Out of it…

I’m feeling, well, out of it.

I had a marvellous and challenging weekend. Never let it be said that urso isn’t a delightful houseguest (among other things). So I should be an occupant of the planet Blisstonia these days and yet – not.

Sunday I missed out on Folsom Street East, heading instead down to Baltimore to be part of a panel on Black Aesthetics at the BMA, as part of the opening ceremonies for Kerry James Marshall’s touring exhibition, “One True Thing”. The show was a brave and impressive one: Kerry has taken on the issue of “what is a black aesthetic?” and made a huge number of works in many different modes that all reflect various takes on that problem. A real stretch for him and almost Homeric in it’s fusion of local incedent and grand themes.

As for us on the panel, it was the usual mix of earnestness and misunderstanding that happens when people get together to try to talk about things that mean a great deal to them in front of a bunch of strangers. We got bogged down on various points and had to thrash through to some sort of clarity. I’m interested in these events, and I see them as an important part of what I do, but they are only rarely a “good time”.

The best part of the day, aside from getting to see Kerry, his wife Cheryl and curator Thelma Golden, was getting to ride the Acela express to and from Baltimore. It’s a smooth and comfortable, almost European ride. I wish that rail travel hadn’t declined so much, because I much prefer it to flying.

I find myself coming up against the issues of how much I actually want to put in this journal. Part of my vagueness stems from once again being unsure what it’s all for. Perhaps this is just anxiety about the impending month at Bard and the sense that I’m unprepared for that.

0 Comments +

  1. Things that make you go hmmmm….

    I’m trying to be careful with my comments here, in part because I’m not quite sure what feelings you are expressing in this entry. But forgive me for selfishly using this to open the door for discussing something that I’ve wanted to get your take on for some time now. I hope our relative unfamiliarity with each other doesn’t hinder you from indulging me.

    I’m always wondering about the “black aesthetic” in art, sexuality, life, etc. As an African-American/gay/male/artist, you could say it informs most of my being. I was talking with some time ago and mentioned that you and I had added each other as lj friends. In talking about what a cool guy you were, she mentioned that you were bi/multi-racial. It piqued my interest because, though I hadn’t been peeking at your journal for very long, I gathered more about your sexuality and art from your journal, rather than your ethnicity (I apologize if I didn’t read enough). At any rate, it seemed like an opportunity to pick someone’s brain about a bunch of stuff that’s been swirling around my own dome for years now. I’ll try to make it brief.

    I recently ended a 3+ year relationship (my first “real” one) with my boyfriend. We are both 29, African-American, and at the time that we got together, recently out and/or confronting our sexuality and dealing with it. We came a long way with each other. We also happen to both be “bears” (maybe more like “cubs”…labels) and admirers of the same. It has been my feeling that we were something of an anomoly in not just the bear community but the gay community as a whole. Someone once commented, sort of sarcastically, that we were a rarity, a black gay couple. The observation, however it was intended, was not lost on me. My ex and I didn’t get together “because” we were both black. Our appreciation of men knows no color. But the fact that we shared that one other commonality was a bonus.

    Here’s where I might have to start censoring myself because I’ll need to start going into more personal territory. Maybe there’s a way we can move this discussion to email or something. Some questions to ponder…

    Is there a “black aesthetic” in the gay/bear/leather/kink community? If so, is it visible? Fetishized? Exoticized?

    How is the “black aesthetic” in the gay/bear/leather/kink community affected by skin color/tone?

    How does one begin to gain confidence in their sexuality when there aren’t many people who look like them in the communities that they are attracted to?

    If you please…

  2. I find that the Acela between Washington and New York isn’t as comfortable as the trip north of New York to Boston. (SL-)Amtrak constructed a special track designated Acela only, and the ride is smoooooooth.

    Speaking of Blacks and Homer, ever read Derek Walcott’s treatment of the theme?

  3. Re: Things that make you go hmmmm….

    I was also part of a panel discussion about Marshall’s work and issues as it relates to my own and my experience as an artist. Marshall was not in Miami at the time of the panel and I was the oldest and, the only person that had some aspects of my life paralell his: I was living in L.A., CA at the same time as him, he was influenced by the Black Panters, I was influenced by US Organization (Dr. Maulana Karenga), and we both were involved in the question about how to get past the racism we faced in the art world part of which involved looking for a black aesthetic as it arose out of the “Black Power” movement.

    Hoping Nayland doesn’t mind me saying all this, I am also editor of http://www.miamiartexchange.com and seem to have some kind of contribution to the multiple discussions on art in S. Florida, even though it may be minimal. Nayland as contributed a few words to the site for which I’m very thankful.

