Photography

“Four and a Half Women”
2019
 

Most of my photography involves people interacting with my art or my sculpture interacting with my paintings.  Now that we all have smart phones with powerful cameras photography has become more complex than when I got my first camera 40 years ago.  Among other things, one can take pictures with reckless abandon since there is no limit and no cost.  For younger readers, in the old days each picture was a piece of film on a roll.   When the roll was used up it had to be taken out of the camera and delivered to a place where the film would be developed and then actual photographs made from the developed film.   It was expensive and time consuming.  

 
Perhaps because of this background, or because of my countless hours composing paintings, I use my iPhone like a camera.  I look carefully at the shot. I ask myself a million questions while moving the camera and or myself into a position that alters the arrangement of the parts in a multitude of subtle ways.  The whole process often takes a fraction of a second.  And the results are often less than satisfying.   
 
But every once in awhile all the parts are in the right places.   And the photo has something to say.  The relationship of these women is enriched by their physical positioning as well as their shared black attire.   Another layer of interest to me is the relationship that they have to the painting….a drag queen dressed similarly in formal black attire standing proud and looking over the 3 women like a magisterial queen. 
 
The subtle references to classical art such as the frequent presentation of the 3 Graces or the 3 Fates or the 3 witches of Shakespearean fame, adds another layer. I honestly don’t know what the photo is about.  But I included it hear because it is fascinating and pleasing as it is perplexing.  For me, that separates it from documentation or memorabilia.   Nothing wrong with either of those concerns.  But this is an art website, not Jeff’s family album or an advertisement to promote an art show.   
“The Exhibition Hall”
Digital Image
2022
 
I shot this in the summer of 2022 in my own exhibition hall, or, gallery, as the British would call it.  A “gallery” has the additional implication, for Americans, that what is on exhibit is for sale. But that is not the case here. It is for viewing and contemplation.  
 
In this case, it is the play of different kinds of light that are worth contemplating.  In this case there are at least 4 kinds of light at play here. There are the spot lights shining directly on the paintings.  The wash lights illuminating the red curtains, the ambient light and of course the dramatic beam of sunlight hitting the sculpture in the middle of the room.  
 
While this photo, or the room it was shot in, have none of the minimalist austerity of the work of artist James Turrell, I am deeply grateful for his work. I don’t know that I would have stopped to appreciate the “art” and beauty of the light itself if it were not for his work.
“Work in progress: Global Warming”
2021
 
“Work in progress: Large study of Crystal” 
 
The titles of these 2 photographs suggests they are documents of a work of art in process.   And, to be fair, they could be seen that way.   And in fact, when I grabbed my phone to take a picture that was the initial intent. However, while preparing to take the shots I realized there was potential for something more than a simple document.   
 
Yes, to be sure I took extra time to get the composition and lighting and seemingly random background details to be just right.  And yes, the work in progress is clearly the “protagonist” in the scene of the art studio.  But these things don’t really explain why this photograph is an art work in its own right.   I was hoping by the time I finished writing these paragraphs the understanding would have come to me.   
 
I’m still not sure why these are works of art in the way I am sure about my paintings and sculptures.  But the lack of clarity still leaves me no less certain these are works of art.   They are doing something in the range of unspoken things I want my art to “do.”   
 
At the risk of bragging I will try to make a point that may shed some light on this.   I am good at many things in the realm of art.   I can draw and paint complex things.  I have a knack for sculpture and I have an imagination that pretty much runs non stop.   I can even play many musical instruments well and am told I am a good dancer.  I would even go on to say I am at least a little above average in basic writing skills.   But I can’t write a poem to save my life.  I flat out suck at poetry.  
 
Perhaps these photographs could be thought of as visual poems.  They are intimate, true and seem to have meaning.   Yet, like most poetry I enjoy, I can’t put my finger on what it is that resonates so deeply.   The ancient Greeks believed there were 7 ( or nine depending on which Greeks you talk to) muses of the arts.  I clearly got a good hand but not a royal flush.   Maybe this is my way of stealing one more card from the gods.  Hopefully, like Hermes, who stole the sacred cows from the gods and ended up inventing music and was subsequently forgiven for his crime, I too will be forgiven for having made something beautiful in a world of endless visual drivel.  
 
 But that’s not for me to decide.  I just have to keep raising my phone for more than selfies and take the risk and hope for the best.    Who knows what punishment the gods may have in store for me but in the meantime, at the very least, these may be my humble attempts to save myself from drowning in a sea of mediocrity.  
“The Exhibition”
2021
 
Yes, this could be considered a document of a sculpture or of a moment in an art exhibition…my own.   But it is also a work of art.  
 
