Visit, but not live.

Karl and the Bear's tooth - 062616

I travel a lot for pleasure and work.  One of my first reactions when I get to a nice place is to think if I would want to live there.  I look at what life would be like there, including, housing, entertainment, work, art, etc., all the things worth living for in a place.  Almost all the time, the answer is the same, great place to visit, but not to live.

Last week I was in Montana, and I mean IN.  I drove over 2200 miles in that state in 7 days and rarely repeated the same section of road.  I saw Glacier National Park, Fort Peck Dam, Yellowstone National Park, and drove through the big Montana cities of Missoula, Kalispell, Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman, and Billings.  Some how I missed Butte, one of the greatest gems in America, but I've been there quite a bit.

I grew up in Montana and still have family there.  I visit it twice per year to help out on my parents' land and around the home.  I love that state.  It is a part of me, my heart, my loins, my art, my spirit, but...  it isn't home anymore.

I looked at what it would be like to live in Great Falls, Butte, and Red Lodge.  I explored so many options, but in the end I realized, I left their in 1997 for a reason.

There are many reasons I prefer the Bay Area and Las Vegas, but to list them would seem anti-Montana and kind of mean.  I love that state and am glad I can visit it and love it.

On a side note, this photo was taken at 10,800 feet in elevation near the top of the Beartooth Pass.  It is one of my spiritual homes.  I treated myself to a short hike (air is thin and hiking is hard there) and meditated for 15 minutes.

I closed my eyes and focused on breathing.  I tried to be present to all the senses other than vision.  I got lost in that world and forgot where I was.  As my timer went off telling me my 15 minutes were up, I opened my eyes and this was the scene before me.  I started weeping from the grandeur of the moment and my being a small part of it.  I felt so alive after that.  In another post, I will tell you about the clouds above me and how they die.

PS - The mountain range is named after the tiny, craggy, tooth shaped peak you can see at the top far right of the image, the last little point along the horizon before hitting the photo's edge.


Big heart, no stones to exit.

Luna Lain - 052216
When I was a teen I had a big heart and no confidence.  I could never show my interest in a lady without my nervousness and fear holding me back from talking to them with intent.  Instead of trying to start a romantic relationship, I ended up being the very good friend.  These relationships became anchors that pulled me under emotionally polluted waters.

I have a big heart and try to fix things.  It's a very guy thing to do to try and fix things when something, or somebody, is broken.  With a something, the fixing is usually easier because the object has no feelings, so it can just be fixed without having to accept change.

With people (both genders), I tend to gather birds with continually hurt wings.  I must give off a vibe of big heart and care.  By getting into these caring and nurturing relationships, I get embroiled in the sufferers woes.  I give advice, loan assets, help people move, and try to comfort.

Since those days, I gained confidence in relationships to start and grow them into romantic entanglements.  My quiet, introverted charms coupled with the big heart, worked well to seduce the injured birds.  I genuinely cared for them as the relationship grew, but I also knew that with adults, intimately emotional relationships that focused on talking about things of the heart (life, love, failures, ruined relationships, mid-life regrets and aspirations will quickly connect both hearts and genitals.  I fully own that I wanted deep, intimate relationships, but only as a side bar.  I never wanted them to become a single, monogamous thing.  In harsh terms, I was an emotional user that used deeply without an exit strategy.  I am ashamed of that part of me.

While I was great at starting these relationships with the hope of getting to know the person and experience a piece of life with them, including sex, I am really lousy at ending these relationships.  A few years ago I got into the mother-of-all-bad-using relationships.  In the beginning it was my fault for planting, nurturing, and using this bad relationship for my selfish needs.  She matured it into a monster for both us.

For the sake of brevity, I am not going to dump the whole Yolanda (not her name) story today, just share the three important lessons I learned from it. First, don't use matters of the heart to get into a person's pants. That is using. Second, communicate expectations of an open relationship ahead and check in often on how both sides feel. Love can develop, but expectations must be kept or the relationship should be negotiated or ended. Third, recognize when it needs to end it, and have the hutzpah to end it. The cleaner and quicker the cut, the sooner everyone can heal.

None of this is to excuse what I do/did. I am both a monster and a monster's victim in that horrible relationship. I learned, at great cost, that having a big heart and using it to use others (without their knowing the overall goal), is wrong and will deeply hurt.

Photo credit - the incredible Luna Lain. More of her coming soon.


Feeling honored! Thanks Univers d'Artistes

Model Inertia Creeps - 051516

I was interviewed by the great and legendary nude art blog - Univers d'Artistes (UdA)

Please go read my interview and then go down the rich rabbit hole of that inspirational blog.  YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.  I am both proud and humbled by this.

