September 08, 2004

Spiritual Eroticism: Part VI

I had interrupted my month long August discussion of the many renderings of Saint Sebastian for the “We’re being attacked by the nasty Kerry Campaign, and by the way, that Kerry guy isn’t a hero, he’s just a flip-flopper” Republican National Convention. The sad thing is, it seems to have worked. Mr. Bush’s ratings are up, and I’m disgusted.

Back to Sebastian


I myself became fascinated first by Antonello da Messina’s painting of Sebastian while in my 20’s(See the July 24, 2004 entry for the image.) before I knew much about the saint or my own homosexuality. I had no idea that he was a homosexual icon - the term “gay” hadn't come into use in the 1940’s - and I would have been at pains to say why I was so enamored of the image. I knew, however, that something about those averted eyes looking ecstatically toward heaven, the body pierced by arrows, roped to a thick dead tree branch placed midst a calm Italian plaza pulled at my heart strings. To this day I find it curious that the figures in the plaza ignore Sebastian’s ecstasy as though it were not taking place. I wondered and still do if this wasn’t a comment by da Messina about the desire of the larger culture that same sex love be invisible. I realize that these other people are just props for the main attraction, Sebastian. Nevertheless, they exist separate from Sebastian, ignorant of his erotic-ecstatic spirituality. At the time, the term “homosexual” did not exist. Same sex love was that which the phrase implies, a type of behavior, not a type of human being.

As a youth I was so conscious of my homoerotic feelings that it seemed impossible to me that my family and friends were not aware of the erotic passion and the accompanying ecstatic pain I felt for the men around me. For most of my life I would keep these feelings hidden from others. They became subversive. That is they operated below the surface to invigorate my life. I used them, perhaps unknowingly, to reinforce my interest in the arts, to drive my need for success as a farmer and an artist, and of course to energize my fantasized relationships with particular men. And, if visualized successfully, these erotic episodes sometimes came to actual fruition. As a senior adult I realize just how in-tune my life was with the iconography of Sebastian.

* “Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian by Pollaiuolo, Antonio,” The Web Gallery of Art, Emil Cren and Daniel Marx (Saturday, August 28, 2004, 10:09 A.M.)
To read about this image go to The Web Gallery of Art

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