August 09, 2004

Spiritual Eroticism: Part III

As I scrounged through the museum basement in Pittsburgh, I acquired the help of a hunky college intern named Harry.* Evidently I had been driving the curator mad with my constant requests for files, Journals, the locations of art works in the catacombs beneath the museum, and the need to make photocopies of materials I wanted to take with me. She, however, had been directed by THE PROFESSOR to go to any lengths to satisfy my desires. One day as I poured through the files of ancillary scraps, bills, notes, letters, tickets, post cards, and other papers, Harry alerted me to a discovery he had made. It seems THE PROFESSOR writes a journal about “Pennsylvania Dutch Gothic,” me.

I’ve included an entry from THE PROFESSOR’s journal below because it has the greatest resonance with my current strand of thought, that is Spiritual Eroticism.

As an adult male, Isaac transforms his concerns about his Amish directives (Procreate! Do not desire same sex objects!) into erotic images that are meditations on desire. These images allow him to cross the bridge from his Amish heritage to his new, worldly “gay” concerns. The Amish hat, suspenders and black pants, signify a godlike (and ironically a godly) Amish male, and an onanistic/spiritual response for Isaac. The image and its accouterments are iconic and unattainable. Nevertheless, the images are objects of desire, onanistic orgasm, and transgressive spiritual fulfillment. Thus, being gay, desiring, and having an orgasm become tied to spirituality, a worshipful state of mind, and God for Isaac. He reorganizes his belief in God, so that it contradicts the religious instruction of his Amish childhood. The new belief system supports his position as an adult, homosexual male, caught in a culture that does not allow him a positive conceptualization of his sexuality.1 In the reorganized belief system, Isaac knows that he is gay because God made him that way, and, because God is good, being gay and desiring a person of the same sex, must also be good. To create a gay man, and designate him as evil, in Isaac’s mind, would mean that God made a mistake. That is a contradiction. God being perfect, does not make mistakes.

(The Professor, August, 1997)

”Sebastian” by Pierre and Gilles, photography, collage, and paint

As part of this series on erotic spirituality I have been including images of art works that contain both spiritual and erotic elements. Pierre and Gilles, affectionately known as P&G by their fans created this image of Sebastian. While many critics maintain that this dynamic duo’s art works are pure “kitsch,” I find the amalgam of photographic tableau, stage set, collage, and paint to be fascinating. I have great difficulty telling where the photograph becomes painting. In fact, I had to walk up to the works at the New Museum exhibit in New York City back in 2001 and inspect them with my eyes but 2” away in order to find the enhancement of the photograph in hand painted details. The work raises all kinds of questions in my mind. Why are some images just images, while others (P&G’s included) are Art? What is the difference between a “Pop” religious image and a popular religious icon used in religious practice? Could or would a straight artist or artists create such wonderfully glitzy icons to love, perfection, eroticism, and yes, spirituality? I wonder if these two are conscious of the spiritually erotic qualities contained in many of the images they create?

*(such a pedestrian name. Why not Colt, Cody, Shane, Julian, or Beauchamp. Eric would be more interesting. Ah well, suffice it to say that Harry looks like the name “Colt” sounds. )

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