Revisiting — Jacques Brel et Zizou … Ne me quitte pas !

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“Ne me quitte pas”, oil on canvas, 65 x 90 cm., 2017, is an abstract geometric painting inspired by Jacques Brel’s famous love song, and its imagined personal history. Here his plea — Ne me quitte pas (Don’t leave me) — is scrawled on a blackboard in the mathematics classroom (an arena where the follies of hopeful youthfulness/adolescence meet up with the scientific rigours of deciding if a problem has zero, multiple or perhaps one solution only).

(ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. Short statement by the artist: “My ‘style’? I react to being conveniently labelled as ‘this, or that’ as vehemently as I rebel against the so-called ‘rules of painting’, or ‘rules of writing’ … or ‘political correctness’ etc. Actually, it is the audacity of these concepts that annoys me. The need for others to classify me, my art, my writing … or anything, is surely an indication of their own egotism, insecurities, limitations and weaknesses. The closest relevant generic style classifications might be perhaps ‘abstract’, ‘colour field’, ‘geometric’, ‘abstract expressionist’, ‘minimalist’ etc. But I always find my own ‘mix’ … with limitless variations. My art and writing are meant to be different and new; and pleasing, challenging and annoying — at the same time. I have resided several places in the USA, as well as in Spain and (currently) in Norway. My art often addresses cultural, political, social and spiritual issues relevant to our day and age. I have had several one-man shows and group exhibitions in Norway and in Sweden, and my art can be found in both private collections and those of major institutions and embassies/consulates.”)

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Sometimes famous persons/artists who are personally unknown to me influence and appeal to my own artistic and socio-political development through their art and performances. One such person is the great Jacques Brel. I love some of his music — indeed; but, as with many famous artists, equating his texts with his personal life has given me even more than I would have imagined.

puppy at french cafe in oslo

READ THE STORY AT THIS LINK…

My own fantasy about how these coincided follows in this fictitious letter to Brel from his Zizou:

SATIRICAL FICTIONAL LETTER TO JACQUES BREL.

Cher Jacques,

Félicitations ! Ta chanson ” Ne me quitte pas ” est devenue un succès énorme. Tu fais sentir ta douleur … en utilisant la veine ensorcellante de Maurice Ravel, comme dans son ” Boléro “, où tu gardes le même refrain et le même ton calme, mais la colère en plus, dans tes mots. Et tu te protèges d’une manière si poignante en me demandant à plusieurs reprises de ne pas te quitter, à en devenir fou de rage. Ta chanson nous ravit, mais en même temps, elle a plongé le poignard dans le coeur de notre conte de fées. Si seulement tu n’étais pas si lâche. Pourquoi n’as-tu pas pu exprimé tes craintes et tes émotions dans la vie réelle, au lieu de me faire passer pour un citoyen banal? Comme ta stupide maîtresse, qui a voulu exploiter ta gloire et ta réputation ? Tu sais que je ne me suis jamais soucié de telles choses. Je t’ai simplement aimé. Et toi, tu … tu as seulement été amoureux du romantisme, du simple fait ” d’être amoureux “. L’annonce de notre ” enfant d’amour ” s’est avérée trop pesante pour toi. J’ai aussi eu peur. Mais tu étais un enfant, jouant à être un homme. Ma fierté ne m’a pas permis de porter les ombres que tu décrivais dans ta chanson. Et comment oses-tu inclure mon chien adoré dans ta chanson pitoyable…? ” Laisse-moi devenir l’ombre de ton ombre, l’ombre de ta main et l’ombre de ton chien. “

Tu exprimes ta colère et ta confusion tout en me priant de ne pas te quitter. La vérité est que tu n’étais jamais complètement là dans notre relation d’amour. J’étais un jouet pour toi, un joyau à chérir dans le secret … mais tu ne m’as jamais vraiment aimée comme un homme devrait aimer une femme. Je sais que je dois te sembler amère. En vérité, je ne le suis pas. Je me sens finalement libre de devenir la femme que je suis … libérée de cet homme immature qui me détruisait avec ses émotions toujours changeantes et extrêmes. Tant d’apitoiement sur soi-même, tant de colère et d’indifférence soudaine ! Non, notre ” enfant d’amour ” n’a aucune réalité et il n’existera jamais. J’aime ma chambre sans berceau. Pourquoi n’écrirais-tu pas une nouvelle chanson, Jacques ? ” la chanson des vieux amants … “?

Ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …
Assez !

