Straight to Hell — Mapplethorpe in triptych.

“Straight to Hell” — Mapplethorpe in triptych, oil on canvas, 2018.


I decided that it was best to depict Mapplethorpe in an Expressionist style – and almost like a charcoal and chalk painting. This because the style fits the era when he was growing up, but also to convey technique-wise the brutal simplicity of his art photography. His photographic portraits were perhaps designed to challenge the traditional “high art” status dominance of painted portraits. Mapplethorpe is often quoted as having said: “People don’t have time to wait for somebody to paint their portraits anymore. The money is in photography”. The wisdom of my choice of painting style is perhaps most apparent in the center panel, which deals with his internal perceptions of himself, and where the spectator’s eye goes straight to the majestic Cala Lily – The flower of Death – of which Mapplethorpe was so keen. The contrast provided by  the single flower that is so calm and majestic is so powerful that the drama of the expressionist style is immediately reset — in a single glance. This artwork is rife with symbolism. The panels are meant to recall gay jerk-off magazines from the ’50s and ’60s, and thus the reference to “la main gauche” (the left hand). Mapplethorpe created magnificent classy/artistic porn: sexually provocative, statuesque bodybuilders (predominant in the gay mags of his era), celebrity porn (the masturbation of striving for fame in one’s own lifetime and beyond), sensual portraits of flowers etc.

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“Straight to Hell — Mapplethorpe in triptych” – Adam Donaldson Powell, oil on canvas, 2018. Keywords: Mapplethorpe, tabloid (lurid, sensational) art, guns as penises, penises as guns, splattered blood, blood stains, sex, AIDS, crosses, Calla lily (flower of Death), sado-masochism, fetish, narcissism, pecs and nipples, the body as a living sculpture, perfection vs. the glory of the imperfect, Don Herron’s iconic Tubshot photo. Each panel measures 40 x 50 cm.

NB. Yes, I address Mapplethorpe’s obsession with Black men and their bodies / genitals by featuring Mapplethorpe himself in mirror image — as both Caucasian and Negroid. In this way his desire to completely embody and define ultimate personification of sexuality will finally be complete. The iconic Don Herron Tubshots photo of Mapplethorpe was chosen as my model because I actually met Mapplethorpe at his loft when Don and I delivered the photograph to him. This triptych is my “tribute” to both Don Herron and Robert Mapplethorpe.


Don Herron’s portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe.

Read Jack Fritscher’s great article about Mapplethorpe (his lover and friend)

Read more HERE!


My favourite Robert Mapplethorpe quotes:

“I want to see the Devil in us all. That’s my real turn on.”

“The whole point of being an artist is to learn about yourself. The photographs, I think, are less important than the life that one is leading.”

“Art is an accurate statement of the time in which it is made.”

“I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before. But I have trouble with the word ‘shocking’ because I’m not really shocked by anything…Basically, I’m selfish. I did [those photos] for myself— because I wanted to do them, because I wanted to see them. I wasn’t trying to educate anyone. I was interested in examining my own reactions.”

“Beauty and the devil are the same thing.”

“I am obsessed with beauty. I want everything to be perfect, and of course it isn’t. And that’s a tough place to be because you’re never satisfied.”

“When I work, and in my art, I hold hands with God.”

“To make pictures big is to make them more powerful.”

“This AIDS stuff is pretty scary. I hope I don’t get it.”

“People don’t have time to wait for somebody to paint their portraits anymore. The money is in photography

“My father wants me to be like my brother, but I can’t be.”

“If I have to change my lifestyle, I don’t want to live.”

“I would never have done what I’d done if I’d considered my father as somebody I wanted to please.”

“I just hope I can live long enough to see the fame.”

“I stand naked when I draw. God holds my hand and we sing together.”


“Artistic perfection includes planned imperfection”.
— Adam Donaldson Powell

Photo: Francis Bacon’s artist studio, National Gallery of Dublin, Ireland.

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