Thanh Vuong

The Photography of Thanh Vuong

Based in Melbourne, Thanh Vuong is a Vietnamese-Australian photographer who specializes in photographing the male body in natural landscapes with natural light. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he emigrated at a very young age with his family to Australia. In 2017, Vuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in Photography from Melbourne’s Photography Studies College where he studied under the tutelage of photographers Daniel Boetker-Smith, the director of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, and Hoda Afshar, an Iranian photographer known for her black and white documentary work.

Vuong’s projects explore the themes of gender politics and the representation of queer identities, masculinity and the male form. Among the photographers he considers major influences on his work are such artists as German photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden, known for his pastoral nude studies accomplished with photographic filters of Sicilian boys; photojournalist William Eugene Smith, an important figure in the development of editorial photo essays; portraitist George Platt Lynes, best known for his Hollywood portraits and male nudes; and George Dureau, whose career was most  notable for his charcoal sketches and black and white photographs of vulnerable and marginalized individuals.

In 2017, Thanh Vuong shot his series “In My Garden, the Trees Are Changing”, which centered on theme of male beauty and desire. The images presented an imaginary utopia of lush gardens and ethereal light in which gay men are free from prejudice, judgement and injustice. This series was awarded the Leica and Ilford Excellence in Photomedia Award at Melbourne’s 2017 Summer Salon held at the Centre for Contemporary Photography. It also won multiple awards in the same year at both state and national level from the Australian Institute of Professional Photography. The success of Vuong’s series led to another solo exhibition at the end of 2021 held at the Paddington Reservoir Gardens in Paddington, Australia.

Vuong’s 2017 series “(Not) Blue” was shortlisted for the Australian Photographer of the Year held by Capture Magazine. Vuong was a finalist in the British Journal of Photography’s first OpenWalls competition held in Arles, France, in 2019. His photo “A River That Flows From Eden”, depicting a nude couple lying at water’s edge, placed third in the 2021 Monovisions Photography Awards.

Thanh Vuong is currently represented by Boys!Boys!Boys, an initiative of the Little Black Gallery in London. Images of his work can be seen at the Boys!Boys!Boys site located at: https://boysboysboys.org/search?q=vuong

“I see photography as an extension and expression of my sexual identity and a way to start an honest and open conversation. As I developed my technique, the way I approach the body in my work has also evolved. Now it is no longer just an autonomous specimen understood as an exhibition of manhood, but a means through which I can delicately express some of the problems that affect the current queer community.” – Thanh Vuong, Interview with Gustavo Forcada, Editor of the online magazine Belfusto, March 2021

Andreas Martin Andersen

Andreas Martin Andersen, “Hendrik Andersen and John Briggs Potter in Florence”, 1894, Oil on Canvas, Dimensions Unknown, Hendrik Andersen Museum, Rome

Born in August of 1869 in Bergen, the historic site of Norway’s first coronation, painter Andreas Martin Andersen was the first son of parents Anders Andersen and Helene Monsine Monsen. His younger brother, the sculptor Hendrik Christian Andersen, was born in April of 1872, also in Bergen. In 1873, the family emigrated to the United States and settled in Newport, Rhode Island. 

Beginning in 1889, Andreas Andersen studied at Cowles Art School in Boston. Three years later after receiving a scholarship, he studied painting at the Académie Julian in Paris under painter and sculptor Jean-Paul Laurens, a major exponent of the French Academic style, and  Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, painter and etcher known for his Oriental subjects and portraits. During his stay in Paris, Andersen shared the studio with his American friend Howard G. Cushing, the son of an illustrious and wealthy family with residences in Newport and Boston. 

Andersen also became good friends with the painter John Briggs Potter, another student at the Académie Julian. In 1894, Hendrik Andersen joined his brother in Paris. The three Americans traveled together through Europe and explored the many Italian cities, including Florence. “Hendrik Andersen and John Briggs Potter in Florence”, was painted in 1894 by Andreas Andersen during the last year of their grand European tour as a final proof to be sent back to Boston. He portrayed his brother and friend Potter as they woke up in the bohemian interior of the Florentine house in Via San Zanobi near Piazza Indipendenza where the three companions had taken up residence.

Early in his academic stay in Paris, Andreas Andersen began dating Olivia Cushing who was Howard’s sister and, at that time, residing in Paris. By 1892, they had developed a strong loving bond. Upon his return to the United States at the end of 1894, Andersen settled in the Boston area and began painting. A talented painter, his exceptional early success was partly influenced by Olivia Cushing’s friendships with many wealthy citizens of the area. One of Andersen’s most important patrons was Isabella Stewart Gardner. Born to a wealthy family and a collector of rare books. Gardner supported many artists, including John Singer Sargent and dancer Ruth St, Denis. Over his career, Andersen painted over thirty portraits and a dozen landscapes, as well as a series of drawings with academic studies of nudes.

Andreas Andersen married Olivia Cushing in January of 1902. Stricken with tuberculosis, he was ill at the time of their marriage and died a year later in February of 1902. Many of Andersen’s works are housed in private collections and in the Hendrik Andersen Museum in Rome. 

 In 1903, Olivia Cushing Andersen left Boston to join her brother-in-law Hendrik Andersen in Rome. A cultural woman of great sensitivity and author of allegorical dramas with historical and biblical themes, she was Hendrik’s muse and also in part the financier of his grandiose sculptural and urban projects. Until her death in Rome in December of 1917, she was the passionate expounder of Andreas and Hendrik’s work in her unpublished diaries. These diaries are now preserved in the historical archive of the Hendrik Andersen Museum in Rome. 

Top Insert Image: Andreas Martin Andersen, “Dionysus Torso at Fenway Court”, 1902, Oil on Canvas, 57 x 36 cm, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Bottom Insert Image: Andreas Martin Andersen, “Portrait of Olivia Cushing Andersen”, Circa 1895, Oil on Canvas, Dimensions Unknown

Hendrik Christian Andersen

The Sculptural Works of Hendrik Christian Andersen

Born in Bergen in April of 1872, Hendrik Christian Andersen was a Norwegian-American sculptor, painter and urban planner. The younger brother of painter Andreas Martin Andersen, he moved in 1873 as an infant with his family to Newport, Rhode Island. As a young man, Andersen worked as a sculptor and served as an art instructor to prominent social figure Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who was a sculptor and both patron and collector of the arts.

In 1893, Hendrik Andersen traveled to Europe to study art. In Paris, he met his older brother Andreas and student painter John Briggs Potter. The three of them traveled for a year through Europe and resided in Florence for some time at the end of their tour. In 1894 at their Florence residence, Andreas Andersen painted a portrait scene of both Hendrik and John Potter rising from sleep, entitled “Hendrik Andersen and John Briggs Potter in Florence”

Now settled in Rome in 1899, Hendrik Andersen met the American expatriate writer, Henry James, who is regarded as a prominent transitional figure between literary realism and literary modernism. Although James was thirty years older, the two men developed a close relationship and maintained correspondence for fifteen years. James, enamored with the sculptor, become one of his first patrons by buying Andersen’s painted terracotta bust of the twelve-year old Count Alberto Bevilacqua who regularly visited every Saturday at Andersen’s studio.

Henry James’s letters to Andersen, seventy-seven of which are in the University of Virginia’s library, show a high level of affection and sensual love for Anderson. James’s letter of condolence for the death of Andreas Andersen in 1902 expresses his grief as well as his love: “to put my arm round you and make you lean on me as a brother and a lover, and keep you on and on. . .”. However, as Andersen’s replies are not available, their actual relationship can not be definitely determined.

After Andreas Andersen’s death, his widow Olivia Cushing traveled to Rome to stay at Hendrik Andersen’s residence for discussions on the commemoration of Andreas’s life and work. Hendrik’s conception for a sculpted funeral monument grew into an idea for a Palace of Arts, and then further progressed into a plan for a World City full of sculptures, museums, and galleries. In 1813, Andersen published his “A World Centre of Communication”, a tome about social and spiritual renewal through the arts, with an emphasis on sculpture.

This tome alienated James who felt that Andersen was pursuing a megalomaniacal version of society at a time when Italy was under the rise of Fascism. By 1915, they both had ceased correspondence. Before his death, Henry James burned many of his papers, including pieces of correspondence. After James’s death, Andersen approached the James estate in 1930 for permission to publish the letters he had received: however, permission was refused. These letters were not available publicly until 2000.

Olivia Cushing Andersen came from a wealthy family with residences in both Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts. In her own right, she was cultured and had amassed an extensive collection of art and rare books. Upon her death in Rome in December of 1917, she left a large sum of money to Hendrik Andersen. He used this inheritance to build a villa as part of his World City idea. Between 1922 and 1925, Villa Helene was built to Andersen’s design with an immense carving studio in the nearby Piazza del Popolo. 

Henrik Andersen worked in this studio until his death in December of 1940. Over his lifetime, he executed more than four hundred pieces of both plaster models and stone or bronze sculpture, many of which were monumental figurative works of larger than life size. Upon his death, Andersen bequeathed all of his work to the Italian State, only stipulating that Villa Helene be made available to his model and adopted sister, Lucie, until her death.

Upon Lucia’s death in 1979, the villa became state property and is now the Hendrik Christian Andersen Museum, located on Via Pasquale Stanislao Mancini in Rome. The museum houses all the papers and collected works of Hendrik Christian Andersen, which include sketches, models in plaster and bronze, as well as paintings by his brother Andreas and other contemporary artists of that time.

Notes: A collection of letters from Henry James to Hendrik Andersen can be found in Rosella Mamoli Zorzi’s “Henry James: Beloved Boy: Letters to Hendrik C. Andersen”. The book is available through many vendors.

