I am aware of gay men who never care to look at art that is intended for a gay male audience. I used to be like them. But I chose to change.
I discovered I had an interest in viewing the works of underground artists who produce surreal rather than realistic homoerotic visual works targeted specifically for gay adult males. What interests me the most to this day is homoerotic work depicting very masculine men who are stuck in situations of personal peril or danger. This contrasts with images of men who are showing affection and love towards other men. While in real life I am a gay man who shows affection and love towards other men, as an artist and illustrator my work goes in much darker directions because of what I saw others creating.
When I became an adult, I grew interested in the erotic art work done by underground artists such as Dom “Etienne” Orejudos and Tom of Finland that appeal to gay adult men.
Dom “Etienne” Orejudos
Dom “Etienne” Orejudos was an American artist who drew masculine men during the 1970s and 1980s in highly controversial poses and situations.
He led the way in the production of art with an imaginary, surreal, exaggerated focus upon the male body, masculinity, and homosexual male sexuality. Others, like me, who attempt similar surreal works owe a debt to them all for the respect these pioneering artists showed for the male form.
The very first time I accidentally saw the works of Etienne while browsing online, I was blown away! I immediately wished that I had taken the time to study gay art because I realized I had missed out on a terrific experience.
Some colorized the work of Etienne, who worked primarily in black and white line drawings. To me, he seemed almost magical for the ways in which he knew exactly how to create surreal, exaggerated depictions of men who are so instantly appealing. As you can see in the image below, Etienne demonstrated great skill in depicting highly masculine men’s bodies. Etienne showed what he considered to be an ideal cock and balls, torso, hands, and feet, especially, even though “normal looking men” are certainly not like the men he created. He also knew how to create youthfully handsome and expressive faces. His works had a major influence upon me.
Tom of Finland
Immediately after I learned of Etienne, I was thrilled to find the works of Tom of Finland. He is perhaps the most famous artist of the 20th century for gay adult men. His prolific creations, which were born of post-World War II European sensibilities, demonstrate a most definite respect for and awe of highly masculine males who all displayed exaggerated physical attributes.
Tom of Finland also does not shy away from male-on-male brutality and violence in the context of sexual conquests. My images have been compared to those of Tom of Finland.
The artist known as Tom of Finland is often remembered for his vividly depictions of the homoerotic aspects of Nazi Germany during the 1940s, especially uniformed men with intense masculinity. He is also one of the most prominent artists to explore the gay male’s lust for masculine cowboys in sexual situations involving danger, fear, and violence.
The heterosexual majority certainly may choose to shun surreal depictions of male instincts and behaviors towards other males involving fear, violence, and sexuality. Yet, these were brought unashamedly to the public in print media during the 20th century by Etienne and Tom of Finland.
What mainstream society chooses to avoid, however, should hold little persuasive value to us gay men, per se. We gay men have always known how to be honest about what we like and we are at our best when we go after what we like passionately. I recommend that we gay men should take time to learn about artists like Etienne and Tom of Finland in their own context, but especially because their surreal masculine male art survived them and likely will be remembered into the future.
Ancient Greek and Roman Influences
Depending on the breadth and quality of your formal education, you may have (should have) been introduced to the crucial role that culture and society play in the development of artistic sensibilities and works of art. Due to limited space here, suffice to say that much of what we embrace today in Western society regarding artistic expression descended to us courtesy of Greece and Rome from thousands of years ago.
Anyone can easily find artifacts online and in museums from both of those classic civilizations. Look for their depictions of male-on-male sexual behaviors, violence among men, and fear that men can cause.
Although the English word homosexual was not coined until the late 1800s, thousands of years earlier—with or without any name for it—the ancient Greeks and Romans accepted that human nature included men who had sex with men. That men did violence to other men and created fear in the hearts of men were also well known and accepted as a basic realities of life in those long ago times.
The image shown on was drawn in 1956 by George Quaintance (1902 – 1957) to honor how the ancients depicted masculine men with great respect and admiration.
Today, it is tempting for us to think that human nature and behavior has changed significantly over time, especially due to advances in technology to make our lives more civilized. But, when it comes to sex and violence, it probably would be wise to ponder whether human nature has really changed all that much over hundreds of centuries.
After learning to appreciate the works of Etienne and Tom of Finland, I found the artistic works of two gay male artists from Japan in the bara genre.
First, I became aware of Sadao Hasegawa (1945 – 1999), who created some unforgettable, surreal images that mix vivid aesthetic beauty in males with shockingly horrible and violent fates. As shown in the illustration at right, Hasegawa’s work pays homage to the well-known Japanese artistic style favoring bright color and intensive attention to authentic detail.
