen family in the Black and Latino LGBT community. Johnson worked to provide food, clothing, emotional support and a sense of family for the young drag queens, trans women, gender nonconformists and other gay street kids living on the Christopher Street docks or in their house on the Lower East Side of New York.

In the 1980s Johnson continued her street activism as a respected organiser and marshal with ACT UP. In 1992, when George Segal’s Stonewall memorial was moved to Christopher Street from Ohio to recognise the gay liberation movement, Johnson commented, “How many people have died for these two little statues to be put in the park to recognise gay people? How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take for people to see that we’re all in this rat race together.

Extract from “Marsha P. Johnson,” on the Wikipedia website

 

 

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104 East 25th Street
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Phone: (212) 254-4710

Exhibition opening times:
Saturday, June 15 – 12 pm to 5 pm
Monday, June 17 – 10 am to 6 pm
Tuesday, June 18 – 10 am to 6 pm
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27
Sep
12

Text: ‘The defining of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’ at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 30th September 2012

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“Perfection means you don’t question anything about the photograph. There are certain pictures I’ve taken in which you really can’t move that leaf or that hand. It’s where it should be, and you can’t say it could have been there. There is nothing to question as in a great painting. I often have trouble with contemporary art because I find it’s not perfect. It doesn’t have to be anatomically correct to be perfect either. A Picasso portrait is perfect. It’s just not questionable. In the best of my pictures, there’s nothing to question – it’s just there.”

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Robert Mapplethorpe

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Written in 1996 (but never published until now), this is one of my earliest pieces of research and writing. While it is somewhat idealistic in many ways, hopefully this piece still has some relevance for the reader for there are important ideas contained within the text.

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The defining of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body

Photography has portrayed the Apollonian and Dionysian ideals of the body throughout its history, but has never fully explored the theoretical implications and consequences of this pairing. Our presentation of the body says precise things about the society in which we live, the degree of our integration within that society and the controls which society exerts over the innerman.1 My research concentrated on how images of the male body, as a representation of the Self/Other split, have been affected by these ideals.

We can clearly define the Apollonian (beauty, perfection, obsession, narcissism, voyeurism, idols, fascism, frigid, constraint, oppression, the defined, the personalised, an aggression of the eye linked to greed and desire) and Dionysian (ecstasy, eroticism, hysteria, energy, anarchy, promiscuity, death, emotion, bodily substances and the universal). In reality the boundaries between these ideals are more ambiguous.

For example, in the work of the American photographer Fred Holland Day we see allegorical myths portrayed by beautiful youths, many of which to modern eyes have a powerful homoerotic quality.

“In close proximity to eroticism associated with homosocial bonding and sexuality, these pictures were infused with desire and anxiety, repulsion and attraction … Day’s male nudes possess the aesthetic trappings of refined art and high culture … but also contain a frisson of impending sexual release and bodily pleasure, to say nothing of their sado-erotic inflection and paedophilic associations.”2

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According to some critics,3 societies acceptance of photographs of Apollonian or Orphic (Dionysian) youths [2 different critical views]4 in that era (the fin de siecle of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century), was based on what was seen as their chaste, idyllic nature. They represented ‘ephebes’ – males who were between boy and man – who posed no threat to the patriarchal status quo. To other critics5 these ‘ephebes’ present a challenge to the construction of heterosexual/ homosexual identity along gender lines, echoing Foucault’s thoughts on the imprisoning nature of categories of sexual identity.6

For Day, physical beauty was the testimony of a transcendent spirit.7 His portraits tried to uncover the true spirit of his subjects, revealing what was hidden behind the mask of e(x)ternal beauty. But what was being revealed? Was it the subject’s own spiritual integrity, his true self, or a false self as directed by the photographer whose instructions he was enacting? Was it F. Holland Day’s erotic fantasies the subject was acting out, or was it a perception of his own identity or a combination of both? These works show Day as both director and collaborator, his idols equally unattainable and available, resilient and vulnerable. In portraying this beauty, was Day embracing a seductive utopia in which this Apollonian beauty leads away from the very Dionysian spirit he was trying to engage with?