A collection of six letters from Henry James to Hendrik Andersen, along with a short description of Henry James’s life, can be found at Rictor Norton’s Gay History and Literature site. There is however an error in the description of the Andreas Andersen’s painting; the seated figure is not Andreas Andersen but John Briggs Potter. The letters can be found at: https://rictornorton.co.uk/jameshen.htm

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Hendrik Christian Andersen”

Second Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “James Henry and Hendrik Andersen”, 1907

Third and Fourth Insert Images: Sculptures by Hendrik Christian Andersen, Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen

Saeed Jones: “Their Footprints Burn Holes in the Sand”

Photographers Unknown, Their Footprints Burn Holes in the Sand

Boys begin to gather around the man like seagulls.
He ignores them entirely, but they follow him
from one end of the beach to the other.
Their footprints burn holes in the sand.
It’s quite a sight, a strange parade:
a man with a pair of wings strapped to his arms
followed by a flock of rowdy boys.
Some squawk and flap their bony limbs.
Others try to leap now and then, stumbling
as the sand tugs at their feet. One boy pretends to fly
in a circle around the man, cawing in his face.

We don’t know his name or why he walks
along our beach, talking to the wind.
To say nothing of those wings. A woman yells
to her son, Ask him if he’ll make me a pair.
Maybe I’ll finally leave your father.
He answers our cackles with a sudden stop,
turns, and runs toward the water.
The children jump into the waves after him.
Over the sound of their thrashes and giggles,
we hear a boy say, We don’t want wings.
We want to be fish now.

Saeed Jones, “Daedalus, After Icarus”, Prelude to Bruise, 2014

Saeed Jones, an American poet and author, was born in November of 1985 in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised in a suburb of northern Texas. He studied at Western Kentucky University where he won national speech and debate competitions. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts, Jones earned his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Rutgers University in Newark. He currently lives and works on his writing in Columbus, Ohio. 

Saeed Jones’s poetry examines the issues of race, power, desire and grief; he incorporates both mythology and the iconography of black culture into his poems and prose. In his work, Jones also discusses the process of personal journey and transformation, which includes those events in life where the issues of sex, race and power collide. 

Jones’s first published work, “Prelude to Bruise”, was a large collection of melodic poems with words in counterpoint. The core theme present throughout the collection is of a queer Afro-American child who navigates through family, gender and desire in the South. The work was named a finalist for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and the 2015 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. It won the 2015 Stonewall Book Award and PEN/ Joyce Osterwell Award for Poetry. 

Saeed Jones’s second work, a memoir entitled “How We Fight for Our Lives”, follows his life as a young, gay, black man living in Lewisville, Texas in the 1990s as he seeks a place for himself within family and country, and within his desires, hopes and fears. The memoir highlights his awareness of the discrimination, homophobia and racism he endured, as well as the struggles he faced to define his own identity. “How We Fight for Our Lives” won the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Non-Fiction, the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Memoir/Biography, the 2020 Stonewall Book Award-Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award, and the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction presented by Publishing Triangle. 

Saeed Jones previously worked as the LGBTQ editor and Culture editor for BuzzFeed, an internet company focused on all segments of digital media. He has received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Cave Canem and Queer Art Mentorship. 

Notes: Saeed Jones’s next poetry collection, entitled “Alive at the End of the World”, will be released in September of 2022. Though his poems, Jones confronts the everyday perils of white supremacy and identifies even routine moments that open channels of hurt. Using first-person narration, he seeks to understand his own feelings through the lives and experiences of such cultural icons as Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, and Diahann Carroll. Pre-order is available through Coffee House Press located at: https://coffeehousepress.org/products/alive-at-the-end-of-the-world/

Larry Stanton

The Portrait Work of Larry Stanton

Born in June of 1947 in Rockville Center on the south shore of Long Island, Larry Stanton was a portrait painter who was lived and worked  in Manhattan, New York. His father, a graduate of Columbia University and the Juilliard School of Music, moved his family in 1948 to a dairy farm in New York’s Catskill Mountains to provide a country environment for the family and a source of income for his work as a freelance music arranger. Due to the foundering of both the farm and his musical aspirations, Stanton’s father often experienced periods of frustration and temper which affected the family. However, despite the familial tensions, both he and Stanton’s mother encouraged and supported Stanton’s early artwork. 

After graduating high school, Larry Stanton studied on an art scholarship at New York City’s Cooper Union for one semester. He worked in the following months at various odd jobs including mailrooms and an ice cream parlor. During this period, Stanton embraced his gay identity and gained some notoriety in New York City’s gay community. He became acquainted with banker Arthur Lambert in the summer of 1967 and the two were immediately drawn to each other. Upon returning from a trip with Lambert to London, Stanton followed him in the fall of that year to Los Angeles, where Stanton took a new financial position. 

In February of 1968, Stanton enrolled in Los Angeles’s Art Center College of Design where he received his first formal training in drawing and painting. After applying himself intensely to his studies, he became convinced it was possible to make a career in art. During his time at the college, Stanton met many people who would become lifelong friends, including Alice Sulit, an art student from the Philippines, and English painter David Hockney. In the fall of 1968, Stanton traveled with Lambert to Hockney’s residence in London where he met another major influence on his life, Henry Geldzahler, the Curator of Contemporary Art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

Upon the return to New York, Larry Stanton moved into a Manhattan rent-controlled apartment owned by his father, who was relocating to retire in Florida; Lambert returned to his financial work in California. With a scholarship from the New School, Stanton began  to study printmaking and drawing; his studies were further supported by a grant for printmaking from the Tiffany Foundation. In January of 1970, Stanton had his first exhibition of drawings at New York City’s Gotham Gallery. This show was followed by a period of travel, accompanied sometimes by Henry Geldzabler, to Italy, Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa. Upon his return, Stanton found a basement studio space in the Italian section of Greenwich Village where he could continue his painting. 

In early 1972, Arthur Lambert moved back to New York and noticed a change in Stanton. Stanton had begun drinking alcohol more frequently and had become less committed to painting. He began to pursue filmmaking and produced a few films on David Hockney. Stanton also began bringing back to his place young men he met on his travels around the city. By late 1977, he was not socializing as much and complained of lingering feelings of anxiety. Stanton’s mother, with whom he had a close bond, succumbed from cancer in 1979 after a three year struggle. The loss of this bond, intensified by the depressive effects of his developed alcoholism, resulted in Stanton having a psychological collapse for which he needed hospitalization.

From this trauma, Larry Stanton emerged a sober, non-smoking artist with an intense commitment to his art. Stanton moved his studio to a larger location nearer his apartment which enabled him to work on larger canvases. By 1983, his studio was attracting young writers and artists who admired his work and sought his company. In his apartment and studio, Stanton created a series of portraits in charcoal, oil crayon, pencil, and pen, as well as paint, drawing friends, familial relations, and people he met while wandering the streets of New York. Many of the people who posed for him would later die from the AIDS epidemic.

Holly Solomon, a prominent art dealer, commissioned two portraits, one of herself and one of her son. She later placed two of Stanton’s oversized portraits in a group show at her Soho gallery. Following this show, Stanton’s work was given an exhibition at the Aaron Berman Gallery in Brooklyn. In 1984, his work was included in a major group exhibition at the Queens, New York, city-owned exhibition space, PS1, which focused on emerging new artists. Stanton’s work was also presented in a group exhibition at the East Village’s Magic Gallery. With these shows, his work was gaining increased attention as he developed a consistent quality and a mature personal style. 

Beginning in February of 1984, Larry Stanton began to have health problems, initially shingles and later periodic unpleasant skin rashes. After numerous tests, the doctors assured there were no signs of immunity problems; there were no specific AIDS testing at this time. In August, Stanton developed a persistent and sore throat and was diagnosed with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a fatal fungal infection of the lungs and major cause of death for people with HIV/AIDS. Larry Stanton died, at the age of thirty-seven, of AIDS-related illness on October 18th of 1984. 

After Larry Stanton’s  death, a collection of his work was shown at New York City’s Charles Cowles Gallery in 1987. From May through July of 2021, the Daniel Cooney Fine Art Gallery in the Chelsea area of New York City held “It Doesn’t Thunder Every Day”, an exhibition of twenty works on paper by Stanton that captured the faces of a generation of people lost in the early stages of the AIDS epidemic. Larry Stanton’s work is housed in the permanent collection of New York City’s  Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

Notes: A full collection of Larry Stanton’s paintings and drawings, as well as personal tributes and remembrances by friends such as Arthur Lambert,  Henry Geldzahler and David Hockney, can be found at: http://www.larrystanton.net

A recent collection of poems by gay poet Winthrop Smith entitled “Take Down Portraits: Drawings and Portraits by Larry Stanton” was published by Chiron Review Press. Bringing the portraits back to life, Smith’s poems imagine the encounters between Stanton and his sitters, which reconstruct the experience of New York at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Larry Stanton”, circa 1968

Second Insert Image: Larry Stanton, “Man in Jockstrap”, circa Early 1970s, Pencil on Paper, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Arry Stanton in His Village Basement Studio”, circa 1981

Fourth Insert Image: Larry Stanton, “Joey”, 1975, Pencil on Paper, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “larry Stanton, Fire Island Pines”, circa 1980

Alexandre Denis Abel de Pujol

Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujal, “Ixion Chained in Tartarus”, 1824, Oil on Canvas, 127 x 157 cm, Louvre Museum, Paris

Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujol, “Sisyphus Eternally Rolling the Rock”, 1819, Oil on Canvas, 130 x 212 cm, Musée Henri Martin, Cahors, France

Born in January of 1785 in Valenciennes, a northern French city bordering Belgium, Alexandre Denis Abel de Pujol was a French painter. He was the illegitimate son and only child of nobleman Alexander-Denis-Joseph Mortry de Pujol, Baron de la Grave, who served as advisor to King Louis XVI Auguste and was the founder of the Académie de Peinture et Sculpture in Valenciennes. From the age of twelve, Abel de Pujol studied at the Academy and completed his training as a student of Neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David, regarded in his time as the preeminent painter in France. 

Receiving little support from his father for his studies, Abel de Pujol earned a pension from the city of Valenciennes which allowed him to continue his studies at David’s studio. He also took classes in perspective, anatomy, and architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1806 at  the age of twenty-one, de Pujol won a first-class medal at the Académie and a second-class medal at the Salon of 1810 for his painting “Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph”; this painting placed second at the Prix de Rome competition in 1810. 

