Tribute to Don Herron, artist; and Tubshots.

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Don Herron (USA) passed away in 2012: May he rest in peace!

Don and I were lovers, partners and friends back in the NYC artist heydays of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Don was an accomplished visual artist (silk screen prints, painting and photography) and later worked as a writer/journalist as well. During our years together he created the now infamous “Tub shots” series, featuring many personalities of the day from San Francisco and New York City, including: Robert Mapplethorpe (See Don’s iconic portrait of Mapplethorpe HERE), Jackie Curtis HERE, Belle de Jour, Bob Opal, John Kelly, Holly Woodlawn HERE, Charles Busch HERE, Ellen Stewart HERE, Peter Hujar, Cassandra, Paula Sequeira, Keith Haring HERE and HERE and many more.

I remember quite well meeting Robert Mapplethorpe the day Don delivered his photo print to him. We were received at the door by one of several gorgeous (mostly naked) young men in s/m gear. Mapplethorpe himself was a god. Funny … I first seduced Don while wearing cowboy gear on Christopher Street. I had been conducting my own “art-social experiment”, visiting the same gay bars in the West Village every night for one week but dressed as a different gay fantasy each night … in order to test out whether (or not) attractions were based upon drag/fantasy or other things. I met my Texan on “Cowboy Night”. Many of my gay experiences during that period are documented in my book “Entre Nous et Eux” (2017). Back then being “gay” and being a “performance artist” were often two sides of the same coin.

Here is the story: I have been so fortunate as to have met many inspiring persons in my many decades on this planet — some quite famous, and others not so well-known to the masses. A handful of these personalities have left lasting impressions on me; some even after just a brief meeting. One such person was Robert Mapplethorpe. In February of 1978 my partner (Don Herron) and I visited Robert Mapplethorpe at his loft in NYC, to deliver this iconic bathtub portrait that Don had taken of Robert – as part of Don’s famous Tubshots series. Robert had a powerful magnetism that shone through easily. He looked like the very definition of health and virility.

We were first greeted by a young man in s&m attire, who opened the door to reveal several other (semi-)nude young sex gods busy at work (doing whatever they did). Eventually the most gorgeous sex god of them all — Mapplethorpe, himself — received Don and I. I had — of course seen the photo that Don had taken, which was quite amazing — but Mapplethorpe himself was absolutely enthralling: beautiful to look at, hot and sexy, and at once kind and down-to-earth. This meeting was many years before I, myself, had become infected with the AIDS virus; although Mapplethorpe and I frequented many of the same sex clubs and other venues. Eleven years later Robert was dead, of AIDS. And four years after that I began my own fight for my life, after an AIDS diagnosis. Robert was just one of many who died back then … and since — all too many. I was an international and national AIDS-activist for over two decades, and now I am simply known as a «survivor». Sometimes when I think about the many beautiful and talented men I have known who succumbed to the disease and its stigma, I still feel a bit of «survivor guilt». Watching the documentary about Robert Mapplethorpe, and seeing his artwork on my walls makes me feel that guilt. But it also drives me to use every bit of talent that I can muster to create art and literature, and help to encourage others to live creatively. Had it not been for the AIDS diagnosis and my long struggle to survive then my personal courage and conviction would not have been what it is today, and certainly not my art and literature either.

We are all searching for ways to leave our mark on history — both as a confirmation that we did something for humanity, and to justify our minutes/hours/years of consumption and wear-and-tear on the planet. Those who have creative disciplines work to leave behind their ideas and visions in various artworks. And then when we suddenly get a message or diagnosis telling us that we are living on limited time/borrowed time then the urge to produce art and literature becomes manic. That is how I have managed to publish so many books and to have numerous art exhibitions etc. That is also part of Mapplethorpe’s drive in his last years. I call AIDS “the great Teacher”.

Here I wish to present some links to some of Mapplethorpe’s art, his history and a wonderful tribute to him at the queerhistory.blogspot.

THE ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE FOUNDATION

QUEERS IN HISTORY: ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE

DOCUMENTARY – ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE

ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE

THE FINALE

MAPPLETHORPE’S WORLD OF FLOWERS

MAPPLETHORPE’S OBSESSION FOR BEAUTY

Don’s portrait of me is HERE:

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And here is his iconic portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe:

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2018 UPDATES TO THIS BLOG POST:

Read more about «TUBSHOTS» HERE! and HERE!

Read about the 2018 retrospective of Tubshots HERE!

Adam Donaldson Powell: A Personal comment on Herron, the East Village Artist movement in the 1970s-1980s etc.