At around the same time a Prussian named Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden was also taking photographs of scantily clad local peasant youths, based on Arcadian themes. “In von Gloeden’s perception of the world human figures are not in themselves merely erotic, but become aesthetic objects … a setting in which beautiful things are the content of the image.”8

While this may be true, the focus of the images is always on what Von Gloeden desired, his full frontal nudes drawing our eyes to the locus of sexual desire, the penis. Von Gloeden’s “transformation of ordinary working class boys into the very image of antique legend,”9 the conjunction of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, blurs the distinctions between the two. Both Day and Von Gloeden were wealthy, educated, influential men who had a desire for working class boys. Did they help create an erotic tension across class lines and effect a particular Camp taste when society at that time (the first decade of the 20th century) was beginning to define areas of sexual categorisation that would label gay men perverts and degenerates? Even today, comparing contemporary critical analysis of Von Gloeden’s photographs can produce vastly differing conceptualisations as to the evidence of sexual overtones:

“The distinction between form and sexual attractiveness is tenuously maintained and the expression of the subjects’ face suggests a lofty remoteness rather than sexual availability or provocativeness.”10

“Von Gloeden’s pictures are fairly specific in depicting erotically based encounters between Mediterranean males. In many of them, the gazes shared between young men or the suggestive relationships of figure to figure hint at activities that might take place beyond the cameras range.”11

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For Day and Von Gloeden the need to possess something beautiful, something that was taboo, compensated both photographers for something they had lost – their youth. This transfers their death onto the object of their possession; the beautiful youths ‘captured’ in their photographs. Georges Bataille links eroticism to the inner life of man, the true self, and the eroticism of these photographs opens the way to a viewing of death and allows the photographer the power to look death in the face. According to Bataille, possession of something beautiful negates our need to die because we have objectified our need in someone else.12

What we know and understand about the world is partially built on images that are recorded, interpreted and imprinted in our brains as the result of the experiences we encounter throughout our lives. Our memory is forever fragmenting our remembered reality. It provides us with a point of view of the reality of the world in which we live and on which our identities are formed. When we look at a photograph we (sub)consciously bring all of our social encultration, our hates, our desires and our spirit to bear on the definition of that photograph at the time of viewing (an each viewing can be different!). Inherently embedded in any photograph then, are all these Dionysian stirrings – of desire, of eroticism, of death and of memory. Even if the photograph is entirely Apollonian in content the definition of that photograph can be open to any possibility, by any body.

One photographer who sought to access, and have connection to, fundamental truths was the American photographer Minor White. Studying Zen Buddhism, Gurdjieff and astrology, White believed in the photographs’ connection to the subject he was photographing and the subject’s connection back via the camera to the photographer forming a holistic circle.13 When, in meditation, this connection was open he would then expose the negative in the camera hopeful of a “revelation” of spirit in the subsequent photograph. White feared public exposure as a homosexual and struggled for years to resist the shame and disgust he felt over his sexual desires. Very few of his male portraits were exhibited during his lifetime, his Dionysian urgings difficult to reconcile with or assimilate into his images of peace and serenity, images that urged unity of self and spirit, of yin and yang. In the East yin/yang is both/and, being transformable and interpenetrating whilst in the West black/white is either/or not both, being exclusive and non-interactive. But who is to say what is ugly or what is beautiful? What is black or what is white?

In the work of the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, we can see the formalised classical aesthetic of beauty combined with content which many people are repelled by (pornography, sexuality, violence, power) creating work which is both Apollonian and Dionysian.14 Peoples’ disgust at the content of some of Mapplethorpe’s images is an Apollonian response, an aesthetic judgement, a backing away from a connection to ‘nature’, meaning ‘that which is born’. Mapplethorpe said, “I’ve done everything I show in my photographs,”15 revealing a connection to an inner self, regardless of whether he intended to shock. Those seeking suppression of Mapplethorpe’s photographs, mainly conservative elements of society, cite the denigration of moral values as the main reason for their attacks. However Mapplethorpe’s S&M photographs sought to re-present the identity of a small subculture of the gay community that exists within the general community and by naming this subculture he sought to document and validate its existence. The photograph can and does lie but here was the ‘truth’ of these Dionysian experiences, which conservative bigots could not deny – that they exist.