And yes, it is beautiful.  The angles and the spaces are just right.   It is exquisitely composed if I do say so myself.    But still, that is not  enough to make it art.  
 
 It quietly asks us to think about the way we think and observe as well as how we reflect on the things right in front of us as well as what lies further away or completely out of site.   The floor suggests one kind of journey or progression and the piano’s keyboard another.   There is also the compelling juxtaposition of the large painting in the distance that is actually tiny compared to the sculpture which is easily deduced to be small.   A strange reversal. 
The reflection of the sculpture on the piano also sets up interesting thoughts.  I have often thought about what is memory.   How does it work?  How does the correspondence to other things affect how we think about or remember something?   Does it sharpen or diminish or transform it all together?   
 
The churn of memory happens so thoroughly and so effectively we don’t even know it is happening.   Things are being forgotten not to just to make room for something as though there was a finite amount of memory…I don’t think there is a finite amount of memory by the way.  Instead I think the forgetting is an active verb that colors memory not by the fact of things being gone from memory but from the pulling away itself.   The empty space in the photo and the passageways quietly work that way for me in this photo, slightly raising my awareness of this process….useful I suppose…but mostly a joy to get a moment of fleeting insight.  
 
On one level this is a photograph of one of my sculptures. But I think of it as a work of art in its own right. The tension within the figures and between them is what makes this interesting to me. What are they doing? And while it’s not clear what, it appears to be something of focused intention. And which figure is more real. And then there is the interplay of legs and arms. 
 
I suppose I also like the shadows and other lines created by the plinth. And the pool of black behind the figures which is a “painted black” echoed by the strip of black across the front created by the shadow of the plinth.  

”Venus Pudica on Lava”
1998

”Liberated Pudica”
1998

There could hardly be a more charged subject for an aging male artist to paint or sculpt than a nude female figure. Even the addition of the word “figure” at the end of the previous sentence seems charged with meaning. Why not just end with “female?” Or “woman” for that matter. Does the phrase “female figure” already reveal some level of objectification of the person? I don’t think so but I’m certainly thinking about it, yet again. While its a little burdensome to be having to check oneself, I can do it. And I think it’s a worthwhile effort.

Since Ancient Greece defined urban culture as we know it, as well as one of the quintessential poses for a woman depicted in sculpture, (even if she was to be the embodiment of a god) was the “Venus Pudica.” Entire books have been written about the tradition of this pose through the ages, as well as what was intended and perhaps unintentionally communicated about men’s attitudes towards women, women’s own ideologies about themselves, the nature of sexual power, idealization of form, the power of seeing vs. being seen and so much more.A simple google search will yield hundreds of articles from stodgy art historians, to raging feminists and even new wave anti-feminists about what this painting and sculpture reveal about this range of subjects.

As if this wasn’t complicated enough, the invention of photography in the 19th century added another level of complexity since the photograph was ostensibly the record of an actual woman… not the depiction of an artists’ imagination and effort no matter how realistically portrayed. And then photography went beyond the artist/photographer/expert into the hands of anybody that wanted one… men and women. And then pornography and eventually pornography specifically for women to consume and finally… catching up to the moment of porn for everyone, all the time, on the internet and largely created and produced by women.   Wow, we have come a long way from Praxiteles’ (a man) first sculpture of a woman slightly bent over and holding her arms and hands in such a way to hide the sexual areas of her body 3,000 years ago.

To be honest, when I shot these pictures of my friend in Hawaii I wasn’t thinking about any of that. I met her and her gay boyfriend/traveling partner on a beach in Hawaii one day in 1998 or so. We spent a few days exploring the island together and sharing meals. We often went to a nude beach and sometimes took photos of each other. It was playful and spontaneous. I didn’t even take a directorial role most times. I just aimed the camera and snapped a photo whenever I thought something looked good. Since there was film in the camera, I had to be more selective than I am now with my iPhone.   

Eventually my friends moved on and I lingered another few weeks in Hawaii. When I returned to Seattle and developed the film I was struck by this pair of images. I studied art history and was very much aware of current writings by feminist authors and post feminist writers such as Camille Paglia. So I could see the significance of these spontaneous moments.

I wanted to do large paintings of these two images. But I froze for various reasons. The main reason had nothing to do with the issue of Venus Pudica and my being a male artist. It was more about the fact that I didn’t feel capable of doing a strong work from just photographs. I had until then used photos in my work but only when I had access to the model coming to “sit” for me. I also wanted to express the combination of the Venus Pudica and the liberated Venus as depicted in these 2 images. I wanted to find a kind of conceptual yet realistic way to depict these two concepts in one image… a kind of realistic cubism. I understood and admired the idea of cubism allowing for multiple viewpoints and multiple concepts to be conveyed in one image but I didn’t want to surrender the wholeness of the form to do that.

