The Naked Truth

The only artists I have ever known, who are personally delightful, are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry they dare not realize.

– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

First, there is the fear. The insurmountable wall of “I could never do this” standing right in your path, blocking the light and the way, and for a while you think, “No. Absolutely not. Not ever.” Sometimes it stays there for years, and you learn ways around it, or you simply dress it up with layers of artifice and make-believe until it no longer seems like a wall at all, but just part of the backdrop to your life.

Then, there is the challenge. The little voice that whispers from deep inside and says, “You should try it. There’s no other way. No risk, no glory.” And it cracks something open like a tiny drop of water can crack a stone, and that little fissure sprouts an idea, an idea that begins to take root.

Next is the obsession. You cannot stop it now. It is all you can think about doing, and everywhere you go you see further signs that you are on the right path, until the whole universe seems to be nudging you in this direction, and has been all the time.

After that, there is the artistic execution – the experimentation, the searching and finding, the discovery and setbacks, the creative expression and drive that fuels a project. You have dared yourself to do this, and there is no going back. What you will find is not yet known, not yet understood, but the way to the answer is the journey you were meant to make.

Finally, there is the revelation – the moment you show the world what you have done, for better or worse, for praise or condemnation, for ridicule or judgment – you put it all out there, you reveal every bit of yourself, and you wait – not so much for a reaction, but for some sort of recognition, some bit that sparks relation in another person – a tilt in perception, a coo of longing, an intake of disbelief.

It’s always somehow sadder than they think it’s going to be, more poignant and touching because there is something so earnest and hopeful about it, no matter how tawdry or salacious the matter may at first glance appear. Looking back at it years later, it seems even more moving because that moment has passed.

The hair is grayer, the stomach is fuller, the thin, bony structure has filled out. He has grown into himself, he is not the boy he used to be. Vestiges remain, bits of innocence survive, and as naked as he is, as he has always wanted to be, he has still refused to fully reveal himself. What is the body but a shell of the soul?

He has somehow done it, done exactly what he had set out to do. And the documentation of it is intact – the perfectly poised precipice between youth and adulthood embodied in these photos, in these moments, remains captured in a project.



This was the MAN*BOY project of August 2001. A selection of scanned photos from that compilation will be placed in The Projects portion of this site at some point, as it was an integral project in my artistic development – an iconic moment – and one of the most troublesome and controversial projects I’ve ever done. (Though upon looking back at the images, it seems rather quaint and nostalgic, and in no way as shocking as it all seemed back then. Of course, I’m leaving out the full-frontal and full-mast images that were in the original collection because I now know where to draw the line.)

It was incendiary on a personal level too – Andy and I almost broke up after he had seen some of the images I was intending to use – and we ended up canceling a big premiere party we had planned (I held a smaller gathering for my close friends, who didn’t really see what all the fuss was about). It was a learning experience for both of us – he learned that he would never be able to quell my artistic expression, and I learned that there were some things that should remain private and only between the two people in a relationship. Andy also taught me, indirectly, that there was something more titillating and erotic about what is hidden or hinted at than what is blatantly revealed. Both artistically and personally, this project was one of the most difficult and ultimately rewarding that I’ve ever done.

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