This period of art, AIDS and gay cultural development in NYC and SF is difficult to sum up — as is evident from the many who now comment that they can hardly remember things that transpired back then. This is not just because we are now “old”, but because it was a chaotic time where everything flowed together: personality itself as artistic expression, renaissance of multidisciplinary ideas and art, underground celebrities who often met only once or a few times (and either on the streets, at parties or sex clubs), oftentimes diffuse art forms whereby individual stunts and niches sometimes suddenly and magically finally took hold, weekly/nightly disco nights with Warhol and other celebrities at places like Studio 54, Area, The Tunnel, drugs, drag queens and leather queens, outrageous sex clubs, punk rock, witchcraft as a lifestyle, etc. In short, it was (and is) difficult to separate the everyday occurrences from “the dream-state”. Many gays at that time were — like me — transformed “super hippies” who basked in the vast environment of sex clubs, artistic stunts, new minimalistic theatre, dance and music forms, poetry at art galleries, building occupations, cross-dressing as an art form etc. Someone should really try to get deeper into the phenomenon of that period of time in NYC, SF, Paris, Berlin etc. and how it has influenced art, literature, music, our outrageous street fashion that was quickly mimicked by trendy boutiques in the West Village and later by international fashion designers, and gay identity/activism today.

It is all too easy for those of us who were a part of the “scenes” back then to glorify things. There were, in fact, lots of “downers” — especially with the AIDS crisis, drug overdoses etc. And only a few of us became very important in art history. But none of this could have happened without each and every one of us participating, interacting, encouraging, challenging, feeding on and feeding one another, in our artistic niches and outrageousness. We were unafraid — and at times a bit naïve. We were, basically, determined to live — for the moment; a glorious moment without recognisable start or ending. But we were also vulnerable human beings, full of emotional ups and downs, lives and wardrobes full of rags and glitter, forgotten sexual memoirs with now-famous persons who turned us on just because they were full of determination to express themselves in every way possible.

Don Herron was human, emotionally vulnerable, intelligent, very artistically gifted, unconventional, a cat-lover, one who met people in all social environments rather easily, he was very funny (referred to himself as a “Fred MacMurray-type” and loved “I Love Lucy”, tea and pies), and he had a very large cock and was fond of both sex and lots of cuddling. He was also at times more than a bit neurotic and could be intense — but no more than any of the rest of us. “Tubshots” was just one of his art expressions and ideas. His walls were adorned with murals of Roman lasciviousness, angels and cartoonish figures. His silk-screening, painting and other artworks were advanced for the time. Don Herron is just one of many from that time before modern internet who deserves a good-sized footnote through contemporary technology and art and gay history.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, September 2018, Oslo, Norway.

Adam on the Christopher Street Pier during the Tubshots years:

Documentation photography – Webcam self-portraits, showing 20 years of living with AIDS.

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Adam Donaldson Powell.

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author, painter, photographer.

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While it is best to learn about me by reading and seeing my books, essays, poetry and visual art, I do have a curriculum vitae. Here it is, for those that may be interested in such:

ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) has published various literary works: poems, stories, novellas/short novels, literary criticism, essays, art photography criticism; and also works with painting and photography. He was born in the USA, and resides in Norway. He has been a professional visual artist (since 1995) and a writer (since 1987). He has published 11 printed books, in USA, Norway and India and 2 Amazon e-books, as well as several short works in literary publications. Among his many literary and artistic themes are multilingualism, the transcultural, spiritual development, societal development, LGBT issues, HIV/AIDS etc. He has written, performed and published works in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. His poetry and essays have been translated into several languages, including: Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese and Bengali.

GAYTUDE (co-written with Albert Russo, and published in 2009 (Xlibris Corporation) was the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award Winner (in the category gay/lesbian nonfiction); Adam was the winner of the AZsacra International Poetry Award in 2008, and the recipient of a Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s travel stipend for authors in 2005.

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(photo courtesy of Blikk Magazine)

Book publications:

Jisei: death poems and daily reflections by a person with AIDS, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-403-2, © 2013, India.

The tunnel at the end of time (co-written with Rick Davis and Azsacra Zarathustra), Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-160-4, © 2010, India.

Malerier og fotokunst, a short 38-page retrospective overview of some of Adam Donaldson Powell’s best known oil paintings and photographic art works. Published by Cyberwit.net as a special limited and numbered full-color, soft cover edition (55 copies only), ISBN 978- 81-8253-154-3, India, © 2009.

Gaytude: a poetic journey around the world, gay poetry in English and French by Albert Russo and Adam Donaldson Powell, 335 pages, published by Xlibris Corporation, © 2009, Library of Congress Control
Number: 2008907964, ISBN: Hardcover 978-1-4363-6396-9, ISBN: Softcover 978-1-4363-6395-2, USA.
2014: the life and adventures of an incarnated angel, 135 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-118-5, © 2008, India.

Critical Essays, literary and photobook criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell and Dr. Santosh Kumar, 108 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978- 81-8253-110-9, © 2008, India.