I never did figure that out.   

Now, however, I would be inclined to paint them as I would but hang them side by side as a diptych. They are equally and separately true realities that most women live in still.   And moreover, I think a certain amount of the shame of the modesty for the Pudica is not quintessentially female. It is also carried by men. And living in an age where almost zoological sexual displays will pop up on my computer even while I’m shopping for a new area rug, I’m inclined to think that a little modesty might be a good thing.

So, perhaps I will stretch a pair of large canvases and get started. And if I need a real woman to stand in for my long lost friend, perhaps I will be lucky enough to find someone as joyful and spirited as her to stand around my studio for hours letting me stare at every shadow and wrinkle hoping to imbue it with as much dignity and love as befitting of Venus herself. I am, after all, still a male artist. As learned and enlightened as I try to be, there is still part of me that admires women differently than I admire men. Yes, I have painted and sculpted some spectacular nude males if I do say so myself, but they don’t have a sexual charge for me. That is still the case for me when working with a female model. But just because there is a sexual charge does not mean she is inherently objectified or that my thoughts and art are overrun by that. A charge is just that… a charge. A spark plug doesn’t power a car after all. But it does play a crucial role.

These photos still have a charge for me. As an artist they inspire me. Let’s see if that is enough to get the engine of my studio started enough that the power of the gift and true artistic inspiration will kick in, the kind of power to labor for hours over a minutia of details while holding the whole of the concept for hours and days and even weeks. This “holding” is a balancing act. It is the stuff of making art but it is also the stuff of conducting one’s life.I remain convinced we are capable of amazingly complex things. As men we can see women as individuals imbued with all the same power an integrity as any other individual male or female or any of the wonderful non binary varieties that are defining themselves these days. And, at the same time see them as sexual beings that may inspire sexual imaginings to various degrees without it impinging on all the other stuff. It might take some learning and practice, but it can be done. And increasingly, as women are more empowered in the world with money, rights, dignity etc, they will have the same challenges about their attitudes towards men.   There are indeed interesting times ahead and some very interesting artworks to come.   

I spent my early days trying to figure out how to be the first to create this or that new art. Maybe I will spend my elder years painting and sculpting the last work of art of this or that. It’s not likely but maybe I will create the last Venus Pudica. Here’s hoping

“Luther”
2000

I met Luther at an event that was held at my art studio in the 1990’s about once every few months. It was called “Romp Naked.” It was an all male naked dance party with no drugs or alcohol and no sex. It was a kind of Robert Bly-meets-nudist-meets-Gay Pride crossover. It was the intention of the organizers to make this a male experience… not a gay experience.  Well… they tried.

Even though I am straight, I really enjoyed having this group of men gather in my studio and as a result I met some terrific people. Among others were people willing and even excited to pose for my paintings.

One fall they asked people to come in “creative undress” rather than be simply nude. Luther presented himself like this. I was struck by the comfort this 70 year old man felt in his body and his playful spirit. So I asked him to come to my studio for a photo shoot and possible painting. After trying various things I settled on the idea of him simply standing there on a simple block of concrete.

I liked the photo so much I decided to do a life size painting of him. He agreed and started coming to my studio weekly. I used the photo to guide my work when he was not there.  

Around that same time I took some photos of a woman who was a sister of a friend of mine. She wanted to model for me and came to my studio with an old Volvo full of props and ideas.  I could barely keep up with her costume changes and whirlwind of ideas. At some point it became clear that at 50 or so she was at the opposite end of the spectrum on her journey in accepting her aging body. So I painted her as well in a manner similar and yet very different from Luther.

The result is 2 paintings that stand alone just fine. But when presented as a diptych are a powerful exposé in subtle but very meaningful differences. Some of that is already visible in these tiny 6 x 4” prints.

“Jim and Tim”
2000

Jim and Tim were 2 guys who very much loved each other. I met them at a studio event called Romp Naked. To learn more about that event, please see the citation under the photograph entitled “Luther.” Jim and Tim came to my studio weekly for sittings for a large painting. Tim, the seated figure, was blind so these visits were a little more challenging than they might have been otherwise in part because my studio was on a steep hill and because Tim had only just lost his sight a few years before this.

What struck me about them was their love for each other. At the time of this painting the fight for dignity and respect of homosexuals had largely already been won in liberal urban areas like Seattle. And this was especially true in the artistic circles I was running in. But the battle for rights to marry and have children had just begun.

So I choose to feature the love and essential humanity of them as individuals and as a couple. There were so many tender moments as they disrobed and then got dressed at each session. Some of my favorite moments were of Jim helping Tim find his clothes and then helping him into them. I still regret not doing more work inspired by these tender everyday moments.