In 1811, Abel du Pujol won the Prix de Rome with his painting “Lycurgus Presenting the Heir to the Throne to the Lacedaemonians”. Having achieved this award, he was formally recognized by his father and was able to add the name Pujol to his own. Abel de Pujol suffered a period of poor health and depression during his stay in Italy, which allowed him only eight months of study in 1812. Restored to health, he returned to his career in Paris and successfully exhibited mainly history paintings at the Salons.

In 1814, Abel de Pujol won gold medals from both Louis XVIII and Napoleon Bonaparte for his monumental painting “The Death of Britannicus”. A compositional study for the 3.54 x 5.50 meters painting is currently housed in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. His grisaille (gray-monochrome) painting “The Preaching and Martyrdom of Saint Stephen”, intended for the church of Saint Etienne du Mont, was entered at the 1817 Paris Salon where it won the prize for history painting. These awards established his reputation as a history painter and muralist.

Abel de Pujol received several important official commissions, He executed three paintings and a ceiling mural for the royal palace at Versailles, as well as a large, allegorical ceiling mural, entitled “The Renaissance of the Arts”, for the Louvre’s grand staircase, later destroyed in 1855 during the joining of the Palais du Louvre to the Palais des Tuileries. Abel de Pujol also painted many mural decorations for public buildings, such as the Galerie de Diane at Fontainbeau and the Palais de Luxembourg. For the ceiling of the Bourse, Paris’s stock exchange, he executed a series of large-scale grisaille tromp-l’oeil decorations of architectural features and draped nudes.

Throughout his career, de Pujol produced altar pieces and designs for stained-glass windows for Parisian churches such as Saint-Roch, Saint Sulpice and Saint Thomas d’Acquin and the Madeleine. He also did work for the cathedral at Arras and the church of Saint-Pierre in Douai. Included among Abel de Pojul’s last major works are the 1846 “Valenciennes Encouraging the Arts”, a monumental canvas for the town hall of Valenciennes, and an 1852 mural for the ceiling of the staircase of the School of Mining at the Hôtel de Vendôme in Paris.

A successful teacher and draftsman, Abel de Pujol was a member of the Institut de France, a learned society composed of all the sciences and fine arts, and an Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honor. Among his students were sculptor Alphonse Lami, painter Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, and Julien Hudson, an American painter and free man of color, thought to be the first African American by whom a self portrait is known. Abel de Pujol died in Paris, at the age of seventy-six, in September of 1861. 

Top Insert Image: Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujol, “Self Portrait”, 1806, Oil on Canvas, 71 x 55 cm, Musée de Beaux-Arts, Paris

Middle Insert Image: Abel de Pujol, “La Colère d’Achille (The Fury of Achilles)”, 1810, Oil on Canvas, 112 x 146 cm, Snite Museum of Art, Campus of Notre Dame, Indiana

Bottom Insert Image: Alexandre_Abel_de_Pujol, “Self Portrait”, 1812, Oil on Canvas, 56.2 x 46 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts

Simona Dolci

The Paintings of Simona Dolci

Born in 1950 in Pesaro, a city located on the Adriatic Sea, Simona Dolci is an Italian realist painter and architect. In 1975, she earned her doctorate in Architecture from the University of Florence under Leonardo Ricci, a leading figure in the Italian architectural scene of the Second War World and a proponent of social and landscape-bound architecture. Dolci was assistant Professor in the university’s Department of Architecture from 1976 to 1980. After her tenure at the university, she studied painting and drawing at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti. 

In 1983, Simona Dolci continued her training at the Florence atelier conducted by painter and educator Nerina Simi, the daughter of Italian painter and sculptor Filadelfo Simi, himself the student of the famous French painter Jean Leon Gérome. From 1988 to 1991, Dolci completed her studies in painting and artistic techniques at Florence’s renowned Cecil Graves School of Art, a private atelier focused on classical techniques of drawing and oil painting. 

Since 1991, Dolci has taught drawing and painting skills at her own studio, an old monastery in the heart of Florence, as well as at the city’s Academy of Art. Starting in 1995, she also taught the Academy’s summer painting and drawing courses, and became its Program Director in 2005. Dolci has been Director of the Academy’s Intensive Drawing Program since 1998. 

Simona Dolci has participated in numerous  solo and group exhibitions over the years, including the 2007 exhibition “The Art of Seduction” at Dublin’s Gormleys Gallery, where she showed her paintings together the figurative work of Irish sculptor Paddy Campbell. In 2018, she presented new works at “The Sweet Noise of Life”, a major exhibition in Pietrasanta, Italy. That same year Dolci was awarded the prestigious “Caterina de Medici Prize” by the International Medicean Academy of Florence, reserved to great contemporary women who have distinguished themselves in their professional careers. Her paintings are in many private collections in Italy, France, Mexico, and the United States.

“You will draw figures so that this will be sufficient to demonstrate what the figure has inside its soul; otherwise your art will not be commendable” -Leonardo Da Vinci

Bottom Insert Image: Simona Dolci, “Vulcano”, 2015, Oil on Canvas on Panel, 65 a 85 cm, Private Collection

Note: For those interested in a scholarly article on Simona Dolci’s realistic work, I recommend art curator Anita Valentini’s article “Simona Dolci: Portraits of Contemporary Archetypes, The Sweet Sound and Memory of Life” which can be found at the link below:

Click to access Scritto-critico-EN.pdf

 

Mikhail Kuzmin: “Night Was Done. We Rose and After. . .”

Photographers Unknown, Night Was Done

Умывались, одевались,
После ночи целовались,
После ночи, полной ласк.
На сервизе лиловатом,
Будто с гостем, будто с братом,
Пили чай, не снявши маск.

Наши маски улыбались,
Наши взоры не встречались,
И уста наши немы.
Пели «Фауста», играли,
Будто ночи мы не знали,
Те, ночные, те — не мы.

Night was done. We rose and after
Washing, dressing, — kissed with laughter, —
After all the sweet night knows.
Lilac breakfast cups were clinking
While we sat like brothers drinking
Tea, — and kept our dominoes.

And our dominoes smiled greeting,
And our eyes avoided meeting
With our dumb lips’ secrecy.
“Faust” we sang, we played, denying
Night’s strange memories, strangely dying,
As though night’s twain were not we.

Mikhail Kuzmin, Night was Done. We Rose and After…, 1906

Translated by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky

Born in October of 1872 in Yaroslavi, Mikhail Alekseevich Kuzmin was a Russian poet, musician and novelist who was a prominent contributor to the Silver Age of Russian Poetry, an exceptionally creative period of poetry at the turn of the twentieth-century. Born into a noble family, he grew up in St. Petersburg where he studied music at its Conservatory under Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, known for his mastery of orchestration. 

Although the main focus of his career became poetry, Mikhail Kuzmin still retained his interest in music. He composed the music for theatrical producer Vsevolod Meyerhold’s 1906 production of Alexander Blok’s play “Balaganchik (The Fair Show Booth)”. Kuzmin’s personal compositions, sung while playing the piano, were popular in the city’s salons, such as The Stray Dog cafe and Ivanov’s Tower, the most famous of St.Petersburg’s literary salons and a major intelligentsia gathering place owned by the poet Vyacheslav Ivanov and his wife. Kuzmin was charismatic and well-liked, and the fact that he was open about his many relationships and trysts did not damage his social standing.

One of Kuzmin’s closest friends and a major influence as a young man was the aristocrat Georgy Chicherin, a distant relative of Aleksandr Pushkin and a passionate supporter of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and composer Wilhelm Wagner. In his youth, Kuzmin made pilgrimages to Egypt, Italy, and northern Russia with the Old Believers, a Russian Orthodox Church sect which maintained its old liturgy and traditions. Settling in St. Petersburg, he began, at the age of thirty-two,  to associate with the art circle centered around the art magazine Mir Iskusstva or World of Art, which introduced Russian artists to the European art movements.

Mikhail Kuzmin’s first work, “The Green Collection of Verse and Prose”, was published in 1905; this work was seen by writer and critic Valery Bryusov who invited Kuzmin to publish in the literary magazine Vesy. Kuzmin published two works in 1906: his most celebrated work, “Alexandrian Songs”, a collection of free verse love songs with homosexual undertones, and his first erotic novel, “Wings”, a story of a young man in St. Petersburg learning to accept his homosexuality. Told with Platonic subtexts, the novel caused a scandal but was immensely popular. Kuzmin’s writing style earned praise from the critics, which protected it from prosecution in the Tsar’s crumbling regime. 

Kuzmin’s  work, original and philosophical with a simple unpretentious style, set him apart from his Symbolist contemporaries’ writings. With the success of his publications, Kuzmin became a member of Russia’s cultural elite, his work sought by prestigious journals and publishers. In 1908, Kuzmin published “Seti (Nets)”, his first collection of one-hundred poems which was widely acclaimed. He was living in that year with set-design artist Serge Sudeikin and Sudeikin’s first wife, Olga Glebova; however, he was asked to move out after Olga discovered the affair between Kuzmin and her husband. 

In February of 1913, Mikhail Kuzmin met in Kiev the seventeen-year old writer and painter Yuri Yurkun, who would remain his lover until Kuzmin’s death. They lived in St. Petersburg with Yurkun’s mother in a communal apartment. Yurkun was arrested in 1918 by the Bolsheviks and detained for a brief period. Two years later, Yurkun met the young actress Olga Arbenina, who moved into the couple’s apartment and later married Yurkun. Kuzmin distanced himself from all political events after the Russian Revolution and continued writing; but it was clear that his writing was becoming less appreciated. 

For the rest of his career, Kuzmin made his living primarily as a literary translator most notably of Shakespeare’s plays. The last volume of poetry Kuzmin published was the 1929 cycle of narrative and lyric poetry entitled “The Trout Breaks the Ice”, which except for two contemptuous reviews, was ignored by the Soviet press. Mikhail Kuzmin died in poverty of pneumonia in St. Petersburg, then Leningrad, in March of 1936. Two years later in 1938, Yuri Yurkun was arrested by the secret police and executed in a massive political purge. 

