“The Animals Podcast” – Isherwood & Bachardy

 

 

Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy

Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy (1974) — Jack Mitchell / Getty Images

The Animals Podcast tells the love story of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy through the eyes of a woman who could not resist reading their mail. Isherwood was an established writer when he met the eighteen-year-old Bachardy on the beach in Santa Monica in 1952. They spent the next three decades together, at the heart of the international creative community that was making the films, ballets, plays, books, and paintings of their era in Los Angeles, New York, and London. Their letters, written during periods apart, reveal their extraordinary devotion to one another and the tests their bond survived — public, professional tests as well as private, sexual and emotional ones. Acclaimed actors Simon Callow and Alan Cumming and writer and scholar Katherine Bucknell bring the letters to life in eight podcast episodes.

The series culminates with a performance of A Meeting by the River, Isherwood’s novel inspired by his conversion to Vedanta, a novel which he and Bachardy adapted together for the stage. Two brothers meet, after long separation, at a monastery in India. One is about to take vows as a Hindu monk; the other is out to stop him. Dominic West stars as the worldly, charming, bisexual elder brother; Kyle Soller as the heedlessly spiritual younger one. Penelope Wilton plays their mother; Annabel Mullion is the woman they both love. Fifty years after Isherwood and Bachardy offered him A Meeting by the River for the Royal Court Theatre in 1968, Anthony Page at last directs it in this audio version.

In listening to their letters, we bear witness to this animal endurance — a survival of the fittest love — one sure to leave us yearning for our own creaturely connections.

Tyler Malone / Los Angeles Times

LISTEN TO THE PODCASTS

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“A Deeper Dive” | 15th July | NYC

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DEBORAH KASS, The Band Played On #2, 2014, Acrylic and tape on canvas, 60 x 72 in. Courtesy the artist.

DEBORAH KASS, The Band Played On #2, 2014, Acrylic and tape on canvas, 60 x 72 in. Courtesy the artist.

This exhibition parallels Art AIDS America, now on view at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. As a deeper dive into that exhibition, it selects nine of its artists for an expanded showing. Since the onset of the plague, images of HIV/AIDS have been highly politicized. A newly empowered Christian Right, sensing an opening, sought to make AIDS a wedge issue, reinvigorating increasingly old stereotypes about homosexual sickness and contagion, infection of the young, sad lives and early deaths. By the mid-1980s, they had successfully passed legislation that caused the United States government to effectively censor the display and circulation of all AIDS-related visual material if any support came from government funds. Simultaneously, a new wind in art criticism dismissed the very prospect of artistic statement and expressivity as outmoded and theoretically unsophisticated, arguing that meaning was not the province of the artist, but of the viewer, whose act of interpretation gave all art its voice. As a result, AIDS in art was policed by two overlapping regimes, one centered in Washington and the other in the art world. To combat these twin forces, artists embraced a variety of approaches—sometimes hiding AIDS content, sometimes celebrating it—to address loss, both personal and collective, as the plague raged.

The nine artists of A Deeper Dive embody a wide range of political tactics for representing HIV/AIDS across the changing American cultural landscape from the early years of the plague to our current times. Working across a range of media, these artists reflect a multitude of social realities and speak to the various challenges faced by individuals from different communities.

These works offer up a spectrum of emotional and political responses that cannot be separated from the lives of their makers. Taken as a whole, they reflect the past and present of a disease that still haunts us, physically, ideologically, and politically.

The Leslie-Lohman Museum is a sponsor of the national tour of Art AIDS America. After the Bronx Museum, the show will travel to the Alphawood Foundation Gallery in Chicago.

“None of the funds made available under this Act… shall be used to provide AIDS education, information or prevention materials and activities that promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual sexual activities.”- Senator Jesse Helms’s amendment to a federal act supporting AIDS related programs through the Center for Disease Control, 1987

Curated by Jonathan David Katz and Andrew Barron with the assistance of Chris Borschel.

Opening Reception: 6p
Runs through 2nd October

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Drawn to Kink

Tom of Finland to be celebrated in SF

Art feeds and nurtures us. It prods us to think and feel. It reflects back our life experiences and the experiences of others. It does this for every segment of our culture, including leather and kink culture.

To celebrate the importance of erotic art, San Francisco Leathermen’s Discussion Group (LDG) is hosting a Tom of Finland Foundation Reception and Erotic Art Silent Auction on September 23, 2015 from 6:30pm to 9:30pm at the SF LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.

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Tom of Finland’s iconic hypermasculine imagery helped to formulate the modern gay male leather scene’s look and aesthetic. Image: TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), © 1988 Tom of Finland Foundation

The event will feature artwork courtesy of Tom of Finland Foundation with national artist contributions, including Stanley Stellar, as well as local artists. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Tom of Finland Foundation and LDG. Visit LDG’s site for more details.