I did, however, get a few stunning photographs and one large painting that remains one of my favorite pieces.

I suppose I wanted to think I was doing my part to help nudge the culture forward by presenting these unidealized men in the most beautifully painted way possible to convey something of the authenticity of their love for each other. Whether that helped the culture more forward or not… I don’t know. But my guess is probably not. The painting was rarely seen outside my studio. Then years later I gifted it to an art dealer who later stole many of my paintings then ended up in jail for other crimes. I suspect it’s just sitting in a storage unit now, or worse, been destroyed. But the images live on here, hopefully still conveying the beauty and tenderness that people of all kinds and orientations can feel for each other and that love is every bit as transformative wherever it shows up.

“Richard”
Photograph 
1995
 
I have already written about how important Richard was in my life as an artist, model and intellectual. So I won’t go into that here. Instead, I will comment on how I believe I did so much painting and sculpture and photography on the male nude at this time because I was coming to terms with my own manhood. The term toxic masculinity had not yet been coined, but any thinking man was well aware of the fact that blind dominance of women was over even before my work here in the early 1990’s. But what was male power to look like if it not as a force to subdue women? How could it be a thing of beauty in and of itself?  And to sharpen the question even further, how could it be fundamentally beautiful and powerful in and of itself but not be emphatically gay or for just the homosexual gaze?
 
Well, I was accused of creating gay erotica and porn on more than one occasion. But that didn’t bother me for the reasons it might bother a moral prude or a straight artist. No, it bothered me that I hadn’t yet found that something more fundamentally male. It still an adjective attached to it….in this case…gay male.   
 
This photo, and others like it, we’re the stuff of that pursuit. And the paintings that followed.  
 
The work of keeping one’s affect on the world from being toxic is never completely done. But the issue was no longer an existential crisis for me after this period. Instead, it has been more like steady maintenance with occasional deeper “check ins.” But in any case, not the kind of things that drive an artist to create.   
 
“Study For a Pieta”
 
When I took this photo of my friends in my studio in 1993 the aides epidemic was still going but there was light at the end of the tunnel.  New drugs as well as a lot of understanding about how the virus spread was giving many people hope.  Still, too many people were dying miserable deaths and way too young.  Myself and others made art to cope and to dignify those challenging times.  
 
This photo was also among the first I took of friends as sketches for my paintings.  In many cases the speed and ease of a camera as opposed to sketching allowed for a flow with my models that produced the best “studies” for my paintings.  And occasionally one of these shots would turn out to be a complete work of art in its own right by some intuitive measure.  
“The Little Red Studio”
Photograph 
2005 
 
I have already written extensively about the Little Red Studio on this website so I won’t elaborate on what that was here. This photograph captures the mixture of elegance, camp and wacky juxtapositions that were the very stuff of the Little Red studio. Here you have the luscious Madison posing like an artist’s model with a painting of a bare ass directly behind her.  Much of her and the scene is in such deep shadow one can not make out her face at all or even were she is. Is this a bar, a boudoir, a stage or an artist’s studio? The fact is, it was all of those.  

“Tableaux Vivant”
2005

This for the photograph with the women with the seashell and beautiful fabrics.

This is a photograph of a Tableaux Vivant. That is a French term for an art form that roughly translates to a “living table.” The English translation is accurate but does not convey the sense of it being an art form in and of itself like painting or ballet. People have been creating Tableaux Vivant for several hundred years. As you might imagine it has undergone many transformations and applications. In fact, an argument has been made that Tableaux Vivant is the origin of comic strips and animated film. There was a period in the 19th century where artists presented stories in a series of tableaux, in succession, with the actors not moving in between the “moments” presented.

But as far as we know, it does not date back to the era of the ancient Greeks. And therefore it does not have a muse or spirit associated with it like nine other classic artistic muses.

In more recent times you can see artists presenting themselves singularly or with others dressed and made up to look like famous sculptures or paintings and busking for money in public spaces.  These are arguably also Tableaux Vivant although there is sometimes no table.

I often found myself essentially creating a Tableaux Vivant as I arranged my models in the process of creating a painting. Often I used the ruse of it being a photo shoot in order for my models to feel familiar with the process. In the end, I had photographs that I intended to use as visual aides in the process of the painting. And in some cases, the composition and “look” of a painting would be created and complete in these sessions.

But these were not Tableaux Vivant in the formal sense of the term in 2 very specific ways.  First, they were not created as things for viewing. Instead, in a sense, they were for my eyes only. And secondly, they were not based on classical or “famous” works of art. They were, instead, the best arrangements of the models and props and lighting to create the image I wanted to paint.