At Kuzmin’s birthday ceremony in 1920, poet Alexander Blok expressed in his speech a wish that conditions be created in the future where a literary artist such as Kuzmin would have the right “to remain himself”. Considered by literary figures of his time to be a pioneer for a future age of sexual tolerance, Kuzmin became after the revolution a nonperson. The Soviet government for decades attempted to dismiss Kuzmin’s contributions to literature and kept his diaries from Western scholars.

The personal diaries Kuzmin kept from 1905 to 1934, previously published only in part, occupy a special place in his legacy and has been prized by historians of Russian culture for its unique intimate view of the country’s cultural life during that period. Interest in Kuzmin’s works and life was revived in the 1970s with the 1977 publication of a three-volume edition of his poetry, and a twelve-volume collection of his prose which was published between 1984 and 2000. Several editions of Kuzmin’s works also have been published in Russia since 1990.

Top Insert Photo: Photographer Unknown, “Mikail Kuzmin”, circa 1911

Second Insert Image: Aleksander Golovin, “Mikhail Kuzmin”, 1910 Oil on Canvas

Third Insert Image: Original Book Jacket, Hand-Colored Linocut by Ekaterina Turova for Mikhail Kuzmin’s 1913 “Dvum (For Two)”

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Yuri Yurkun”, Date Unknown

Mario Mafai

Paintings by Mario Mafai

Born in Rome in February of 1902, Mario Mafai was an Italian painter. He and his wife, the sculptor Antonietta Raphaël, founded the Scuola Romana art movement. With its firm approach to European Expressionism, the Scuola Romana  sought to counter the orderly, neoclassical character of Novecento Italiano, the Italian art movement founded in 1922 which rejected European avant-garde movements and became associated with Fascism. 

Although Italian dictator Mussolini had little personal regard for the visual arts, he understood its value as propaganda. For years, his regime supported artists regardless of style, from the futurists who hated tradition to the classically inspired Novecento group which was initiated by art critic Margherita Sarfatti, Mussolini’s mistress. Artists of varying degrees of political commitment entered the official exhibitions and received awards given by the regime for their work. The regime decreed in 1927 that all exhibitions must be authorized by the government and published in the official journal of record, the Gazzette Ufficiale. While the state did not dictate art’s content, it established control over the structure that enabled the art to reach a wider audience. 

Mario Mafai left traditional education early in his training and, along with fellow student Gino Bonichi, chose to attend the free Scuola Libera di Nudo, a life drawing component of Rome’s Academy of Fine Art. Most of Mafai’s formative art training was gained through readings in the Fine Arts Library at Palazzo Venezia and by studying artwork at Rome’s many galleries and museums. Influenced by the style of modernist painter and printmaker Giorgio Morandi, Mafai focused on the tonal quality of his work; he represented everyday objects with subtle color graduations that lent a magical existence to the painted image. Mafai painted from reality and portrayed his many views of the city of Rome with a fresh sense of curiosity.

In 1925 during their studies at the Academy, Mafai met Antonietta Raphaël, a graduate in piano from London’s Royal Academy of Music, who was studying sculpture and painting. They began a lifelong relationship that encompassed both their private life and the arts. In 1927, they relocated into apartment number 325 on Via Cavour which soon became a meeting place for the literati of Rome, among which were the poets Giuseppe Ungaretti and Libero de Libero, and artists such as Corrado Cagli and Mafai’s friend Gino Bonichi, known in the art world as Scipione.

In 1927, Mario Mafai had his first exhibition, organized by the National Association of Artists, at a gallery in Via Margutta. His second show was held in the following year at the 94th  Exhibition of the Society of Amateurs and Connoisseurs of Fine Arts. Along with a collective group of young artists, Mafai exhibited his strong anti-impressionistic paintings at the 1929 Young Painters Convention held at the Palazzo Doria. He was deeply critical of Mussolini’s urban transformation of Rome, which razed many working-class housing districts. This criticism was particularly expressed in Mafai’s 1936-1939 “Demolition of the Suburbs”, a  series of city views illustrating the destruction of these districts.

In 1938, Italy passed and began enforcing its discriminatory Racial Laws, This was a series of separate bills, between 1938 and 1944, that excluded Italian Jews and native inhabitants of the colonies from school, academia, politics, finances, and the professional world. Civil rights and travel were restricted, books were banned, and assets and property eventually taken. Mario Mafai and his wife experienced the cruelty of Fascism personally, as Antonietta Raphaël was the daughter of a Lithuanian rabbi. He and his wife left Rome and relocated to Genova where they found help from friends and collectors of their art. 

Despite being declared a second-class citizen with no rights, Mafai was drafted into the reserve Italian forces during World War II. During the war years, he  painted his “Fantasies” series, violent war scenes inspired by Francisco de Goya’s engravings “Disasters of War”. Mafai’s brutal reflections on the war depicted soldiers as sinister, spectral forms committing brutal acts against civilians. Mafai returned to Rome in 1943 and continued working on his principal themes.

At the end of Mussolini’s dictatorship, the importance of Mafai’s work became widely recognized. Entered in exhibitions throughout Italy, his paintings won many awards. For a period starting in 1957, Mafai rejected his previous artistic path of figurative work and started using a bold smashing of colors and shapes in an abstract form. Thirty of these works, which reduced the image to its essence, were shown in an exhibition entitled “Ropes”. 

Mario Mafai died in Rome on the 31st of March in 1965. After his death, he was celebrated with an important retrospective of his work at Rome’s Ninth Quadrennial in 1965. Established as a widely exhibited sculptor, Antonietta Raphaël died ten years later in Rome. 

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Mario Mafai in His Studio”, 1938, Gelatin Silver Print

Second Insert Image: Mario Mafai, “Paesaggio (Lungara)”, 1948, Oil on Canvas, 38 x 41 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Mario Mafai, “Self-Portrait”, 1928, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Mario Mafai, “Osteria al Neon”, 1952, Oil on Canvas, 77 x 77 cm, Private collection, Rome 

Andrea Vanía: “Paolo”

Andrea Vanía, “Paolo”, Photo Shoot for Pineapple

Andrea Vanía is a photographer, dancer and choreographer who used his skill at visualizing concepts through imagery for a career in fashion and advertising. In that career, he set up art scenes for shooting both video clips and for music and fashion sets. Seeking to work without restraints from client requests, Vanía started freelance work to explore his own personal esthetic view.

Trained as a dancer to use the human form and the surrounding space as a way to interpret music, Vanía also used drawing to describe and understand the tensions and harmonies of a human body in motion. Now as a photographer, he attempts to produce intense and honest work that explores both the power and the fragility of the male nude. The figures in his work are presented through a wide range of lighting techniques and are set in environments ranging from interiors and urban settings to lush forests. 

Vanía’s photo session of Paolo, shown above, was produced for Pineapple, an online site for explicit artworks and photo sessions. It serves as an exhibition space for the wide spectrum of emerging artists and photographers in the gay scene. The site also presents interviews with the various contributing artists. 

Pineapple’s site, with contact and submission information and purchasable artwork, can be found at: http://pnpplzine.com

Montague Glover

The Photography of Montague Glover

Born in May of 1898 in Leamington Spa, a spa town known for its medicinal waters, Montague Charles Glover was a British freelance architect and private photographer. He is best known for his photographs depicting homosexual life in London during the early and mid-twentieth century when homosexuality was illegal. The majority of his oeuvre, shot during a period of increasing persecutions against homosexuals, documented members of the military forces and the working class, whose social class divisions are depicted through their dress.

The youngest of five siblings and the only male child, Montague Glover entered the British Army in 1916 for service in the first World War. He was a member of the Artist Rifles Regiment, a regiment of the Territorial Force which saw active service during the war. Glover was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1917 and was awarded the Military Cross for Bravery in 1918.

Glover is notable for his photographs depicting the partnership with his long-time lover, Ralph Edward Hall, who was born in December of 1913 in Bermondsey, a district in the South End of London. Hall was one of nine children from a poor working-class family whose father worked as a wharf laborer. After meeting his lover in 1930, Glover employed him as his manservant, most likely to provide a social alibi for their residing together. Their relationship lasted for more than fifty years and survived Hall’s four-year service in the Royal Air Force during the second World War. Hall, absolutely devoted to Glover, sent during his years of military service hundreds of love letters to his partner.

Glover’s photographs of his domestic life with Hall are a rare documented example of a long-term relationship before the passage of the Sexual Offenses Act of 1967. Given royal assent in July of 1967 after intense debate in the House of Commons, this act essentially legalized homosexual acts in England and Wales, on the condition that they were consensual, in private and between two men who had attained the age of twenty-one. The Sexual Offenses Act of 1967 did not, however, apply to the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces, nor to Northern Ireland or Scotland.

The Sexual Offenses Act did not condone homosexuality but argued that it was not within the responsibility of the criminal law to penalize homosexual men, who already were the object of derision and ridicule. One particular important consequence of the law was the increased freedom of assembly for gay rights groups which led to an increase in gay rights activism during the 1970s. However, as the terms of the law were within strict guidelines, activities judged as gross indecency were still prosecuted in the decade that followed its passage.

Change began when the law was extended to Scotland in February of 1981 and, as a result of an European Court of Human Rights case, extended to Northern Ireland in 1982. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 lowered the age of consent for homosexual males to eighteen; it also extended the definition of rape to include male rape which had been prosecuted as buggery. In 2000, the Sexual Offenses Act of 2000 passed and equalized the age of consent to sixteen for both homosexual and heterosexual behaviors through the entire United Kingdom.

The Sexual Offenses Act of 2003, through compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, omitted the privacy requirements in England and Wales law relating to same-sex male sexual activity, thus permitting a third party to be present. It also overhauled the way sexual offenses were dealt with by the police and courts, as it replaced previous provisions in both the 1967 Act and the original 1956 Criminal Law Act. Gross indecency and buggery were repealed from statutory law; as a result, the vast majority of the Sexual Offense Act of 1967 was repealed.