Then, I came upon the works of Gengoroh Tagame (illustration at left), who is still producing surreal art today for gay men that is shared over the Internet and in print media.
In Asia, the culture out of which gay art grew differs substantially from both the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome and the cultures of Europe and the Americas. Somehow, both Hasegawa and Tagame broke free from the repression of a deeply conservative Japanese culture and strict legal traditions to produce stunning art work that cries out to be observed by gay males. In the works of both Japanese artists, males consistently are depicted as icons of youth, high masculinity, and attractive good looks.
Hasegawa’s works feature disturbing violence in their surrealistic depictions of male sexual arousal preceding or during torture as a prelude to the victim’s certain death. Similarly, Tagame’s surreal art depicts harsh sexualized torture and brutality such as gang rape of men by men in military and/or prison settings, and frequently include hangings, castrations and impaling. It is easy for the uninitiated viewer to become overwhelmed by the intensity of the violence in the works of Hasegawa and Tagame.
Back in the U.S.A.
Here in the United States of America, as a gay male artist living in the 21st century, I have found five artists particularly influential. First, I want to mention Douglas Simonson of Hawaii, who produces typically photorealistic looking art which is nonetheless surreal showing young, highly masculine, good-looking men in tropical environs such as beaches and jungles. Simonson’s art is irresistible and habit-forming, especially because of his generous use of spectacular colors that showcase his unmistakable skills and talents in depicting the male form. His works also are tame and civilized compared to all the other artists I will mention next.
The Hun is the name chosen by an artist in Oregon. His work consists mainly of line drawings in old school comic book style done in stark black, white, and grey tones.
The most evident trait of the art of The Hun is the surreal and greatly exaggerated masculinity-particularly the characteristic overly large sex organs.
Next, one will be unable to escape the intense physical brutality of the sexual activities depicted by The Hun’s surreal art, which often shows powerful and muscular men taking full physical and sexual advantage as they dominate submissive men who are vulnerable and defenseless.
3D Digital Illustrations
I was also influenced by a Texan who called himself Greasetank. He worked in the realm of 3D digital illustrations before his website was taken down due to censorship-especially over his use of imagery that looks like it came from Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. He was born in 1951 and died in 2008. I use the same or similar software to produce imagery as did Greasetank.
Greasetank, like The Hun, greatly favors an exaggerated and/or surrealistic masculinity, most notably lengthy cocks. However, Greasetank’s males do not seem to have been intended by the artist to be necessarily attractive or appealing to the viewer.
Greasetank consistently depicted repugnant punk male behaviors, including hate crimes committed using automatic weapons. The sexualized torture and castration or genital impailings depicted by Greasetank is but a prelude to an inevitable and horrific homicide.
Similarly to Tom of Finland, Greasetank also embraced masculine imagery and homoerotica from the days of Hitler to build many of his art works upon Neo-Nazi or skinhead themes in a United States-not German-context.
Two others who have used the same or similar software as I do to produce imagery, and, who also have influenced me greatly are Ulf and Bondageskin.
Ulf Raynor’s work aims for highly detailed photorealism, yet emphasizes hypermasculine males with very exaggerated anatomy that happens only in fantasy and surrealism. Significantly, many of Ulf’s males are depicted as sexual objects and victims of authority at the hands of other men in power such as within Wild West, military or paramilitary situations.
Ulf does not shy away from depicting cock and ball torture and other more extreme violence against masculine icons. He is one of the most prolific producers of digital illustrations for gay men of the 21st century.
Also deserving mentioning here: In the 21st century, an illustrator in the United Kingdom who goes by the name of Rusty McPhee has produced a tribute to the work of The Hun. McPhee faithfully retains the same theme of dominant men overtaking submissive men sexually. McPhee’s talents and skills as an illustrator in the digital realm are impressive. I happen to prefer McPhee’s own original illustrations more than his tribute to The Hun, however.
Another artist who works in the digital realm in the current century using the artistic signature of Bondageskin. I just can’t get enough of this man’s work!
I especially admire how freely he expresses himself in his works and I could spend hours each week studying what he produces-particularly the illustration shown here depicting the hanging of several muscular naked men.
Bondageskin deliberately depicts surrealistic and improbably violent paramilitary-type executions involving sexualized torture in which a doomed man sports an impressive erection and experienced an unwanted orgasm before death.
This theme of a defenseless man in peril getting sexually aroused (and even having an orgasm against his will) is found frequently throughout the visual works and stories of many men whose target audience is gay adult males.
This commentary here on US MACHO ZONE (USMZ) only begins to scratch the surface by providing a very brief overview of how illustrators have used the same themes in their works that I use.
Thank you for your interest in my work.
I ask that you to pass along this website to other gay adult men who might enjoy it. Thanks! —Madeira Desouza