That all changed sometime in the 90’s when my cellist friend and I decided to present a multimedia evening of classical music, painting and tableaux Vivant. I worked with a Butoh dance troupe to create the Tableaux as well as provide the mechanism for moving the paintings throughout the concert. That evening was called “Eleven Portraits” and featured, among other things, an original score by another friend, Sarah Bassingwaithe.

But this Tableaux Vivant really became a thing when I started the Little Red Studio a few years later in 2003. The Little Red Studio, or LRS as it was called, had Tableaux Vivant presentations almost every Friday and Saturday night. They were often erotic, thought provoking or just plain weird. Some were funny. And some made no pretense of sticking to the no movement tradition. Some where used as visual eye candy for poetry being read aloud. Or to further deepen the impact of a spoken word or musical piece. Some were used as a vehicle to present and even serve food to the audience.

Occasionally I would snap a photo of these creations with the intention of making them into grand paintings. I never did. And that is regrettable.

It’s interesting to me how an art form can grow and change over time to serve the expressive needs of artists and audiences over time. And in most cases, few if anyone even knows anything of what came before. But I did. And I do think my knowledge of the existence of this art form as well as what it could do played a meaningful role in its becoming such a prominent part of those LRS “evenings.” And without those powerful and consistent presentations of Tableaux Vivant, LRS may never have become the 10 year weekly night of magic and transformative power that it was.

At the end of each night we ended the evening with a quasi pagan, part catholic ritual gathering in the front of the room on what we called an altar. It was solemn and serious in an effort to bring the heightened sexual charge to more contained and even spiritual vibe. It worked. We called it the “anointing” and it was looked forward to by nearly everyone. It was a big part of what made LRS something different than just another party of the precursor to an orgy. It was unexpected for first timers. It was elegant, a bit strange and aside from the slow procession of candle lit players, it was yet another manifestation of the spirit of the Tableaux Vivant. The Greeks may not have invented it, but I am certain there is a muse that should be named and added to the Pantheon. I have felt it move inside me even while it’s manifestation is essentially motionless.

“The Dream of Human Life”
1994
 
This photo was inspired by a drawing of Michelangelo’s that he did late in his life.   My photo was staged and taken at nearly the beginning of my career.   I’m writing this piece almost 30 years after it was taken.  And since then I have come to understand better what it is and how it works.  I am now about the age Michelangelo was when he did the drawing.  
 
One of the main differences between the two works is the ring of humanity behind the main figures in the Michelangelo drawing and the stark blackness behind mine.  And my photo does not have a sphere representing the world or the heavens.  And of course, mine is a photograph and his is a masterful drawing.  
 
What is similar is the setting apart of one reality by virtue of a kind of altar which contains and slightly conceals another dimension.  The use of an altar is what fascinates me.  An altar is a sacred space set aside for making gifts to gods.   It is not of this world and not quite in the realm of the gods.  It is a both highly sacred and yet not quite anywhere.  It’s power is in this ambivalence.  It is charged.   
 
And on my altar I have assembled a group of 3 men that are in some conglomeration of huddling, cuddling and barely hanging on.  
They have in fact formed a temple of flesh.  
And under the altar is a single male figure apparently uncomfortably alone.  Even struggling a bit, maybe even in anguish, but not overtly so.  
 
Above, the altar is covered with a white sheet.  In sharp contrast a black clothe spills out from under the figure under the altar like a black tongue or fluid leaking from something filled with a vile liquid.  
 
And yes, the composition and the black have a majesty even something noble.  I don’t know what I was thinking exactly.   But I know I loved these men and had such respect for their willingness to come explore in my studio.   I remember showing them a photo of Michelangelo’s drawing and off they went.  Somewhere in a box in my studio there are many more shots from this evening.  Perhaps somewhere in that box there are clues to what this is all about.  
 
It’s not as simple as one world is real another a dream.   They are both real and both a dream.   They oscillate.   Maybe in another 30 years, if I am lucky enough to have that many more, I will have a better understanding of why I am so certain this shot is significant.   
“Which Mary”
Photo taken in my studio in 2004
 
Painting: “Veiled Mary”
Oil/canvas
36” x 24”
2005
 
The photo was taken in my art studio with no intent of making a painting from it.  This was, from the outset, meant to be a photograph as art.   
For people like myself who grew up Christian but never really paid much attention, I am at least aware that there are 2 big Mary’s in the Christian pantheon of important people.   One is the mother of Jesus and the other was his girlfriend…..well…she was actually the town whore who was taken in by Jesus and his groupies.   But let’s call a spade a spade….she was his girlfriend.  We are, after all, expected to accept that he is the son of God and his mother got pregnant without having sex…..so….I’m calling her “girlfriend.”   Besides, it’s more interesting that way.   
 