Le Paradis (Paradise), 80 pages, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253- 103-1, © 2008, India. Includes a booklet with symbols from The Universal Language of Light, as seen by Laila Holand.

Rapture: endings of space and time (86 pages), Cyberwit,net, ISBN 978-81-8253-083-6, © 2007, India.

Three-legged Waltz, (80 pages), Cyberwit.net, ISBN 818253058X, © 2006, India.

Collected Poems and Stories, (175 pages), Cyberwit.net, ISBN 8182530288, © 2005, India.

Arcana and other archetypes, (special limited edition – hardback collection of poetry), AIM Chapbooks ANS, © 2001, Norway (now out-of-print).

Notes of a Madman, (hardback collection of poetry), Winston-Derek Publishers, Inc., © 1987, ISBN 1-55523-054-7, USA (now out-of-print).

See Adam’s website: adamangel.wordpress.com for updated information on his literary and artistic activities.

Order his books from: http://www.cyberwit.net, http:// http://www.tajmahalreview.com, http://www.amazon.com and “Gaytude” can also be ordered from http://www.xlibris.com.

QUOTE:
“There is no doubt that Powell, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, and Delmore Schwartz are the most talented American poets of the modern age.”
— Dr. Santosh Kumar, Allahabad University, 2010.

ABOVE QUOTE FROM A GREAT BOOK BY DR. SANTOSH KUMAR, INDIA: “Adam Donaldson Powell: The Making of a Poet”, a critical analysis of the published works of Adam Donaldson Powell. Order the book from Cyberwit.net.

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MY LIFE AS AN ACTIVIST.

My own activist career began when I was a teenager, and – in spite of both my parents being careerists in the United States Air Force – I became an anti-war activist (Vietnam War) and conscientious objector. That activism had many expressions: from silent Quaker vigils to anti-war marches and rallies to getting thrown out of the courtroom of Judge Julius Hoffman (famous from the «Chicago Seven» trials) for civil disobedience while supporting a draft dodger. My activism has including working as an employee of organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker social service and peace education organization), the Partnership for the Homeless, Amnesty International Norway etc., working for the Norwegian government in support of the unemployed, immigrants, the disabled etc., establishing my own activist organizations in Norway in support of immigrants, artists, authors, dancers, actors, and filmmakers, and also representing organizations that lobby for the rights of persons with HIV/AIDS. Being an activist has required me to constantly weigh whether my own convictions and interests are best served by working for or representing an existing organization, political parties, agency or institution OR working alone so that I may set my own specific agenda and choose my own methods of working. The latter has given me special satisfaction. In that regard I have used my talents as a speechwriter and public speaker, as a book author, as a musician, as a linguist, and as a visual artist to promote my ideas and my support for those who do not themselves have the possibility of getting their voices heard publicly. In 1994 I arranged Norway’s first World AIDS Day art exhibition (a tradition which I kept going until 2009), I have promoted the rights of immigrants and of performing, literary and visual artists, and debated with top politicians in Norway on television, radio and in the tabloids, I have represented persons with HIV/AIDS on behalf of the Norwegian government and otherwise at UNGASS (United Nations General Assembly Special Session – Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS) as well as at international conferences in Norway and in other countries; I have initiated one-man protest demonstrations against individuals and government agencies that I felt abused the dignity or rights of the disabled and persons with HIV/AIDS, etc.; and I have been critical of other individual activists, government institutions, politicians, and also of activist organizations in the media. At times I have also worked within the «system», and as an advisor and cooperative partner to the system, and publicly defended specific government policies, and I have held office in a major political party. All this after personal analysis of the best ways to bring my activist ideas into government and organizational policy frameworks.

All my formal education and life experience comes into play in my activism: including my master degree in international and developmental public administration, my years of working for the government in Norway and as a university administrator and corporate writer/editor in the United States, and even my college bachelor of arts thesis (on the legal rights of minors {young persons} to consent to acquisition of contraceptives and to psychological counseling) which resulted in my own draft legislation eventually becoming state law in Vermont, and then later in Ohio.

I have also served on the board of directors of several organizations in Norway and in the USA which work in the areas of LGBT rights, the rights and needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS, the arts, and religious expression. And finally, I have organized international conferences for persons working in support of persons living with HIV/AIDS, as well as international and bilingual authors. I have held many speeches and been a high-profile spokesperson at conferences and in the media, and my visual art exhibitions and my authored books often address themes related to my areas of activism.

My most current expression of activism involves supporting and encouraging the voices of contemporary activists, and in my own writing and visual art.

~ Adam Donaldson Powell

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MY OTHER BLOGS:

OCCUPY ESSAYS

DOCUMENTING THE SHIFT TOWARDS THE END OF 2012

GAYTUDE & NEW WORKS

THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

 

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ADAM AS PHOTOGRAPHER HERE!

 

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