Along with committee chair Graylin Thornton, co-chair Richard Bolingbroke, and a bevy of volunteers, at the heart of the event is Durk Dehner, president and cofounder of Tom of Finland Foundation.

Durk will deliver a presentation during the LDG event during which he will reflect on some very personal erotic iconology tied to San Francisco, including some of the artists who have passed on and are no longer with us. He’ll focus on visual art that has been created right here in San Francisco and relates to the city itself. It should be a fascinating evening.

I’ve known Durk for a long time, but I never had the privilege of interviewing him. During one of his recent San Francisco visits I was given that opportunity. We had a long conversation, and there’s no way I can cover all that we discussed here, but I’m honored to be able to give you a snippet of insight into a remarkable man, his friend Tom of Finland, and the work he and the Foundation are so clearly passionate about.

Durk explained that the Tom of Finland Foundation was founded to support and nurture art that the world has historically had a hard time accepting. Western culture has not typically been comfortable with sexual art, especially homoerotic art.

Tom of Finland (real name Touko Laaksonen), for whom the Foundation is named, created works that formed a unique set of visual images with deep, symbolic meaning within our kink and gay cultures. Tom’s art is specifically sex-positive, a true celebration of the fully sexual gay male. At the time that Tom started his career, there was no similar erotic art that was being put out into the homo culture that was proud, overtly sexual and so free in nature.

Durk has always loved Tom’s work ever since he first discovered it as a young man. In 1977, Durk met Tom after he had written him a fan letter in 1976. They remained extremely close friends until Tom’s death in 1991. They created the Foundation in 1984. From the start it was dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting homoerotic art. The Foundation eventually expanded to erotic works of many types.

The message that Durk delivers to audiences around the world, and that Tom’s work was founded upon, is freedom. It’s a theme that is pervasive throughout Tom’s work and has remained integral to Durk’s entire adult life as well.

He told me a great story about an important moment that helped form the beginnings of his own erotic explorations and the sexual freedom he claimed for himself and others. At 20 years of age, Durk was visiting San Francisco. He had come to San Francisco to find himself. He found his way to The Eagle and ended up standing next to a drag queen there who asked him what he was doing in town. When Durk mentioned his quest to find himself, the drag queen said, “You can be anything you want to be here.” Durk never forgot that message and he’s created and molded his life and work around being his most authentic self.

Traveling has been part of Durk’s personal explorations as he’s followed his sexuality, erotic partners and the leather culture he desired around the world. At one point in the late 1970s, that led to living in Chicago for a while, where Durk entered the very first International Mr. Leather contest. The American Uniform Association sponsored him for the 1979 contest and he ended up placing second (first runner up). Already a well-known leatherman, his profile rose even more as a result of that contest.

During his tenure at the Foundation, Durk has had countless men tell him how Tom’s work affected them in profound ways. Tom’s art literally helped these men to mold their characters and have self-confidence in their sexuality.

One thing Durk is vehement about is that erotic art, and specifically erotic art that empowers gay men whose sexuality has often been demonized, is vital to maintain a vibrant and functioning culture. The passion with which Durk believes this literally oozes from him when you speak to him.

One of the things that Durk kept hammering home during our interview is the importance of Tom’s work in helping to form both leather and gay male culture’s iconography and to visually influence sexual liberation.

Tom of Finland’s art was unabashedly sexual, often using exaggerated male body parts to accentuate the erotic nature of his work. Tom is an icon for artists, not just gay men. He and his work are inspirations for anyone who is looking for erotic liberation. Durk said that Tom did not sit around and ponder how his erotic art might influence others. He initially did it entirely from a point of self-satisfaction. They were his dirty little drawings. What he drew turned him on.

But at one point when Tom was in his 60s, during a lecture he delivered at the California Institute of the Arts, he told the audience that he had progressed to a phase of his life in which he recognized that it was always his intention to make a difference with his art, to see if he could change the way that gays thought about themselves and the way that the larger society looked upon gays.

This is the legacy for which Durk wants Tom and his work to be remembered. And that goes for all of the erotic artists of that era and today.

There is so much more I could mention about Durk, Tom, and the work Durk and the Foundation continue to this day. But I’m ending with the concept of community heroes. Durk mentioned that homosexuals have so few heroes. Durk considers Tom a hero.

As Durk said, “Here’s a man who actually devoted his whole entire career that spanned six decades, 60 years of works, that reflect his commitment. He was a rare man.”

If you like erotic art, I strongly recommend you attend the LDG event. Listen to Durk Dehner, one of our community’s most important art figures. See some really cool and important erotic art. And mix and mingle with fellow erotic adventurers who understand, as Durk always emphasizes, that our erotic art is an important part of our history and culture.

By Race Bannon

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