WHY: "Thereís something about a man in a uniform," Marlene Dietrich once sang, and you wonít hear any disagreement from the dozen artists featured in "Men at Arms," a group exhibition of works from the collection of the Tom of Finland Foundation selected by ToFF Board Member and Curator SHARP.
With American soldiers at war in foreign lands, and with gays fighting an ideological war for full civil rights on the
home front, "Men At Arms" (subtext: men in each otherís arms) examines the trappings of manhood, machismo and militarism in a survey of 12 artists that includes the vintage erotica of Tom of Finland and his contemporary Etienne, the graphic fantasies of the Hun, the whimsical beefcake of Luger (pseudonym of photographer Jim French) the wicked fantasies of Michael Kirwan, the well-equipped "foot-soldiers" of fetishist Palanca, flesh pushed to its limits by Manflesh, the graphite portraits of men in uniform by Patrick Lee, plus works by artists Minoru, Skipper, Teddy of Paris, and photographer Kim Hanson.
Acts between men can be cruel and brutal. War, as a vantage point, may give those acts nobleness. Lust realized in the trenches doesn't have to be fleeting and desperate -- "tomorrow may never come". Something lasting and strong and heroic can come home with soldiers who have bonded on many levels. Soldiers UNITE!
MEN AT ARMS shows us all sides of the modern warrior. The handsome man in uniform - the dashing prototype of a fighting machine - an idealized grunt. We see the meanness, the romantic, the powerful and the desirable.
-- SHARP, curator
The military male is at the very heart of Manflesh art, from its inception. His body trained to perfection by other hard bodied men. Proud of their discipline, glorying in being a honed fighting machine. Taking hard, giving hard, proud to be one hundred per cent male, SIR! YES SIR!
My earliest cinematic memories (mid-1940s) were of sweet young (18+) corn-fed American lads being painfully, helplessly strung up and having atrocities done unto them by their unrelentingly vicious, unspeakably sadistic captors on one remote hot-n-steamy Pacific island or another. Ergo, to this day I subscribe to the late great Etienne's school of uniform: a young man looks great in one! ...but he looks even greater almost all the way out of it! Dog tags here, a boot there, maybe a jockstrap, tattoo or helmet the other place -- just enough "uniform" to define the scene-- and the rest is the Animal Male in action... or being acted upon!
-- The Hun
Uniforms have always made me hard; an odd thing for an ardent pacifist, I think. My earliest self-portraits are in and half out of a white French Coast Guard uniform, and they've featured prominently in my artwork and the shoots I've done for various publications ever since. It's all about the swagger of sailors on leave, men giving each other orders and the feel of another man's hands on your high and tight buzzcut.
-- Kim Hanson