Secret Stash Email #10
May 5, 2019 | Las Vegas, Nevada
Secret Stash Feature for May 2019:
Swimming in Dark Waters
One of my inner circle group regulars told me something that shocked the hell out of me: He said he thought I may be fulfilling the role of a contemporary shaman.
I’ve grown accustomed to getting feedback that expresses things in this way, “Hey, I really like your images of hanged men!”
In contrast to the usual casual comment, this regular correspondent of mine told me something totally new and unexpected. He said I seem to be able to dive in and swim in the dark waters of my subconscious and live to tell about what I see. He said the visual works I create depict what I saw when I was in those dark waters.
He told me I’m serving an important purpose. He said I share my visions from within the dark waters with the world revealing what most people would otherwise never see.
I’ll be honest here and tell you I’ve never felt comfortable admitting this: Years ago (before I was told about possibly being a shaman) I started feeling intermittent connection to what I call “the network” out there. It exists either in my overly-active imagination or beyond my everyday consciousness and my logical mind functions. I’m not sure which is true. At irregular intervals “the network” affords me insight into what has not yet happened, and, what may not yet be fully understood if seen from the perspective of most people’s everyday awareness.
Having such an experience (whether real or imagined) likely would be a very scary thing for anyone. It was frightening for me, I can tell you that. I don’t like admitting that I feel connected as I describe here, but I want to be completely honest with you about all this shamanism stuff.
I certainly would not have chosen the word shaman to describe myself. But the guy who chose that word defended his choice well, so I listened to what he had to say. The word has remained constantly in my mind since then. I truly do not know what purpose I’m to serve in the context of what shamans or artists accomplish. I’ll keep an open mind if any of you have suggestions.
Perhaps I come back from swimming in dark waters and report on what I see there. As frightening as it certainly is, can I ever learn to accept that I’m someone who is called into dark waters and survives to tell about it?
Trusting the Visions of Artists
Maybe I’m not so unique in sharing what I see from some other-worldly place. I know that other creative people regularly admit to receiving inspiration in dreams or from some other place separate from and beyond our normal waking state. For example, Paul McCartney has admitted dreaming about songs that he later composed and recorded.
All my life I’ve been attracted to the visual work of certain other artists who reveal scenes that defy revealing. The artists I’ve paid the most attention to are the one who’ve produced surreal rather than realistic works. Their imagery touched something deep inside me years ago and motivates me today to reveal my own inner visions.
Perhaps the most essential role of any artist is to define and describe life and its meaning so that people don’t get distracted by powerful but false beliefs, or misdirected by charlatans or the latest shiny object. The viewer has the choice to accept or reject what any artist reveals. There is wisdom that can come from other-worldly places beyond our rational mind. I’m sure of that.
Preoccupied with Pleasure
Many gay men I know personally have a clear-cut preoccupation with pleasure. Big news, right? When I was a child I was attracted to the concept of living “happily ever after” as in the fairy tales. As a gay male adult, however, I’m convinced that life is not only meant to bring one pleasure and happiness.
I believe artists whose audience includes gay men can help this particular group realize that the “happily ever after” scenario rightfully belongs solely within make-believe stories. Real life, of course, is not necessarily going to be as pleasant or appealing.
In real life I am a civilized and logical person who shows affection and love towards other people. I once considered myself to be a straight man, so I did what straight men do: I married a woman. Now I realize that all along I was a gay man. Now I am married to a man.
The lessons I have learned in the mundane, everyday pursuits of life such as a long-term relationship and a marriage taught me a big lesson as an artist and storyteller: Focusing upon love and affection for creating visual works and for storytelling is unproductive. For me, love and affection cannot be the foundation for visual works or storytelling because “happily ever after” themes equate to a lot of well-worn cliches and predictability. What fun is that? Showing love and affection seems to me to be boring from the standpoint of what drives or motivates creating compelling visual works or telling worthwhile stories.
I came to accept that focusing my visual works and storytelling upon themes and situations that do not involve “happily ever after” will consistently produce much better results that are not predictable or riddled with cliches. What started me thinking about a focus on other than “happily ever after” was the visual works of two mainstream artists from Spain, Dali and Miro. Surreal art is not for everyone because it can be challenging and difficult to understand. But I’ve been attracted to this particular genre of art dating back to my childhood.
Once 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 who appeal to gay adult males and straight adult females.