Thanks to Terrell from UdA and Photo Anthems for thinking of me for this honor.  You are good friend and amazing photographer.  Lunch on me next time. 

I love working with Inertia Creeps.  She is a gem. 


Dusting off a blog... (blows into mic, "Can anyone hear me? Is anyone out there?")

Model Inertia Creeps - 051416

Shit.  It's been almost two years and I am finally blogging here again.  Here is a quick catch-up:

I had a great partner-blog - Shadows Exposed -   that fizzled out due to life changes for both me and my partner.  Those things happen.  After that I got away from blogging and focused on my own health and figuring out how to make art again.  I'd hit some emotional walls and needed to figure out what I wanted to create.

I am back and this is now my main blog for all my nude work.

This photo is of the great Inertia Creeps from the Bay Area.   I will write more about her, but she is an amazing model and photographer.

Chat more soon. 


Does seeing a nude photo of a dude make me gay?

5th and 51st, NYC  061314

I recently read a friend's writing on how overall there are few artistic photos of nude men, but there is a recent trend of male celebrities doing "implied nudes" or slightly covered nudes.  It got me to thinking why there are few nude art photos of men.  My thoughts of this have evolved from the obvious to a more nuanced and even bigoted reasons there are so few photos of nude men compared women. 

In the past, I felt the reason was that men have external bits compared to women.  The obvious penis draws the eye instantly and seems much more extreme than just being able to see the pubic hair of women.  It makes us see him as not only nude, but naked.  If he has anything more than a purely flaccid penis, it adds so much more charge to the image.  A woman's arousal is much less immediately obvious visually.

Recently, I've evolved my thoughts on this topic.  My new thoughts come from the realities conveyed in photography vs. paintings and other media.  There are many paintings and statues of nude men, many showing penises, some even have erections.  It is a different world for photography.

Let's say I recreated through photography a classic painting that had a nude male.   During this recreation, I match color, lighting, even the model looks as identical as possible.  I am willing to say that photo would be judged more harshly because of the reality of photography.

If I paint someone, I am taking what is perceived in my brain, through my eyes, and then I transfer to the canvas with brushes and paint.  It has been reduced in realism by being filtered through my brain and hand.  People feel a disconnect to the subject as being real because they know I could have changed any details, grand or subtle, due to the freedom of a blank canvas.  They know this is how I saw and recreated it, not a direct capture of the moment.

If I photograph that person, you are seeing a literal visual recording of that person.  We trust photographs to be true (even though Photoshop is causing us to question that now) at a logical and instinctual level.  That "realness" makes us feel an immediate connection as a witness to the moment, not just a viewer of a recreation.

Now, let us take that to photographing nudes versus painting them.  If I paint a nude, it means I could of used a photo as inspiration or had a live art model in front of me, or just recreated a memory or a creation from the ether of my mind.   If I photograph a nude, that means I was in the same room, the same moment with that model.  It is proof!  It brings up questions of my intent, my interactions, my relationship with the model.  It is much more personal.

Let us now say it is a male versus female.  We get into the physical external and visible parts while not seeing the internal parts.  We are seeing a real penis vs a woman's pubic hair is much more obvious in a photo than a painting.  This photo then feels and is perceived as real.  What does that mean?  It means I am making the viewer share a moment with that naked model and his nudity.  This can make many people, especially men who are uncomfortable with homosexuality, and anything that could feel "gay", even if the photo is not erotic.

Now I am going to go to a recent non-art world example.  Video and photos make us feel intimately close to the subject.  When Michael Sam, an openly gay football player, found out he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams he kissed his boyfriend in celebration.  So many people thought it was disgusting and that Sam was forcing his "gay lifestyle" into their faces.  It was too real for them to handle.  If it had been a cartoon or a painting of their kiss, it may not have been as shocking to some.  The double standard though is that if he had a girlfriend and gave her the same kiss, no one would have cared or complained.  For many, this homophobia may live below their conscious level and be more of a visceral, primal reaction that influences their cognitive thinking.

For many, that realism of photography makes them share a space with a naked man (or a football player kissing his boyfriend) and sadly so many can't get past that and just truly evaluate and appreciate the art for what it is.  This is true for nudes of women, but due to so many millions more photos of nude women being out there and also with less perceived feelings of threat by their nudity, the feelings may feel more directed as wanting a connection to the female models*.

Maybe someday we will see enough nude men that those of us threatened by internal homosexual phobias and bigoted beliefs that lay below our conscious minds will get past our initial reactions.  I hope this is changing sooner than I think it really is. 

 *Please note, I am only scratching the surface of how women are objectified in all aspects of our culture and also how it is accepted as "normal".  I don't mean to diminish or trivialize those issues, challenges, and problems.


Can art be separated from its creators?