    At any rate, you’ve asked some rather large questions that would seem more than an “off the top of the head” type of answer. Even though your questions are directed to Nayland, maybe I can drop in a word or two about art (as I’m not really involved with a leather community).

  4. Re: Things that make you go hmmmm….

    I am not sure about the “black aesthetic” but I have seen hot black men in gay/bear/leather/kink art. Look at some of The Hun’s drawings (http://www.hunart.com/)and some of Tom of Finland’s work. I am sure there are others but that is what comes to mind right now.

  5. Re: Things that make you go hmmmm….

    There’s no way for me to say anything about a “black aesthetic” in any of these communities, other than to say that from the outside there’s clearly some sort of black aesthetic(s) in the overall gay world, that in the bear world I wonder if there’s a critical mass of black bears to form such an aesthetic, and I can’t speak to leather/kink.

    “How does one begin to gain confidence in their sexuality when there aren’t many people who look like them in the communities that the are attracted to?” – start a magazine, set up conventions/meets/clubs, and have lots and lots of sex, just like the bears did 🙂

  6. Re: Things that make you go hmmmm….

    This is a lot to respond to – if a little vague – at first let me just say that I have found the bear community to be no different from the rest of the Gay male community in terms of its relative lack of comprehension about matters racial. I’ve met men of color who were both involved with the bear and leather communities on both coasts, and for a while there was an attempt to encourage the bear and chub magazines, while they were going concerns to locate more racially diverse models. For the most part it seems that unless folks are specifically bonding around race in a gay way (i.e. BWMT), the communities and the depictions of those communities remain over- whelmingly white.

    How can this change? By people doing their own organizing, doing it without resentment and doing it in an ongoing way. The “bear scene” as we know it happened this way, and it’s the only way that things get established. We have to bring together new communities, and encourgae those that we are already part of to think and speak more openly about race.

    These are preliminary sketchy thoughts, and in rereading your post, they don’t really answer your questions, so – more to come later, probably in a different entry.

  7. I had a wonderful time visiting. It’s so wonderful getting to hang around such an intelligent, thoughtful, and creative person.

    I just wish I could have stayed longer and that you could have joined us at Folsom Street East.

    I really do plan to visit New York far more often.

  8. Re: Things that make you go hmmmm….

    This is a lot to respond to – if a little vague – at first let me just say that I have found the bear community to be no different from the rest of the Gay male community in terms of its relative lack of comprehension about matters racial. I’ve met men of color who were both involved with the bear and leather communities on both coasts, and for a while there was an attempt to encourage the bear and chub magazines, while they were going concerns to locate more racially diverse models. For the most part it seems that unless folks are specifically bonding around race in a gay way (i.e. BWMT), the communities and the depictions of those communities remain over- whelmingly white.

    How can this change? By people doing their own organizing, doing it without resentment and doing it in an ongoing way. The “bear scene” as we know it happened this way, and it’s the only way that things get established. We have to bring together new communities, and encourgae those that we are already part of to think and speak more openly about race.

    These are preliminary sketchy thoughts, and in rereading your post, they don’t really answer your questions, so – more to come later, probably in a different entry.

  9. Re: Things that make you go hmmmm….

    When I worked for Brush Creek Media, I would get an earful from lots of people about how they felt the magazines were all diverging on one particular type. People’s tastes are more diverse than our culture likes to imagine, but marketing tries to find that midpoint in a scatter chart that’s “close enough” to people’s tastes to create as large of a consumer base as possible.

    I think there’s a tendency in magazines such as BEAR Magazine (where most of the models come from the readership itself) to self-perpetuate the type. People don’t submit photos if they don’t think they’re what BEAR is looking for (too fat, too skinny, too hippyish, too bikerish, too “ethnic,” etc.), so BEAR ends up publishing that type. In BEAR Magazine’s case, the models were starting to all be kinda-muscled, kinda-fat, goateed white men in their 30’s or 40’s.

    I think the challenge of a good editor is to really work toward finding models that cover the whole spectrum of tastes.

    I’m not just saying that for political or sociological reasons. I think it’s good from a marketing perspective as well. Putting on my “evil marketing” hat, I think people buy pornographic magazines (or other media) because at least one or two of the models are attractive to them. For myself, a magazine could have four hairless 18 year old blond surfer dudes, but if there’s one long-bearded biker type, I’ll considering grabbing it (or myself).

    I realize my post isn’t so much about racial equity, an issue that I’m particularly interested in, but I thought I’d give a bit of a glimpse into how these magazines are put together and how the added unique feature of a readership itself appearing in a magazine can help to create a trend toward homogeny.

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