Montague Glover and Ralph Hall spent most of the latter years at “Little Windovers”, Glover’s country house in the village of Balsall Heath, a area of Birmingham and home of the Moseley School of Art. Glover’s eldest sister, Ellen, lived with them until her death in 1954 at the age of seventy-two. In his later years, Glover was described by their friends as a reserved, charming man, while Hall was known to be an outgoing, cheerful man with a distinctive cockney accent.

Montague Glover died at the age of eighty-five in 1983; he left Ralph Hall as his sole heir. After suffering a gradual decline in health, Ralph Hall died four years later at the age of seventy-four. Hall’s next of kin put their country house and Glover’s possessions up for auction. Included in the auction was a box which contained Glover’s wartime negatives from the first World War, journals, Glover’s many letters from his lovers during the decades, and the preserved collection of love letters that Hall had sent to Glover during the second World War. Many elements of Glover’s effects are contained in James Gardiner’s 1992 book, “A Class Apart: The Private Pictures of Montague Glover”.

Note: A collection of Ralph Hall’s war service love letters to Montague Glover, excerpted from Rictor Norton’s “My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters Through the Centuries”, can be found at the Gay History and Literature site located at: https://rictornorton.co.uk/hall.htm

Top Insert Photo: Photographer Unknown, “Montague Glover”, 1916-1918, Territorial Force of the British Army

Second Insert Image: Montague Glover, Model Unknown, The Young Valet Series, Date Unknown

Third Insert Image: Montague Glover, “Three Boys at Victoria Park, East End, London”, circa 1930s

Bottom Insert Image: Montague Glover, “ Ralph Edward Hall”, Date Unknown

Rane Arroyo: “Secret Sleepwalking into Each Other’s Doubts”

Photographers Unknown, A World of Color

It’s the story of my life; minus
the big budget close-ups, plus a film
director unsure of my fate, minus
a season among sheep, plus mountains
looking like saddles for my true
love to ride, minus extras with tire irons,
minus awards, but the yes of two
men becoming one, the sí of kissing far
from angels (how Blakean), plus
Mormon underwear stripteases, Sundays
wearing vodka haloes, plus
nights spent on the floor and somehow
not stepped upon by God, plus
exorcisms and cold rivers, whispers in
Spanish from our missions, plus
secret sleepwalkings into each other’s
doubts, free to quote Wilde, plus
a plan to escape America, but
it’s the exact story of my life with
my cowboy, minus the sense of an impending
Patmos, that franchise of whispers and
wild kisses, minus the script
(we were our best scriptures), we the scarred
ghosts wearing landscape’s honesty, photogenic
Adam’s Apples, designer sorrow, minus
talk show rodeos, paparazzi round-ups,
politically-correct high fives, minus
the nightmares of winged horses with
hooves striking rocks to start fires, plus
slow motion nights on Speed, education
and library cards, the Spanish of my skin, plus
a belief in doom, nights bedding the moon,
two men without spin doctors, plus
an unedited nakedness, joy rides in beds
offering amnesty for the crime of being,
plus our Tijuana plans for a destiny makeover,
our nights as free verse Rimbauds
in cowboy boots, plus vaqueros keeping
quiet about specifics that become
the story of my life, plus Judgement Day
drinking games: showing God just
Brokeback Mountain to explain myself,
minus the editing, each moment as
Love’s monument and God’s cameo, in my
image, in my imagination, in my
nation while I and my cowboy are silent
having to learned to speak wind,
wind from nowhere, wind with news of home,
of our entangled shadows seeking
us with the plus and the minus of having
form, and we ride away from the cosmic
to the specifics of long nights without stars
with clenched fists, us undressed and
wondering what it feels like to become fiction

Rane Arroyo, Brokeback Mountain

Born in November of 1954 in Chicago, Rane Arroyo was an American poet, playwright and scholar of Puerto Rican descent. He earned his PhD in English and Cultural Studies form the University of Pittsburgh. Arroyo was a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Toledo in Ohio. 

In the 1980s, Rane Arroyo began his career as a performance artist in Chicago’s art galleries and eventually focused on his poetry. Openly gay, he wrote poetry, short stories and plays that were frequently self-reflexive, autobiographical works. Arroyo’s work dealt to a large degree with the issues of homosexuality, immigration, and the Latino culture. In his poetic stanzas and narratives, he juxtaposed his literary knowledge with contemporary pop culture.  

Arroyo’s 1996 poetry collection, “The Singing Shark”, won the 1997 Carl Sandburg Poetry Prize and his poem “Breathing Lessons”, published in Emerson College’s literary journal, won a 1997 Pushcart Prize. For his 2005 collection “The Portable Famine”, Arroyo won the2004-05 John Ciardi Poetry Prize. Included among his ten poetry collections are the 2006 “Don Quixote Goes to the Moon”;“The Roswell Poems” and “Same-Sex Séances”, both published in 2008; and his last collection, the 2010 “White as Silver: Poems”.

In addition to his poetry, Rane Arroyo wrote a book of short stories in 2005 entitled “How to Name a Hurricane”. His performed plays include such works as “The Amateur Virgin”, “Emily Dickinson in Bandages”, Prayers for a Go-Go Boy”, and “The House with Black Windows”, co-written with poet Glenn Sheldon, and performed in 1995 by the Polaris Theater in New York City.

Arroyo served as the co-Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and as the co-Chair for the 2009 Chicago Conference. Nominated sixteen times for the Pushcart Prize for Poetry, Arroyo was awarded a Stonewall Books Chapbook Prize, the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Prize, The Sonora Review Chapbook Prize from Arizona University, and a 2007 Ohio Arts Council Excellence Award in Poetry. 

Rane Arroyo died in the early morning of April 7th in 2010 due to a cerebral hemorrhage. He is survived by his life-long partner, American  poet Glenn Sheldon. In 2015, Rane Arroyo was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. His papers are archived at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City.

Elisàr von Küpffer

The Paintings and Writings of Elisàr von Küpffer

Born in February of 1872 in Tallin, an industrial port city in Estonia, Elisàr August Emanuel von Küpffer was a Baltic-German artist, poet, historian and anthropologist who used the pseudonym Elisarion for most of his writings. The only son of an aristocratic family, he was in delicate health from an early age, having suffered from scarlet fever, meningitis, arthritis and measles. Von Küpffer was a good student throughout his formative years and wrote his first play, “Don Irsino”, at the age of nine. 

In 1891 at the age of nineteen, Elisàr von Küpffer entered Saint Petersburg’s German Annenschule, a school  in the Levashovo municipal area founded for its German citizens. During this time, he met historian and philosopher Eduard von Mayer, who would become his best friend, and his first partner Agnes von Hoyningen Huene. In 1894, von Küpffer relocated to Germany where he published, in the following year, his first poetry collection “Leben und Liebe (Life and Love)”. In the autumn of 1895, he entered the Berlin Art Academy and moved in with Eduard von Mayer; Von Küpffer  later left his partner Agnes in 1896. 

Von Küpffer wrote two dramas in 1896, “Irrlichter (Wisps)” and “Der Herr der Welt (Master of the World)”, as well as three one-act plays. He published his anthology “Ehrlos {Infamous)” in the following year. After Eduard von Mayer’s graduation at the University of Halle in 1897, the two men travelled throughout Italy, Southern France and Switzerland before returning to Berlin. In the early part of 1900, Adolf Brand, whose publishing firm produced the German homosexual periodical “Der Eigene (The Unique)”, published von Küpffer’s influential anthology of homoerotic literature “Lieblingminne und Freundesliebe in der Weltiliteratur (Love of Favorites and Between Friends in World Literature). This anthology was created in part as a protest against the two-year imprisonment of Oscar Wilde in 1895.

In 1901, Elisàr von Küpffer published his first book of poems, “Auferstehung, Irdische Gedichte (Resurrection, Earthly Poems”. His book on one of the first High Renaissance painters Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, known by the nickname Il Sodoma, was published in 1908.  Together in 1911, Von Küpffer and Eduard von Mayer founded the Munich publishing house Klaristische Verlag Akropolis, through which von Küpffer published three major works: “Hymns of the Holy Castle”, “A New Flight and a Holy Castle”, and a play entitled “Aino und Tio”. French novelist and poet Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen, who lived in self-exile in Capri with his lover Nino Cesarini, also reviewed and published von Küpffer’s work in his gay magazine “Akademos”, named after an Attic hero in Greek mythology.

In 1913, von Küpffer had the first exhibition of his artwork at the Brogi Gallery in Florence. With growing animosity towards Germans at the outbreak of World War I, he and von Mayer left Italy and moved to Ticino, one of the Swiss Cantons, where von Küpffer established himself as a muralist and painter. Both were granted citizenship in 1922 and settled in a villa with a large art collection in the Swiss municipality of Minusio. Also a photographer, von Küpffer shot many photographic studies of young men to use in the creation of his paintings, although, most of his works featured youthful self-portraits. 

In 1911, Elisàr von Küpffer and Eduard von Mayer established the Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion, a small community in Weimar, Germany, based on a Neo-religious idea of Clarism, or clarity. In 1926, they established the second community at Minusio. During the 1930s, there was a large number of visitors; however, by the outbreak of World War II, the visitations had ceased. As von Küpffer’s health declined, he became increasingly reclusive until his death in late October of 1942, at the age of seventy. Elisàr von Küpffer’s ashes are interred in the Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion in Minusio, alongside the ashes of Eduard von Mayer, who died in 1960.

After von Küpffer’s death, Eduard von Mayer, who was the main proponent of the Clarism communities, devoted his time to documenting and securing their communal achievements, which included letters, sketches, drawings, plans, and paintings. However, he also did a purging of the  homosexual aspect of his relationship with von Küpffer: the intimate correspondence between them, traces of their association with the “Der Eigene” magazine, any contributions to the work of German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, and proofs of his authorship to the 1923 “Das Mysterium der Geschiechter (The Mystery of the Sexes)” which expounded the Claristic theory of the sexes. 

In his will, Eduard von Mayer left the Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion and all its contents to the Canton of Ticino and the property to the municipality of Minusio on condition that the gardens should be made accessible to the public. It was not until 1968 that the community decided to accept this gift. The material that is necessary for a better understanding of its pictorial and philosophical oeuvre was to be kept in a cupboard on the ground floor. The paintings, the urns with Elisàr von Kupffer and Eduard von Mayer’s ashes, and family heirlooms were to remain in the building. Furthermore, the gardens were to be maintained. 

