Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Painted Light of Transformation: An art film's naked rebirth

What change is happening in our own lives?
If we heard the story of the caterpillar and the butterfly, but never saw it for ourselves, would we believe it was true?  The spectacle of a crawling creature changing into a beautiful one that flies is an incredible one.  We might think it’s a fairy tale unless we could observe it with our own eyes. Some may conclude that change in our lives on such a grand scale is also a fantasy because we can’t see it happening. One of my recent short films explores the metamorphosis of endings and new beginnings.

Painted Light was made so the viewer could interpret it on several levels.  (You can watch the film by clicking on the link here and then enable full screen and HD viewing).  When the film begins with a caterpillar and the sound of a heart monitor flat lining, one immediately thinks of death.  The scenes of high contrast light, a butterfly and sounds of children playing can lead you to conclude that this represents the afterlife. While there are so many traditions that discuss what happens (or doesn’t happen) to us after death, it may be of more value to talk about the transformations that occur while we are still alive. People have the capacity to drastically transform their lives for the better. Many of us know someone trapped in a cycle of addiction that was able to positively turn their life around. Others reinvent themselves via a new career path, or find renewed hope in mentoring a younger generation.

Screen shot from the film
A personal example of transformation in my own life has been the power of forgiveness. The pain caused by others, particularly those close to us, can ensnare us into a web of suffering that is hard to let go.  I have found that forgiving others has allowed me to move on with my life in a positive direction. Forgiveness affirms the best part of ourselves and transforms pain into the hope of a new beginning. The male nude emergence scene in the film reminds me of this process.

Our lives can change in dramatic ways. If we think we are stuck, that we can’t move forward in dynamic ways, then our lives become a fairy tale: not the one where everyone lives happily ever after, but rather the one where the narrative’s dark origins never see the light of day. We can all agree that there is no perfect life. There’s just life. Are we getting on with ours?

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

What does our reaction to male nude art, or any art, say about us?

What does our reaction to art say about us? There are two stories that inspire today’s blog question. The first one involved a time when I entered several male nude photographs for an art show’s open call. I was told by the person coordinating the caIl that a gallery couldn’t accept them into the show due to past history. Apparently one of the gallery’s resident artists left because he was upset over a previous display of male nudes.  She said that they couldn’t risk alienating anyone else (the gallery had apparently no issues displaying female nudes).

The second story involved a photographer acquaintance of mine who had an art show that contained both male and female nudes.  He was listening to people’s responses to the work. One man looked at the female nude and remained silent. When he came to the male nude, he made a despairing remark about the photographer. Both works were created by the same artist.

Nude photography isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Some may not like it at all, while others may prefer looking at one gender or another. These personal preferences are understandable. The question that the two stories present is not about liking or not liking something. It’s about why the male nude was so threatening to the two men in these stories. What insecurities led to such over the top and crude responses?  While we can speculate about what’s going on in someone’s head, it’s better to examine what’s going on in ours. If you look at art and it makes you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself why. Does it make you aware of your own prejudges and insecurities that you don’t want to see?  Is it quietly calling you to deal with difficult issues or even do something to change them? Our response to art is an opportunity to examine ourselves and make us into better people. Are we paying attention to what it’s telling us?

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Male Nude: Hero Myth of the Masculine Journey

There’s a magical moment when you’re reading a hero myth and suddenly realize that the hero myth is reading you. This ebook project was the marriage between my interest in the mythology of the hero's journey and male figurative photography. This pairing allowed me to explore deeper introspective issues of masculinity. When going through the photographs that I had taken of men over the years, it seemed clear that there was a story being told here. I wanted to make a story something you could read,  so I wrote a haiku for each photograph. These haikus created a narrative about overcoming fear, finding who you are and helping others. The resulting story that came out of this was a myth about a sun demon burning villages throughout the countryside. The threat calls an ordinary man to take action to save his homeland.  

The hero's journey template that was identified by mythologist Joseph Campbell spans across  all cultures. Since all men are on a quest of self discovery, I felt that using multiple male models seemed appropriate to represent this universal aspect. My hope is that this book holds up a mirror to who we are as men. Male Nude: Hero Myth of the Masculine Journey is available for presale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple iTunes.  For more information, please visit my website,