In any case, the two Mary’s represent chastity and …..well….whatever it’s opposite is.  And that set of polarities has always been puzzling to me.  This photo was an attempt to compress the 2 onto one woman.  I wasn’t confident in how well that was working so I did a painting to try again.  
 
Do either of them work?   Sometimes paintings completely fail to do what you set out to express and end up conveying something equally if not more powerful.  
 
Jamie

“Jamie with Honeydew Melon”
1996

By the time I shot this photo I had already absorbed and digested the work of Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell. You can see that here in this photo. The geometry is Rothko. The elegant use of black, very Motherwell.   
 
I’m also very interested in the strategic if not odd placement of a singular object from nature which I think was my way of turning it into a symbol of something  greater than itself.  In this case, it’s a honeydew melon on her stomach.  Jamie’s pose is more than a little affected although not completely. However, the placement of the melon is completely affected. Who lies down with a large melon on their belly?
 
Still….it works somehow. And is more interesting as a photo than the shot taken just before this one without the melon.   
 
This shot did inspire a painting.  I have included it here. As I write this story about my photo in 2023 now roughly 30 years after shooting it and doing the painting, I am feeling like there is a lot more to say here. There may be another painting coming out of this old shot. And this future painting will probably have a melon.  
 

”Marni & Gillette”
2000

Most of my photography is in the service of my painting. The photographs are often intended as sketches for paintings including large concept shots or close up details. But sometimes I take a shot that I know will never be a painting.  And in most cases where I am sure it won’t be a painting is when there is too much “environment” in the story of the shot. This kind of space just doesn’t translate well to painting…at least not the way I paint.   
 
The drama between the two figures is clearly the main part of the “story.” But the large sweeping tarp, the messy painting wall and large amount of so called “empty space” around the figures is also a big part of what makes this photo work. And exactly what is preventing me from wanting to paint it.  
 
So here it is.  Just a photograph.     
 

“Jordan in a Dress”
1995

Now that I am approaching my mid sixties, I have seen several generations of people “come of age.” One of the interesting things to me is how wonderful it is that each generation thinks they are doing something so fresh and daring and original. And is, for the most part, completely uninterested in preceding generations “discovering” the same things for themselves and their generation.   
 
This is particularly true or at least visible with counterculture or non mainstream currents like transgender or transvestite cultures. But Jordon and his peers were already in their 40’s and 50’s when I shot this photo and many others of this group of friends in the mid 90’s. They had been cross dressing for at least 20 years by this time. For them it was not new. But it was no less exciting and no less apart of their personas. They loved cross dressing whenever their was the slightest excuse: a party, a volunteer drive, a walk in the park or a photo shoot at an artist’s studio. With one exception, these men were all gay and lived emancipated lives with regard to their homosexuality. But they only cross dressed on special occasions. The one exception was a straight guy who always dressed as a woman. I never saw him in men’s clothing.  
 
I am so grateful to have known these men and to have been included in their circle as a peer. Richard Jessup, who appears in other photos and paintings on this site is the one of the few I still know and work with.   
 

Little Red Studio: Madison In the Studio
2004

I would never create a painting like this. Well, it’s very unlikely that I would. This is an image that is as much about the room as the figure in it. Yes, Mary is arguably the central aspect of interest. Without her lying there on the “alter” I would not include the photograph here on the website. It just wouldn’t be interesting enough.

But as a painting, it just would not work. And I would not want to spend days if not weeks painting the so called background just in order to paint this tiny figure in the middle. In order for her to be big enough to be interesting I would need to make the canvas about 8’ x 10’ if not larger.

But as a photograph it works. And on the website it appears as the same size as paintings I have done that are 8 x 10’ or larger. And they have a roughly equal visual impact in this setting. In real life the painting would be nearly overwhelming and the photo would be a tiny thing on my desk barely even noticed.

That is, in fact, one reason I decided to include a section on photography on my art website.   Photography has been both an important tool for me creating my paintings. But it has also been an end in itself. This photograph particularly was shot as a work of art, not as a “sketch” for a painting.

I am interested in space after all. Usually this shows up as either landscape space or the space that is implied in a volume. My figures are almost always volumetric, not flat. But I have hardly ever painted interior architectural space like you see in this photograph. I’m not sure why. It’s especially curious because I enjoy looking at this photo and “feeling” the space. And I even wonder what it would be like to experience a large painting like this. Perhaps one day I will do it… or more likely… one year it may take that long to create.

“Little Red Studio: Madison Reclining”
2004

Many of these photos were set up and shot with the idea of using them as sketches for paintings. I also painted from life with a model sitting or “being” in my studio for extended periods of time. But some people were just not available for that or that just wasn’t in their character.  The photo shoots therefore became these highly rarefied events which often produced some exciting results, results I was very excited to paint. 
 