In the NEA/Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center controversy surrounding Mapplethorpe16 his work was defended on aesthetic grounds, not on the grounds of homoerotic content, of freedom of expression or artistic freedom. The classical Apollonian form of his images was emphasised. As one juror put it, “Going in, I would never have said the pictures have artistic value. Learning as we did about art, I and everyone else thought they did have some value. We are learning about something ugly and harsh in society.”17 Ugly and harsh. To some people in the world S&M scenes are perfectly natural and beautiful and can lead to the most transcendent experience that a human being can ever have in their life. Who is to decide for the individual his or her freedom to choose?

This Apollonian fear of the Dionysian ‘Other’, the emotional chaotic self, was found to involve fear of that which is potentially the ‘same as’ – two sides of the same coin. This fear of ‘the same’, or of the proximity of the same, or of the threat of the same, can lead to violence, homophobia, racism and bigotry. Mapping out sexual identities’ toleration of difference, which is ‘the same as’, recognises that there are many different ways of being, and many truths in the world.

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In conclusion I have determined that the definition of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body are at best ambiguous and open to redefinition and reinterpretation. The multiplicity of readings that can be attached to images of the male body, in different eras, by different people illustrates the very problematic theoretical area these images inhabit. As we seek to ‘name’, to categorise, to nullify the ‘Other’ as a Dionysian connection to earth and nature, it may cause an alienated ‘Self’ to revolt against Apollonian powers of control in order to break down the lived distance that divides people. This creates situations/ encounters/ experiences that are regarded as transgressive and a threat to the hegemonic fabric of society.

But do these experiences offer an alternative path for the evolution of the human race? Not the replacing of one patriarchal, capitalist system with another based on ecstatic spiritual consciousness but perhaps a more level playing field, one based on a horizontal consciousness (a balance between Apollonian and Dionysian), a ‘knowing’ and understanding, a respect for our self and others. My claim as an’Other’ is that these perceived transgressions, not just the binary either/or, may ultimately free human beings and allow them to experience life and grow. Where nothing is named, everything is possible.

Marcus Bunyan 1996

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Many thankx to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait
1975
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Derrick Cross
1983
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Thomas
1987
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Two Tulips
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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“A renowned figure of contemporary photography, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was in his element in a domain defined by conventions and revolt, classicism and non-conformist cultures, where each picture serves as a document of hard-fought identities, as well as inciting and recording social and artistic debates. The Ludwig Museum Budapest features nearly two hundred works by Robert Mapplethorpe, from his early Polaroid photos to pieces from his final years. Realised in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation New York, this large-scale exhibition is presented to a Hungarian audience for the first time.

Initially, Mapplethorpe had no intention of becoming a photographer. His early collages and altar-like installations incorporated found elements including photos from magazines. Seeking to give these works a more personal and perfect touch, he decided to shoot the photos himself. His major subjects were his immediate environment and personal desires: the alternative circles of the New York art scene, his identity as a homosexual, non-traditional forms of sexuality, and the communities organised around them. The New York of the seventies was a great melting pot of contiguous subcultures, sexual freedom, post-Pop and rock’n’roll. Mapplethorpe’s environment included Andy Warhol and his entourage from the Factory, the superstars of his films as well as the inhabitants of the legendary Chelsea Hotel, who inspired his art and became part of his audience.

His portraits of famous individuals and those longing for fame also positioned their photographer within their circle. He was a renowned artist seeking to establish relationships with people who stand out, one way or another, from the rest of society, without submitting himself to them. Posing for his camera were film stars, musicians, writers and visual artists, the celebrities and central figures of New York in the seventies and eighties, including pornographic film stars and body builders. He made engaging and elegant portraits attesting to his intense attention, humour, and ambition toward a sense of the monumental.

Mapplethorpe developed an increasingly committed and professional attitude to photography. His quest for the perfect image led him to classical compositions and subjects. While precision of forms and a quality of reserve were combined in his works, his intense attention to his models remained unchanged; he photographed torsos and floral still-lifes with the same cool professionalism. His nudes evoke classical Greek statues and Renaissance masterpieces, with their arrangement and sculptural approach to the body dating back to traditions that have existed for several hundred years. Such an incarnation of classical formalism, however, was juxtaposed with shocking new subjects and stark sexual fetishes, resulting in radical re-creations of the approach to tradition.