Today the men’s legacy is distributed across different places in the community. Most of the surviving paintings, fragments of the former library, and the literary remains can be found in a room of the former sacred building. The inventory in its entirety has yet to be undertaken. The monumental cyclorama “Die Klarwelt der Seligen (The Clear World of the Blissful)” was saved from destruction and later installed at Monte Verità where it can be visited under provisional circumstances. The Centro Culturale Elisarion, whose program is dedicated to cultural projects in the community of Minusio, opened in 1981.

Notes: The website of the Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion, which includes a life history of Elisàr von Küpffer, a collection of his artwork, and a history of the community project,  is located at: http://www.elisarion.ch/en/welcome.html

For those interested, I recently found an article written by gay American author and mathematician Hubert Kennedy,“Reviews of Seven Gay Classics”, which discusses seven historical publications on homosexuality among which is “The Riddle of ‘Man-Manly’ Love” written by German gay emancipation advocate Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. This collection of  reviews can be found at: https://hubertkennedy.angelfire.com/Classic.pdf

Second Insert Image: Elisàr von Küpffer, “Self Portrait”, Date Unknown, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, The Entrance to the Cyclorama at the Sanctuarium Arts Elisarion

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Elisàr von Kupffer”, 1929-1930, Centro Culturale e Museo Elisarion, Minusio

Nicholas Moegly

Illustrations by Nicholas Moegly

Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Nicholas Moegly is a freelance illustrator and graphic artist who specializes in nostalgic, mostly dark imagery with a focus on light and shadows. An early influence on his work was the paintings of realist artist Edward Hopper whose scenarios of light and shadow gave an intimate perspective on urban life. Later in his career, images of scenes photographed at night became a prominent source of layout reference for Moegly’s initial sketch work.

In his early career, Moegly worked for several agencies in the Cincinnati area where he created graphic designs for advertising, packaging, and branding. Beginning a career as a freelance artist in 2016, he worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies and international beverage and apparel brands. Moegly has designed posters and music collection images for several Grammy-winning artists, such as The Dave Matthews Band, The Avett Brothers, and John Prine, among others.

Nicholas Moegly’s illustrations largely focuses on the normal, quiet landscapes of suburbia in the midwestern part of the United States. Done in a realistic style, his work is executed with great attention to perspective and the smallest detail. Nostalgic and expressing a sense of urban isolation, Moegly’s images often feature surreal details that lend an unworldly mystery to their conventional appearance. Scenes of local shops and urban homes might contain an oddly lit window in a dark, fog-bound dwelling, forest animals on the lawn or in a deserted classroom, or a lit desk lamp on the front sidewalk with no source for its electricity.

Moegly has produced many hand-drawn, screen printed editions of concert and gig posters which were made available in limited editions of one hundred. In addition to his personal work as an artist, he is now working as a software development lead in the digital enablement department at Moog Incorporated. Moegly continues to live and work in the Cincinnati area of Ohio.

Nicholas Moegly’s website, containing contact information and an online store, is located at: http://www.nicholasmoegly.com

A more complete collection of Nicholas Moegly’s work can be found at his Instagram site: https://www.instagram.com/nicholasmoegly/?hl=en

Thom Gunn: “I Dozed. I Slept. My Sleep Broke on a Hug”

Photographers Unknown, Positional Images of Men

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
    Half of the night with our old friend
        Who’d showed us in the end
    To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
        Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
        Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
         Your instep to my heel,
     My shoulder-blades against your chest.
     It was not sex, but I could feel
     The whole strength of your body set,
             Or braced, to mine,
         And locking me to you
     As if we were still twenty-two
     When our grand passion had not yet
         Become familial.
     My quick sleep had deleted all
     Of intervening time and place.
         I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.

Thom Gunn, The Hug, The Man with Night Sweats, 1992

Born in August of 1929 in Gravesend, a port town in Kent, Thom Gunn was an English poet. A reader of works by Keats, Milton, and Marlowe, he attended Hampstead’s University College School in his youth. Gunn spent two years in the British Army for his national service and lived for six months in Paris before entering Cambridge’s Trinity College to study English literature. 

After his graduation in 1953, Gunn, young and gay at a time when it was illegal, published his first volume of poetry, “Fighting Terms”, a collection of poetic metaphors of love and self-disclosure. Received with acclaim, the volume contains his poems “Carnal Knowledge” and the tender “Tamer and Hawk”. Gunn’s initial poetry became associated with The Movement, a group of English poets who wrote traditional, simple poems nostalgic for an earlier, more pastoral Britain. His later poetry was associated with the work of Poet Laurette of England Ted Hughes who wrote frequently about the mixture of beauty and violence in the natural world.

After his first volume was published, Thom Gunn emigrated with his life-long partner Michael Kitay, whom he had met at Cambridge, to the United States. Taking a position at California’s Stanford University to teach writing, Gunn began to study poetry with poet and literary critic Yvor Winters, a modernist poet whose clear, sharp-language work was heavily influenced by Native American poetry. He began reading and studying the works of poets Gary Snyder, Robert Duncan, and William Carlos Williams, all of whom would influence his poetry. 

Gunn began teaching at the Berkeley campus of the University of California in 1958, a position he held for forty-two years, with a seven year absence beginning in 1966. His second collection of poems, the 1957 “Sense of Movement”, was a winner of the Somerset Maugham Award. Contained within that volume is the poem “On the Move”, a celebration of black-jacketed motorcyclists. In 1961, Gunn published his “My Sad Captains”, a book divided in two sections. The first section contained epic poems written in heroic verse which, in its purest form, consists of two rhyming lines written in an iambic pentameter. Gunn experimented in the second section with syllabic verse where the meter of the work is determined by the total number of syllables per line, rather than the contained stresses. This juxtaposition between two poetic forms would be repeated in other Gunn collections. 

Affected by the San Francisco bohemian lifestyle of the 1960s and 1970s, Thom Gunn became increasingly bolder in his verse and began to explore themes of homosexuality and drugs. Notable collections from the period include the 1967 “Touch”, “Moly” published in 1971 and the 1976 “Jack Straw’s Castle”. While he continued to use the  sharp, metrical forms that characterized his early work, Gunn continued his experiments with the freedom of free verse.  Coupled with his writing to a specific set of images, these free verse poems with their non-rhyming lines followed the natural rhythms of speech.

In 1982, Gunn published his first collection of essays, “The Occasions of Poetry”, which included critical pieces on writers ranging from William Carlos Williams and Gary Snyder to Thomas Hardy and Robert Duncan. The volume also contained five autobiographical essays, which covered Gunn’s development as a poet and discussed the contemporary literary currents in England and the United States, places that Gunn considered as home.

Gunn lost many of his friends when the AIDS epidemic came to the gay community in the 1980s. His grief was described to a profound degree in his 1992 “The Man with Night Sweats”, a series of first person perspective poems that explored the horrors of the epidemic as seen through the eyes of the inflicted. Through these poems, Gunn described his heartbreaking personal loss. Poems contained in this collection include “Lament”, “In Time of Plague”, and the title poem “The Man with Night Sweats”. Gunn received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for this 1992 volume. Although AIDS was a focus of much of his later work, he remained HIV-negative himself. Spared from the disease, Gunn continued in his work to consider death and what it meant that he was one to survive.

Among Thom Gunn’s other works are his 1979 “Selected Poems 1950-1975”; “Passages of Joy” published in 1982; and his final book of poetry, the 2000 “Boss Cupid”, which won Publishing Triangle’s inaugural Triangle Award for Gay Poetry in 2001. This award was, after his death, renamed the Thom Gunn Award in his memory. Gunn published a second volume of critical and autobiographical essays entitled “Shelf Life” in 1993. He won many awards for his work and received fellowships from the Guggenheim and the MacArthur foundations.

Thom Gunn died in April of 2004 of acute polysubstance abuse at his home in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, where he had lived since 1960. Five years after his death, a new edition of his “Selected Poems” was republished.

Notes: In the summer 2005 edition of The Threepenny Review, there is an article written by Michael Kitay about his first meeting and life with Thom Gunn. It can be found at: https://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/kitay_su05.html

A collection of Thom Gunn’s poetry can be found at the Classic Poetry Series located at:  https://www.poemhunter.com/i/ebooks/pdf/thom_gunn_2012_8.pdf

 

 

Alireza Shojaian

The Artwork of Alireza Shojaian

Born in Tehran in September of 1988, Alireza Shojaian is an Iranian artist. Shojaian received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Tehran’s Islamic Azad University in 2014. Encouraged in his art studies by one of his professors, he began to explore his queer identity in his work through themes and narratives. Shojaian pursued his Masters of Fine Arts for two years at the Islamic Azad University; however, as his final thesis project was queer art, he was denied his degree.

In 2015, Shojaian’s artwork, the majority of which were prints,  appeared in several group exhibitions in Tehran including shows at Laleh Art Gallery and Vista Art Gallery. He also exhibited work at the 2015 Printmaking Exhibition held at the Cultural Section of the Embassy of Cote d’Ivoire.

The prevalent theme in Alireza Shojaian’s work is homosexuality in both identity and relationships. His work reflects on his own personal experiences as a queer person and the queer history of western Asia and its context in present society. Created with acrylics and color pencils, Shojaian’s images depict male figures, most often nude, in both portrait form and group presentations. His drawings present intimate relationships, often entwined and embracing, sometimes fighting; however, they all attempt to present real stories that are mutual to all human beings. Through his art, Shojaian attempts to fight societal prejudice against LGBTQ people and make space for non-heteronormative masculine identities.

Unable to exhibit work dealing with issues affecting the queer community in an open dialogue with the Iranian people, Shojaian relocated in 2016 to Beirut, Lebanon, as a place with more freedom to develop his art and identity. His university professor in Tehran, who knew of Shojaian’s sexual orientation, connected him with the owner of the ArtLab Gallery in Beirut, Antoine Haddad, who offered him a solo show. Shojaian entered the Beirut art scene with two solo exhibitions at the Artlab Gallery: the 2017 “Corpe à Corps” and “Sweet Blasphemy” held in 2018. 