For some reason, I never did a painting inspired by this one.  For me, though, it is never too late. I keep a tray on my table in my studio. It’s full of old photographs that “someday” I’m going to paint.  This one is still there.  

“The Artist and his Wife”
1999

I shot this photo of my wife and I shortly after we were married. It was part of an effort to paint a large painting celebrating our union. I was inspired by a painting that Peter Paul Rubens painted of he and his wife shortly after they were married.   
 
But this is nothing like that. And, I never did the painting.  
 
I have asked myself for years, what is going on here. And 30 years after it was shot and 20 plus years since my divorce, I still don’t know. Is it just playful goofing around or does it say something if not mysterious about our relationship or the way I “saw” the relationship.   
 
First of all, this is shot in my studio. And specifically in the spot where I had by this time spent nearly 10 years making art. It was, in short, a sacred spot for me. And that is Melinda, my new wife, for whom I am so grateful that she was willing to play along and let me create this and a whole evening worth of creative photography.   
 
But, among many great shots, this is the one. The others are cute or funny or beautiful or flattering. This one, is all of those. And yet something else as well. Something I still can’t identify.  
 
And I still can’t say why I never painted it. It would be easy to say that I didn’t paint it because the photo already says it all. But that’s not really true. There is some other reason that niggles at me. Perhaps I should stretch a canvas some day soon and just get started, if for no other reason than to resolve these questions about a very important person and relationship in my life. We are no longer married but we remain friends and continue to work together to be parents to our kids.  

“Adam & Eve”
2000

At some level this is just a photograph of a painting in my studio. But ever since I shot this picture nearly 20 years ago I have always been intrigued by it. The painting is actually a shallow cabinet.  It is depicted here in its closed position. And it is sitting on my painting bench. Back in the days when this photo was taken artists would usually take slide photos of their work. In order to minimize doing a lot of cropping with silver tape applied directly to the film, we would drape the wall with a special soft black fabric.

After shooting the slide film I probably reloaded the camera with black and white film and took this shot. I think it is interesting that the flowers are close to us but out of focus. The painting of the human backs are in sharp focus. Also, there is a seemingly random amount of white wall behind the black fabric. Furthermore the floor is white.

I think it is the floating quality of the black area with the painting which creates a kind of mysterious space that makes the photo so intriguing. If the floor was wood or painted a darker color it would not work as well. Also, the effect would be diminished if the black backdrop went all the way off the edges.

In any case, I have had this photo lying around my studio for years and it keeps drawing my eye. The truth is I really don’t know why. I have tried to find design elements to explain that fascination. But perhaps it’s nostalgia for an earlier chapter of my life. Or maybe it’s that I love that painting so much. I guess it doesn’t really matter why it continues to be so interesting. Like great paintings and my favorite people, it may be that the very fact that I can’t nail it down, define it or say how it works is the very thing that keeps drawing me back to it.

“Little Red Studio: Pimp & Ho”
2005

When I took this photo the models Carmi and Sophie lamented the blurry focus and over exposed light areas.   But those were and remain aspects of the shot that make it work.  This is a “studio” shot with members of my theatrical troupe role playing and rehearsing an act for an upcoming show. 
 
 Carmie is not a pimp and Sophie is not his or anybody’s ho.  And the “incorrect focus and lighting” help convey this. Carmi is both blurry and in heavy shadow.  Sophie is over exposed and as a result appears to be wearing a mask.   In both cases their individuality is masked adding to the archetypal dynamic.   
 
This photo was shot with the intention of making a painting.   That was almost 20 years ago.  I still haven’t gotten around to doing it.  But it seems more relevant than ever.   Maybe I will get to it soon. 
 

Artist & Model
1998

This is actually not an artist and his model… not really. This is the model and her boyfriend, who often came along to hang out while I painted her and in this case picked up his own camera to take a picture of his sweetheart.

This couple commissioned me to do a painting of her. It was to be done from life. Usually I begin these kind of commissions by taking photos because this is the way most people feel most comfortable being seen… by an artist with a camera. It is in these moments that I usually find the painting. “The painting” is usually some combination of the pose, the lighting and the way the background becomes part of the concept and design. Then I have some photos to refer to when the model is not present.

Here, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I saw him preparing to take a photo and I moved to the right place quickly to place him in line with her so that their profiles matched like puzzle pieces and snapped the photo.

It’s cute. But it also suggests something about the separation and connection between artist and model.

“Little Red Studio: Coyote Dream”
2005

Coyote was a dear friend and gifted poet who early on became an active member of the Little Red Studio community.  Despite his severe Parkinson’s and diabetes and having only one eye as a result of a car accident in his youth, he frequently performed in our weekly shows and wrote many poems, anthems and closing ceremonial scripts.  He passed away in 2017 due to complications of diabetes and Parkinson’s.  He is sorely missed.  
 