The perfect image called for the perfect body: his shots of black men, female body-builders and austere flowers seem to articulate his one and only vision, again and again. He almost always worked in the studio, most often in black and white, using increasingly defined tones. With unified backgrounds and balance of forms, his photos remove the subjects from their own realities to relocate them in the timeless, frozen space of the photograph. In terms of their statue-like beauty and rigorous composition of every detail, his pictures continue and renew the classical photographic tradition all at once. Such classical virtues, however, did not make these photos exempt from criticism: both his subject matter and their manner of presentation sparked controversy. Their sexual themes aroused unease, and criticism of the work failed to make a distinction between the statue-like beauty of body parts and torsos, the sexual stereotypes associated with black male bodies, and the objectification of the bodies.

Mapplethorpe’s works created a place for homosexual and S&M identities in the domain of high art, subverting conventions, transgressing unspoken social agreements and revealing prejudices, in line with the artist’s personal desires and self-definition. In the United States, during the eighties, in the first moments of horror in the face of AIDS, the condemnation of homosexuality and the undefined dread of the disease became entwined. Such developments stirred up the already intense controversies around Mapplethorpe’s photos, adding a new overtone to the voice of conservative protesters. (Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, and he died in the spring of 1989 due to complications related to the disease).

The cultural-political debates of the so-called Culture Wars in the late 1980s and 1990s in the United States, fuelled the decision of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to cancel its leg of the travelling exhibition “The Perfect Moment,” which included several thought-provoking photos that the conservative right-wing had denounced as obscene and arrogant assaults on public taste. A long and heated debate was to follow, including both hysterical and absurd commentaries, triggering police actions and a trial against a subsequent venue, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati as well as its director. Though the museum and its director were eventually cleared of all charges, the case continued to shape the cultural-political landscape in the US, which partly concluded in a revision of the public funding of artworks and is still referred to today as an outstanding example of the methodology of censorship.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Untitled
c. 1973
1987
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Lisa Lyon
1982
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ajitto
1981
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait
1988
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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1. Blain, Robert. The Decorated Body. London: Thames & Hudson, 1979, p.5, Introduction

2. Crump, James. F. Holland Day- Suffering the Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms, 1995, p.11

3. Foster, Alasdair. Behold The Man – The Male Nude In Photography. Edinburgh: Stills, 1989, p.9

4. Jussim, Estelle. Slave To Beauty- The Eccentric Life And Controversial Career of F. Holland Day, Photographer, Publisher, Aesthete. Boston: Godine, 1981, pp.175-176; Ellenzweig, Allan. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University, 1992, p. 59

5. Ellenzweig, p.59

6. Weeks, Jeffrey. Against Nature:  Essays on history, sexuality and identity. London: Rivers Osram Press, 1991, p.164

7. Day, F. Holland. “Is Photography An Art?” p.8, quoted in Crump, James. F. Holland Day – Suffering The Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms, 1995, p.20

8. Ellenzweig, p.39

9. Leslie, Charles. Wilhelm von Gloeden, Photographer. New York: Soho Photographic, 1997, p.86

10. Dutton, Kenneth R. The Perfectible Body. London: Cassell, 1995, p. 95

11. Ellenzweig, p.43

12. Bataille, Georges. Death And Sensuality. New York: Walker And Company, 1962, p. 24

13. Bateson, Gregory. Steps To An Ecology Of Mind – Collected Essays On Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution And Epistemology. St. Albans: Paladin, 1973

14. Danto, Arthur C. Mapplethorpe – Playing With The Edge. Essay. London: Jonathon Cape, 1992, p.331

15. Interview with Robert Mapplethorpe quoted in Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective. London: Routledge, 1986, p. 286

16. Ellenzweig, p. 205, Footnote 1

17. Cembalest, Robin. “The Obscenity Trial: How They Voted To Acquit,” in Art News December 1990 89 (10): 141 quoted in Ellenzweig, p.208

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest  Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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