Dom “Etienne” Orejudos
This American underground artist’s works especially taught me that as an artist I should never shy away from depicting how aggressive and violent men can be out there in real life. Clearly, Etienne was an artist who did not believe in “happily ever after” as a starting point when he created his visual works. Here is one scene from sequential art by Etienne under the title of “Grease” (not to be confused by the movie musical of the same name although John Travolta might be sexually aroused by this.)
Tom of Finland
I was stunned when I first saw the works of Tom of Finland, the most famous gay male artist of the 20th century. 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 and a complete avoidance of the “happily ever after” foundation for creating art.
Clearly visible is the truth that Tom of Finland also does not shy away from male-on-male brutality and violence in the context of sexual behaviors. I’ve been pleased to have some viewers and readers compare my visual works to those of Tom of Finland.But you can judge for yourself: Tom of Finland original work on the left. Madeira Desouza work inspired by Tom of Finland on the right
Etienne seems to me to be almost magical especially for the ways in which he knew exactly how to create surreal, exaggerated men who are so instantly appealing. He demonstrated great skill in depicting highly masculine men’s bodies. He consistently showed what he considered to be ideal proportions of cocks and balls, hands, and feet, especially. He also knew how to create youthfully handsome and expressive faces and make them regularly show an essential vulnerability.
The absence of “happily ever after” is obvious in Etienne’s works. Instead it’s easy to find a troubling violence, fear, and violation in many of his drawings. No question about that.
Fear, violence and sex have a linkage that many so-called “civilized” people probably would rather deny and never consider. But, the linkage is there to be found.
Without that linkage between fear + violence + sex, Etienne could not have drawn the men and the situations that he did. I am convinced his visual works would have remained in obscurity had he not pointed out the connection between fear, violence and sex in the lives of gay men.
This is a challenging matter to consider. Such a linkage in visual works inevitably poses many tough questions about how and why sexualized violence can or should be an element of any gay male artist’s expression.
Etienne does not deserve sole credit or blame as the originator of these kinds of often disturbing visual depictions in gay surreal art. In fact, I believe Etienne is notable because he bravely chose to create gay surreal art even though he probably knew what he was doing would be considered to be disturbing by the heterosexual majority.
Etienne Type of Male Character
For this month’s Secret Stash Email feature I created a surreal, four-image sequence in which I attempt directly to emulate what I consider to be an “Etienne-type” of man and put him into an “Etienne type” of scenario. I gave my fictional male character what I thought would be Etienne’s “ideal proportions” of cock and balls, hands, and feet. Of course, the guy has blond hair. That conveys his relative innocence and his vulnerability, too. And, also not surprisingly, this guy ends up being taken advantage of, and ultimately fucked, by cowboys. But I show how he rather enjoys the whole experience.
Transmitting Certain Visions
As I created that Etienne-type character and then went on to show him involved in sexual behaviors with other men, I accepted that I am doing something more than merely entertaining viewers with my visual works: I am adding one more piece of some ever-expanding collective awareness about discovering what it means to be a gay man in today’s culture where there may not be any “happily ever after” awaiting anybody. That phrase “discovering what it means to be a gay man in today’s culture” I think is the most basic explanation I can give when asked what’s the point of sharing my visions after swimming in dark waters.
After learning to appreciate the works of Etienne and Tom of Finland, I found the artistic works of two gay male artists from Japan whose works fall within the bara genre that I find appealing.
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 demonstrated in the above illustration, Hasegawa’s works pays homage to the well-known gay Japanese male artistic style favoring bright color and intensive attention to male-on-male penetration.
Then, I came upon the works of Gengoroh Tagame, who is very much alive today and continues producing surreal art for gay men that is shared over the Internet and in print media. I count myself extremely fortunate to have met Tagame face-to-face in San Francisco where he spoke about his being attracted to gay BDSM as a core theme he has worked within for decades.
In Asia, the culture out of which gay art grew differs substantially from 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 and “locked-down” Japanese culture and strict warrior-class legal traditions. Both men produced stunning art work that cries out to be observed by gay males worldwide. In the works of both Japanese artists, males consistently are depicted as highly-desirable icons of youth, high masculinity, sexual availability, and, of course, outward perfection and beauty or handsomeness.