The title for the “Sweet Blasphemy” exhibition was taken from Turkish writer Elif Shafak’s novel entitled “The Forty Rules of Love”. This exhibition was centered on the love story of Persian poet Jalai ad-Din Muhammed Rumi and fellow poet Shams-i-Tabrizi. After years living together in the Turkish city of Konya, Shams left Rumi, who after Sham’s untimely death dedicated his writings to his departed lover. The main image of the show consisted of a partially nude male figure, either asleep or dead, lying on a white blanket. Eight additional drawings, all modeled by Lebanese artist Mo Khansa, were included in the highly successful sold-out show. 

Alireza Shojaian exhibited his work at the Beirut Art Fair in 2017 and 2018. He relocated to Paris in 2019 after being offered by the French Embassy in Lebanon an art residency with the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Shojaian served as resident-in-art at La Villa les Pinsons in 2019 to 2020 and at Château de Lourmarin in 2021. His work was most recently presented in “Ombres D’Hommes” held at Nice’s Depardieu Gallery and in a group exhibition at Paris’s Lafalande Gallery, both in 2021.

Alireza Shojaian’s personal website, containing images, contact information and press coverage, can be found at: https://www.alirezashojaian.com

Note: A more extensive biography on Alireza Shojaian, including images of his work, can be found in the November 30th of 2018 issue of Queer Here located at: https://wearequeerhere.com/queerart

Middle Insert Image: Alireza Shojaian, “Remi”, 2021, Acrylic and Color Pencil, 60 x 60 cm, Private Collection

Denis Forkas

The Paintings of Denis Forkas

Born in 1977 in Kamyshin, a town on the Volga river, Denis Forkas Kostromitin is a Russian painter whose work explores religious and mythological symbolism in the tradition of ancient Mediterranean art. The son of a military officer, his childhood years were spent in various remote regions of the Soviet states. Forkas’s early nomadic existence with its isolation and lack of comforts led to self-education in artistic training and numerous sensory deprivation experiences, which later had a major impact on his artwork.

With little stimulus from the austere Soviet environment, Forkas eagerly consumed literature on the esoteric worlds of Egyptian and Greek mysticism and mythology. After the iron curtain’s collapse in 1991, new translations of literary works, including the esoteric writings of English occultist Aleister Crowley and French author Eliphas Levi, entered the Soviet states. Forkas studied these new volumes and the literature written by Western philosophers, which became available in the mid-1990s.

After the economic boom in the new century, Denis Forkas frequently visited China as a journalist, interpreter, and commercial representative. After meeting several painting masters in China, he was able to receive formal training for three years in traditional Eastern painting techniques, including those of the Xieyl and Gongbi art forms. 

Xieyl is a genre of Chinese traditional painting worked on xuan paper that uses either ink or layers of watercolor. This genre includes works of calligraphy, poem, painting and seal, of which freehand painting is the most influential and popular. Gongbi is a careful, realistic technique of Chinese painting, often highly-colored, that is worked  on xuan paper. This method uses highly-detailed brushstrokes that delineate details very precisely without interpretation or free expression on the part of the artist.

After leaving China, Forkas settled in Moscow to concentrate on his career path as a professional artist. His early work was inspired by German Expressionism and the late nineteenth-century Symbolist movement, which emphasized the reality of the created paint surface itself. These paintings by Forkas were influenced by the early abstract, experimental works of Wassily Kandinsky that, in an immediate way, were an expression of Kandinsky’s inner feelings.

Denis Forkas’s new work, still in the artistic traditions of ancient Near East civilizations, draw their inspiration from early Renaissance and  seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. Drifting away from the earlier predominant symbolist style, Forkas’s paintings became influenced by the works of Belgian painter Fernand Khnopff, who carried symbolism’s recurring themes into his portraits, and Russian painter Mikhail Vrubel, whose paintings in the latter portion of his life displayed a glowing, otherworldly mosaic effect that fit within the Byzantine tradition.

Since 2007, Forkas has privately taught the techniques of painting and drawing to students and has participated in various local and international exhibitions, including the October 2014 Image Show in London. Forkas has produced many drawings and paintings that have been featured as album covers for international music releases. Currently living and working in Moscow, he has contributed both work and an interview for the esoteric publisher Fulgur Press.

Contact information and a small gallery of work by Forkas can be found at his website located at: www.denisforkas.com

For those interested, a list of album cover art by Denis Forkas can be found at the Encyclopaedia Mettalum site located at: https://www.metal-archives.com/artists/Denis_Forkas_Kostromitin/436114

Second Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “The Hanged Man / Gift of Prometheus”, 2017, Acrylics and Gilding on Paper, 41.5 x 29.5 cm

Third Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “Saglokratlok II”, 2017, Ink and Gouache on Paper, 24.1 x 18.5 cm

Bottom Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “Between Two Worlds (Study for a Recurring Dream of Ichor Baptism Fashioned as a Portico Fresco Cartoon)”, 2016, Acrylics on Paper on Hardboard, 23.7 x 22.5 cm

Jim French

The Photography of Jim French

Born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania in July of 1932, James Thomas French was an American artist, photographer, illustrator, filmmaker, and publisher. He is best known for his association with COLT Studio, one of the most successful gay male erotica companies in the United States.

For his formal art education, Jim French entered the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in 1950 to study towards a career in fashion illustration similar to that of J.C. Leyendecker. In 1953, the year before his graduation from the Museum School, he joined the United States Army Reserves and went on active duty in 1955; French earned a honorable discharge from service in 1957. Settled in New York City, he pursued a successful freelance career as an advertising illustrator for several Madison Avenue advertising firms. 

In addition to his work for Neiman Marcus and other high-end department stores, French also created textile designs for designer Tammis Keefe; collections of her work are now housed in Cooper Union and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Working with Columbia Records, he created portrait drawings of singers, such as Johnny Mathis. Frank Sinatra and Maria Callas, for use as album art. While working on Madison Avenue in the mid-1960s, French drew homoerotic drawings in his spare time, under the pseudonym of Arion. His drawings were offered in 1966 through Ed Wild’s Times Square Studio as well as his own short-lived mail order venture, the Arion Studio. 

Jim French was approached by a friend from his Army days, Saul Stollman, who had seen some of his Arion drawings, to create a physique studio in New York City. French adopted a new pseudonym for this venture, Kurt Lüger, and under the name of Lüger Studios began producing new, more masculine figured illustrations, which featured leather men, cowboys, wrestlers, and other similar archetypes. Lüger Studio artwork first appeared as two drawings from the “Cowboy” series in the May/June 1966 issue of “Young Physique”. This series of six to eight drawings was advertised in other male erotica magazines and was available for purchase through mail order. 

The success of Lüger Studio developed quickly after being featured in the pages and on the covers of a wide assortment of physique magazines. Saul Stollman bought out French’s interests in the studio in February of 1968 and briefly ran the business on his own. However, now featuring photographs and eight millimeter films from substandard producers, Lüger Studio did not attract enough interest to survive beyond 1968. 

On December 5th of 1967, Jim French and Lou Thomas, a friend and astute businessman, took out a business license to form COLT Studio. Although originally named to evoke the image of the Colt pistol, the studio quickly changed its COLT image to that of a stallion. For this new venture, French adopted a new pseudonym, Rip Colt, and began to make highly detailed pencil drawings, using the newly marketed Polaroid camera to shoot photographs of male models for research studies. Before the camera’s  advent, it had been a challenge getting erotic subject matter that was shot on film processed as many venues were reluctant to deal with this material. The Polaroid camera which contained its own processor solved that issue with its instant results. 

In the initial years of the company, COLT Studio released French’s illustrations, under the Rip Colt name, and photo sets of masculine male models, The studio eventually added short films, magazines and calendars. Based for six years in New York City, COLT Studio was relocated in 1974 to Studio City in California, due to French’s frequent travels to Southern California. At this time, French bought the company shares owned by his partner Lou Thomas, who soon formed his own business, Target Studios, a venture which provided the underground demographic with quality homoerotic art and film. 

COLT Studio grew into one of the most successful gay photography studios of its time and offered the highest quality male erotica commercially available. Jim French’s company was famous not only for its stable of male models, but also for its magazine brands which included Spurs, COLT Men, Manpower, and its film venue, COLT Studios Presents. French ran the company until 2003 when he sold the studio to former Falcon Studios director John Rutherford and his partner Tom Settle. For a few years after the sale of COLT Studio, Jim French continued to privately sell salon-style prints of his photographs before he settled into quiet retirement. Jim French died peacefully in his sleep at his Palm Springs, California, home on the 15th of June in 2017. He was  survived by his husband Jeff Turner.

Under his own publishing imprint State of Man, Jim French published eight volumes of fine art male photography from 1972 to 1999, among which are “Man”, “Quorum”, “The Art of Jim French: the Nude Male”, and “Opus Deorum”. French’s work has been published in several collections: Felix Lance Falkon’s 1972 “A Historic Collection of Gay Art”; a collection of early 1970s photographs of model David Scrivanek entitled “Like a Moth to a Flame”; and an anthology of his early Polaroid photographs from the 1960s and early 1970s entitled “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor: Jim French Polaroids”. French’s photographs and illustrations can be found in many private and public collections.