False Idols - 022814

I read a dark humored piece at The Onion concerning the recent trials and tribulations of Woody Allen and the allegations by Mia Farrow's daughter, Dylan about his sexually abusing her as a child*.  In this satirical piece, the Onion makes us confront a difficult question - how do we reconcile our appreciation of Allen's creative greatness and the quandary his alleged actions puts his fans and supporters in? I recently read a piece about a similar conundrum about appreciating the musical production genius of Phil Spector while contending with his sick masochistic nature.  My internal question is, can we still appreciate their art?

There are multiple artists in most genres that have created critically acclaimed art that was tarnished by their actions, behaviors, beliefs, etc. Along with Spector and Allen, Roman Polanski fled to exile to avoid a trial for raping a 13 year old girl.  Polanski also created the masterpiece, Chinatown. I still relish watching that movie, but wonder if I should watch it due to Polanski's history.

Maybe there are two questions.  First, can someone be redeemed by their art?  Second, if they can't be redeemed by it, can we still appreciate it as its own entity while not heaping praise upon its creators?

I believe in redemption, but it comes from actions to mediate and remedy the sins.  The guilty must make amends before redemption.  From what I've seem, none of these accused have taken a step toward redemption through their art.  So, that answers the first question.

Should we separate art from the artists?  When I create art, most of the pieces have no title and at most a brief artist statement on the series.  I don't have a reputation beyond a few friends and fellow artists, so my art is not viewed and commented on as a piece by Karl, but just what the viewer sees, feels, interprets, and comments upon.  I greatly appreciate hearing feedback on my art without my name tinting the view.  When I am the consumer of the art, I enjoy taking it in without being influenced by the artist's legend following it.  By doing that, I can better relate to it and find my own meaning.  Sadly though, when the creator has a big reputation, regardless if it is good or bad, will influence my reception of the art.  Even more sad, I will have to try to account for his/her sins when consuming the art.

So is there any way to view art this way and appreciate it?  I may have found a way by actually bringing the artist into it.  I plan to start looking into the art to see if the artist's sins can be found in their creations.  I am not trying to be an investigator or anything, but trying to understand if some elements of what makes him/her evil lives in the art.  By looking how evil either explicitly or subtly gets into art we may be able to learn where our own sins seep out of us.

* Woody Allen has not been convicted of the allegations brought against him in this post. 


Personal choices on grooming

Karl - 021314

In my last post, I revisited an old post from my old blog about comments I received concerning a model I photographed and her pubic and underarm hair.  Today, I want to share a bit about my own journey with hair grooming and how society views it and the tough challenges I have had against it.

During my late teens until I started a new job that made it difficult to have, I had a mustache.  I grew it in college so I wouldn't be carded when hitting the bars.  I kept it for twelve years out of the habit and routine of having it.

In 1999, I was thirty and had just started a job in the manufacturing area of a biotech pharmaceutical.  They had no rules against facial hair, but because of having one I had to wear a beard/mustache cover while on the near sterile manufacturing floor for up to 10 hours at a time.  I soon decided to shave it off for comfort.  My wife had not seen me without a mustache and it took her a bit of time to stop staring at my top lip.

For the next 14 years, I happily remained clean shaven (except for a brief experiment with a goatee).  Last fall, we had a Halloween party at work and the theme was TV characters.  With my love for the show, Breaking Bad, I grew a beard and mustache, then trimmed it to match Walter White's menacing facial hair.  While growing it, I started to get some compliments from a number of women and a few men.  After the party, I promptly shaved it all off, with instant regret.  My unique face went back to being unremarkable in anyway.

In December, I started growing it back and am happy I did.  Not everyone shares in those feelings.  Some friends and family tease me (which I do not mind and often laugh with).  One relative said if her dog saw me, she would give me the "DANGER STRANGER" bark.  Other friends teased that I look like Grizzly Adams.  One gay friend said that I became an instant hot straight bear.  Rawr!.

Not all of the receptions of my beard have been so warm.  My dad worries that I don't look professional anymore.  One manager at work (not in my chain of command) asked, "So, are you really thinking of keeping that?"

All of these slights and hardships are a joke, really.  I haven't gone through a the tiniest fraction of what others have had to endure due to race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, and many other differences that can not be accepted by other.  My beard is truly a choice, my age isn't.  My gay friends didn't have a choice, nor all of us that are growing older every moment we breath.  So everyone, quit hurting others just because they are older or younger than what you consider the norms, love someone that you can't, or are not of your gender, faith, or race.

PS - I am keeping my Hemingway beard.

PPS - In high school, I went as a "beard" to a spring prom with a friend who is lesbian.  She and I went out of friendship and wanting to ride in a really cool limo.  It is kind of sad I didn't have a romantic date, but it was tragic she couldn't be her true self and go with her girlfriend.