I have felt from the very beginning of my discovery of their works that these Japanese artists breaking free from their culture’s repressions was emblematic for me. I repressed my feelings and my sexual identity because I chose in my youth to embrace the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. But that belongs strictly to my younger days and has no place in my adulthood. I was able to break free from such repressions rooted in my choice to believe in a deity and constraining dogmas intended since the days of the Roman Empire to control mankind. I hope that all gay men can similarly break free from any repression that diminishes their enjoyment of living life to the fullest.
It seems true that Hasegawa was doomed by his inner demons. He took his own life. Did he swim in those dark waters of the subconscious and then became terribly depressed when he returned to the physical world? We may never know. All we can do now is look back at Hasegawa’s works and in so doing, we easily find 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.
As far back as 2008 I was depicting similar situations and outcomes of death in my visual works.
I also have taken inspiration from 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 stemming from his use of imagery that looks like it came directly from Germany during 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 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 sexually appealing to the viewer.
Greasetank consistently depicted repugnant testosterone-fueled punk male behaviors, including hate crimes committed using automatic weapons. The sexualized torture and castration or genital impailings depicted by Greasetank were merely a prelude to an inevitable and horrific homicide.
Similar themes were explored by an American artist from Oregon who chose the pen name of The Hun. 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 cocks and balls.
Viewers 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 happily claiming full physical and sexual advantage as they dominate submissive men who are vulnerable and defenseless in comparison.
Another American artist, Ulf Raynor, has influenced me as well. Ulf aims for highly-detailed photorealism, yet he 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 20th and 21st centuries.
Another artist who works in the digital realm comes from Germany and uses 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.
Bondageskin deliberately depicts surrealistic and improbably violent paramilitary-type executions involving sexualized torture in which a doomed man sports an impressive erection and usually experiences 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 like me whose target audience is gay adult males.
Another artist also deserving mentioning here: In the 21st century, an illustrator in the United Kingdom who goes by the name of Rusty McPhee has produced tributes to the visual style and storytelling of The Hun. McPhee faithfully retains the same theme of dominant men overtaking submissive men physically, emotionally, and sexually. McPhee’s talents and skills as an illustrator in the digital realm are impressive. I happen to prefer McPhee’s own original illustrations (see below example) over his homage to The Hun, however.
My Contributions to Underground Art
For whatever reasons, I have never chosen to use far-right Nazi themes as did Tom of Finland and Greasetank. But my works have included depictions of extremely bloody, violent rituals of jihadists whose behaviors convey their belief that a deity sanctions their homicidal compulsions.
I also depict surreal fantasies of imaginary Mexican drug gangs engaging in sexualized violence as tool for manipulating and controlling men.
I have even attempted to capture the essence of the bara genre directly:
Visual Standards of Masculinity
If you look at artifacts of culture (such as sculptures and statues) especially from ancient Rome and Greece, you can become convinced easily that visual standards of masculinity have remained constant. This is not true, of course, since the concept of an ideal body size and type frequently changes. But while the ancients did not have the word masculinity in their languages, they certainly respected it and admired it.
In contrast, some people today believe contemporary men should never “look masculine” or “act masculine” because doing so stems from unfair or even harmful human traits that only males possess. I think that viewpoint diminishes the value of being masculine solely for reasons of gender politics in today’s culture. Men seeking to look and act masculine do not do so at the expense of anyone’s ability to look and act feminine. I believe people have the right to be and act as they so choose.
But our focus here is upon men, so let’s get back to it. Tom and Finland and Etienne created indelible visual portrayals of men that owe a huge debt to how the ancients saw the ideal male body. Let’s start by looking at Tom of Finland’s visual standards of masculinity:
- strong jaw framing a rectangular-shaped face
- expressions reveal intense man-on-man attraction
- thick, wide chest with prominent nipples
- large cock or bulging groin area
- shapely round buttocks
Etienne’s visual standards of masculinity are similar to those of Tom of Finland:
- good-looking, rugged face that does not conceal vulnerability
- wide shoulders framing a beefy chest
- thick, large hands and feet
- cock girth and length are noteworthy
- strong, well-defined legs
I create visual works that I hope the viewer will find worth viewing. I do keep my focus upon longstanding visual standards of masculinity such as those detailed on this page. How well I may have succeeded in depicting masculinity is in the eye of the beholder.
I encourage all interpretations and evaluations of my visual works. Let me provide some new and fresh source material for your discussion and feedback to me by sharing half a dozen representative examples of my recent male character creation.