Notes: In 2004, Gabriel Goldberg convinced Jim French to tell his own story to the public for the first time. This personal account entitled “Life Thru a Lens: Jim French: In His Own Words” can be found at the Advocate online magazine located at: https://www.advocate.com/people/2017/6/29/story-jim-french-and-colt

Many of Jim French’s Polaroid photographs can be found at the Wessel and O’Connor Fine Art website located at:  https://wesseloconnor.com/exhibits/french/french1.phpd

Second Insert Image: Jim French, Untitled (Sailor with Shadow), Polaroid Print, 10.8 x 8.3 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Jim French, Untitled (Sailor), Polaroid Print, 10.8 x 8.3 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Jim French, Untitled, circa 1970s, Gelatin Silver Print, 56.5 x 71.7 cm, Private Collection

Maurice Kenny

Photographers Unknown, Hands Which Did Not Recognize Me

The book lay unread in my lap
snow gathered at the window
from Brooklyn it was a long ride
the Greyhound followed the plow
from Syracuse to Watertown
to country cheese and maples
tired rivers and closed paper mills
home to gossipy aunts   .   .   .
their dandelions and pregnant cats   .   .   .
home to cedars and fields of boulders
cold graves under willows and pine
home from Brooklyn to the reservation
that was not home
to songs I could not sing
to dances I could not dance
from Brooklyn bars and ghetto rats
to steaming horses stomping frozen earth
barns and privies lost in blizzards
home to a Nation, Mohawk
to faces I did not know
and hands which did not recognize me
to names and doors
my father shut

Maurice Kenny, Going Home, Between Two Rivers, 1988

The youngest of three children to a father of Mohawk and Irish heritage and a mother of English and Seneca heritage, Maurice Frank Kenny was born in Watertown, New York, in August of 1929. He spent his younger years in Watertown and on a family farm in nearby Cape Vincent. After his parents’ separation, Kenny remained with his father in Watertown until running away, at age sixteen, to Bayonne, New Jersey, to live with his mother. Truant at school, he was returned to his father’s custody in Watertown where he completed his high school education. 

Upon graduation, Maurice Kenny spent the summer traveling with a theater troupe in New York State. He spent a year in New York City attempting to establish a career as an actor; but after a year, he returned home. Kenny studied under Professors of English Warner Beyer and Roy Marz, a Fulbright Scholar, at Indiana’s Butler University, where he graduated in 1956 with a degree in English. He took additional classes under author and Professor of English Douglas Angus at St. Lawrence University in New York. 

Kenny moved to Manhattan, New York, in 1957 and became a manger for Marboro Books, which put him in contact with literary, cinematic and theatrical figures. He also took courses at New York University, where he met and studied under the fourth Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress,  Louise Bogan, who influenced his early development as a writer. 

Maurice Kenny began writing poetry as a teenager. He was particularly influenced by the writings of Walt Whitman, whose natural language and rhythm were qualities he found later in Native American oral literature. Encouraged by his former professor Douglas Angus, Kenny wrote the poems of his first chapbook, the 1956 “The Hopeless Kill”. His first full-length collection, “Dead Letters Sent and Other Poems”, was published in 1958, his first year at New York University. After a hiatus of travel in the early 1960s, Kenny settled for two decades in Brooklyn Heights, New York, to concentrate on his poetry. 

Kenny’s career coincided with a period of activism for Native Americans. In 1969 Native American activists occupied Alcatraz Island and, two years later, the American Indian movement was formed. A series of confrontations with federal authorities followed, which culminated in a violent confrontation in early 1973 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Native Americans were starting to embrace their traditional cultures and reject assimilation into the general society. A renaissance in Native American literature began as a result of native writers and poets seeking to authenticate their cultural identities. Poets, such as Kenny, began to draw on their heritage to produce a synthesis of traditional and modern forms in their work. 

Maurice Kenny’s exploration of his heritage resulted in his long 1973 poem “I Am the Sun”, which was written in response to the actions at Wounded Knee, the site of the 1890 massacre and the culmination of the pan-tribal Ghost Dance religion. His 1977 “North: Poems of Home”, the first full-length collection published after a span of thirteen years, and the 1979 “Dancing Back Strong the Nation” epitomized the growing consciousness of his native heritage. 

Kenny asserted his gay identity in the 1976 “Gay Sunshine” which included the poem “Winkle” and “Tinselled Bucks: An Historical Study in Indian Homosexuality”, a essay that claimed the two-spirit, or berdache, tradition as a shining example for contemporary Native Americans. Kenny was among the first nationally recognized American Indians to come out publicly as gay. 

Maurice Kenny’s “Blackrobe Isaac Jogues”, published in 1982, told the story of a Jesuit missionary martyred in 1646 by the Mohawks; it received the National Public Radio Award for Broadcasting and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His “Takonwatonti / Molly Brant” is narrated by a prominent Mohawk woman who married an Englishman. Kenny in these works and later ones portrayed individuals who inhabit two worlds at the same time and crossed the boundaries between cultures and identities, such as missionaries among Indians, Indians in a white society, and gay men in a heterosexual world. 

In 1986, Kenny moved back to upstate New York and settled in Saranac Lake. He continued to travel and teach, and held the position of poet-in-residence at North Country Community College and the Potsdam campus of the University of New York. In 1995, Kenny received an honorary doctorate from the St. Lawrence University. He published over thirty collections of poetry, essays and fiction; his work has appeared in many journals and anthologies. A recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, Maurice Kenny passed away, at the age of eighty-six, on April 16th of 2016. 

Note: The anthropologist James Mooney, born 1861, wrote a thousand-page account of the tragic events at Wounded Knee which was published in 1896. A summary of this account and others written about the massacre, including an article on the Ghost Dance, can be found at: https://www.encyclopedia.com/places/united-states-and-canada/miscellaneous-us-geography/wounded-knee

Luis Medina

The Photography of Luis Medina

Born in Havana in June of 1942, Luis Medina was a Cuban-American photographer based in Chicago, whose work focused on the documentation of marginalized groups, such as the gay and Latino communities. During his childhood, he attended a private military school until 1958 when, at the age of sixteen, he left for Spain to  complete his education. In Spain, Medina met the exiled Cuban poet and writer Gastón Baquero, who introduced him to Spanish literature, painting, and architecture. He toured through Europe, working a series of jobs to finance his trip, and visited Italy, Germany and France.

 In 1961, Luis Medina migrated to Miami, Florida, and was reunited with his mother and stepfather, who had immigrated from Cuba after Fidel Castro’s rise to power. Supporting himself with temporary jobs, he studied history, philosophy and sociology at Miami Dade Junior College, where he graduated with honors in 1967. At Miami Dade, Medina reunited with old friends, among whom was his closest friend José Lopez, a fellow student from the military academy in Havana. 

Sensing he was stagnating in Miami, Medina left the influence of his parents’ Cuban culture and relocated to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with dreams of becoming a sculptor. Reaching a similar decision about life in Miami, José Lopez also moved to Chicago to attend its Art Institute. The two friends found two American mentors at the Institute: Harold Allen, a teacher who was an architectural photographer, and Hugh Edwards, who was the Institute’s curator of prints, drawings and photographs. 

A Mormon in upbringing, Harold Allen was a steadfast, quiet man who was well informed in art history and proficient as a photographer. It was Allen who first instilled in Medina a fascination for photography. In working with Allen on site photograph projects, Medina learned how to calculate a precise point of view and capture the quality of light. Self-educated in French literature, Art history and American history, Hugh Edwards came from a working-class family. A friend of musician Duke Ellington, he was trained in classical music, appreciated a wide range of singers and motion pictures, and was well-read in the works of Faulkner, Proust, Whitman, and other notable authors. Through these mentors, Medina and Lopez gained an unique education in photography and North American culture. 

Luis Medina turned his artistic interests to photography in a collaborative effort with José Lopez. They had their first joint museum exhibition organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1973; versions of the show traveled to Finland in 1974 and Australia in 1976 as a representative of North American photography. After being introduced to Hugh Edward’s Puerto Rican friends, Medina and Lopez began taking images of the diverse cultures in the city of Chicago. In the fall of 1973, they worked with an art historian and an architect in Illinois’s Quincy and Adams counties photographing its architecture and local crafts for the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration’s project, “Community Rediscovery ’76″.

In 1974, Medina and Lopez worked together to document the campus of the University of Chicago for a book entitled “Dreams in Stone”. With their aesthetic and personal points of view diverging, their intimate eleven-year partnership eventually dissolved. After an illness in 1977, Lopez moved back to Miami and gave up photography; Medina inherited their mutual work and stayed on in Chicago. With Lopez’z departure, Medina’s photography shifted in focus; his sudden domestic solitude generated less optimistic and more introspective work. Rekindling his interest in human contradictions and tragedies, he began to develop a more private side of work which, more satisfying and outspoken, gave voice to his Cuban origins.

Luis Medina began a series of photographs on Latin-American life in Chicago, which included Puerto Rican Day parades and local weddings. He also began to photograph Chicago’s LGBTQ scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s with a series of work that documented the community from a unique inside perspective. Beginning in 1977, Medina started photographing the altars and ceremonies of the African-Cuban religious folk cult known as Santeria. Although he continued to produce architectural photos on commission, the main focus of his work became his immediate surroundings. Seeing the explosion of territorial graffiti throughout the city, Medina started photographing Chicago’s neighborhood youth gangs and their personalized graffiti. Through time, he earned the trust of the gangs and began to also shoot their portraits. A solo exhibition of both portraits and photographed graffiti was held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1980. 

Beginning in late 1984, Medina was diagnosed with a cytomegalovirus infection, which often is associated with AIDS; his infection possibly developed as early as 1981 and had now become debilitating. Medina lost partial control of his left hand but, through a course of handwriting exercises, slowly regained his dexterity. He kept his rapidly progressing illness a secret from his family and friends and continued to believe in his survival. By June of 1985, Medina was with his parents in Miami and knew he was dying. Surrounded by his parents and a few friends, Luis Medina died, at the age of forty-three, at Jackson Memorial Hospital on October 12th of 1985. 

The publishing of Luis Medina’s work after his death was accomplished through the efforts of his mother, Olga Bohorques, who was determined that his work would not be forgotten, and members of Chicago’s Photo Circle and its Art Institute. A retrospective of Medina’s work, entitled “Facts and Fables by Luis Medina, Photographer”, was held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993.  His work also appeared in the 2018 group exhibition, “Never So Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950-1980”. held as part of Art Design Chicago.

Note: A collection of Medina’s photographs, dating from the 1960s to the 1980s, is housed in the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection. The collection is comprised of approximately twenty-two thousand items of mixed media: slides, silver gelatin prints, negatives and color prints. The collection is unprocessed but open for research.