Alexa was also a member of the Little Red Studio Troupe.  She was also a poet and a performer.  And she was without a doubt a muse to many other artists and guests with her youthful and playful spirit.   
 
This photograph captures the pivot point where lust gives way to inspiration.   It is clear that this older man has surrendered something to this goddess draped over his shoulders.   He is experiencing the inhalation of her energy….he is quite literally being inspired.   And she in turn is not enduring some unpleasant chore.  She has drawn confidence and poise from this moment.   It is an exchange that results in something greater than the addition of its parts.   It is the very definition of a gift exchange, unreckomed, no expectation and with transformational, not accrued  results.  
 
It is a moment.    A true tableaux vivant and decent photograph.  

“Invisible Theater: Hanging Man”
1999

I shot this during a rehearsal for a theatrical production I helped create called the Invisible Theater. The Hanged One refers to one of the major cards in the Tarrot Deck. The card is often interpreted as the necessity of enduring hardship to discover hidden truths or literally the need to turn oneself upside down in order to see things with fresh eyes.   
 
In this case my friends also chose to stage the scene with a masked creature manipulating the rope. This adds the possibility of an alter ego or elder manipulating the process by which the hanged one undergoes his process of suffering and discovery.   
 
In some versions of the Tarrot it is the Hanged One who discovers writing. Instead of placing some symbolic device on the floor beneath him I chose to feature him just beginning to enter pools of darkness which are partially his own shadow.  
 
The whole shot is exposed improperly and many would have thrown it away. But now that film and film affects are a thing of the past, this particular affect of the incorrect exposure adds to the affect of this being some secret ritual or a thing going on in one’s imagination.  

“Hiroshima Butoh”
Wax and oil paint on photograph
20” x 24”
1998

In 1996 I saw my first Butoh dance performance at a park in Seattle. It was a local company doing a tribute to the bombing of Hiroshima on the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb. I was blown away. It was an astonishing moment of complete aesthetic arrest.

Days later I researched who they were and contacted their leader, Joan Laage. I succeeded in convincing her to do a redux of the dance in my studio so that I could paint it. And I did. It is a gigantic piece 21’ long and 8’ tall. I worked up the paintings from photos I took in my studio that day.

Later I printed some of them in a lab and then painted them.

This is Joan interacting with one of the members of her troupe.
Even before spreading hot wax on the print and smearing it with oil paint and dirt, the dancers convey bewilderment and longing. But the obfuscations and scratching marks further the impression of the mess and destruction of anything that survives a nuclear blast. And yet, there is beauty and even elegance here.

“Jo in the Studio”
1996

 
These photographs were taken with the intent of being studies for paintings the way artists traditionally use sketches.  And, to be sure, the photo sessions with Jo resulted in many paintings.   I sometimes did several paintings inspired by one photograph.  
 
During the session I would figure out the lighting, the pose and even a sense of what it’s all about right there in the midst of doing it.    Often I would have one or two poses in mind before Jo would show up for the shoot.   And to be sure my aesthetic became more formed as I went along making it easier to get the studio ready before my model would arrive.   
 
Usually when a male artist makes art of a young beautiful woman the purpose is quite straight forward: a celebration of the beauty of a young woman……nothing wrong with that.   I’m not even one to say there is anything wrong with this degrading to pornography.  That has its place too.  But my intentions were more complex and subtle.  And definitely less certain.  
 
Looking back with the perspective of time I think what makes these images work is the juxtaposition of the young nude woman with the black rugged and heavily shadowed studio.  There is a tension in that contrast as well as in the arrangements of the shapes and shadows themselves.  They suggest youth and decay but in an elegant way.    And the presence of the pumpkins punctuates and hints at what might also have been driving the creation of these images: a love of Autumn and it’s aesthetics of lengthening shadows, contrasts of the bounty of harvest and the falling leaves.   And perhaps most compelling of all, a sense of premonition…..in this case that winter, old age and death are all approaching.  
 
That’s a lot to heap on a couple of nude pics.    The question is, do they hold up!   

“Crouching Jo With Pumpkin”
1996

“Jo Seated”
1996

“Jo in the Studio”
1996

“Jo in the Studio”
1996

“Pam”
2001

This was the first and only time I was paid to take a picture of someone. Pam and her husband wanted a nude black and white photo of her. They probably wanted a painting as well, but they could not even afford my modest prices.  
 
I agreed with terms but added the caveat that I was free to make paintings from the photos. They agreed. I never did until 2022 when I did a painting inspired by a couple of shots from this shoot. The painting is not finished yet. When it is complete I will add it here for comparison’s sake.