Je ne t’ai jamais quitté … parce que je ne t’ai jamais eu.

Entendons-nous : tu ne me parles pas – et je ne te parle pas. C’est mieux comme ça. Tu peux maintenant écrire toutes les chansons que tu veux de notre amour perdu et devenir ainsi encore plus riche et plus célèbre.

Et je me contenterai d’épouser le plombier ou le charpentier.

Je pourrai alors chérir mes enfants, des enfants conçus avec amour.

J’aurais d’utiliser ce subjonctif que tu aimais tant, je regrette de ne pas y avoir pensé plus tôt!

Penses-y,
Zizou

(from my book “Entre Nous et Eux”)

 

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This arousing and provocative book of poetry and novellas in English and French is the author’s latest approach to what he terms as “Extreme literature”. According to Powell: “‘Extreme literature’ can be philosophical, political, religious, sexually-oriented, profane, or just downright ‘dangerous’ because it rocks others’ boat(s) personally. Not all literature is ‘pretty’, and even humour can be considered provocative. Art is the ultimate expression of the process of rebellion. If an artist loses that quality, he/she ‘dies’ in a certain way. In this latest book ‘Entre Nous et Eux’ extreme literature is explored through the lens of LGBT-sexuality and personal identity, and in a multilingual and multicultural context.” Powell’s “Gaytude” – co-authored with award-winning author Albert Russo – won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award for the category gay/lesbian nonfiction. Isagani R. Cruz called Powell’s sci-fi novel “The Tunnel at the End of Time” a new way of writing, and wrote: “The Tunnel at the End of Time is a masterful symphony of languages, religions, cultures, and literary techniques, all journeying to one inevitable destination: the individual wrestling with self.” Dr. Santosh Kumar has written: “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, from his book entitled: “Adam Donaldson Powell: the making of a poet.” And Albert Russo has written in his foreword to “Entre Nous et Eux”: “… I urge you to read these humble lines, for you will never regret having tasted the equal of our century’s Verlaine, Rimbaud or Baudelaire. Adam Donaldson Powell’s own FLEURS DU MAL are flowers to be treasured a lifetime.”

BOOK FOREWORD BY ALBERT RUSSO

If there is one poet who will mark this 21st century, I ask you, dear reader and lover of literature, to discover, or rediscover an artist named Adam Donaldson Powell. I use both words purposely: literature and art, because this “Esprit Universel” is a multi-talented man who excels in whatever discipline he tackles: poetry, fiction, essays, photography, painting, and goodness knows what else. He probably has other hidden secrets that will enchant the aesthete, once he pulls them out of his magic hat. By the way, he also writes in several languages. And proficiently, what’s more! 

It is much too restrictive to call Adam Donaldson Powell a gay poet, or gay whatever. And yet, he describes love, gay or not, with the most sensual, elegant, compassionate, but also at times crude, vengeful and downright poisonous words. He wears ‘no gloves’ as the French say, when it comes to telling a story – yes, his poems have themes too, which makes them reachable to the adult public, even to those who don’t care much for poetry – of abused children, scorned transvestites, sons and daughters of mixed blood, or prostitutes who are prey to the most despicable whoremongers, roaming the streets of every capital and city, large and small, of our planet. But, oh lovers of beauty and eroticism of the finest quality, delve into some of his romantic poems and you will dream that you are the hero or the heroine of these verses! It has often been my case. 

There are millions of scribblers on the Net who think they are poets. Some excellent poets do exist, but here I urge you to read these humble lines, for you will never regret having tasted the equal of our century’s Verlaine, Rimbaud or Baudelaire. Adam Donaldson Powell’s own FLEURS DU MAL are flowers to be treasured a lifetime. 

  • Albert Russo 2017

 

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Review of Adam Donaldson Powell’s book “Entre Nous et Eux”, by C. Richard Mathews, USA.

Adam Donaldson Powell’s new collection of works, Entre Nous et Eux, displays his multiple talents and concerns in a series of brilliant and engaging pieces. Powell is an activist, essayist, fiction writer, visual artist, poet, who writes in four languages, though English is the predominant one in this volume and an inability to read French, Norwegian or Spanish will not detract from a reader’s understanding and appreciation of any of the pieces.

The book is divided into four sections: poetry, a novella titled “Entre Nous”, a short story titled “Death Poem” and another, longer novella called “The Stalker”. While the works deal with many themes, the overriding one for this reader was the issue of how societal and political forces affect — often adversely — an individual’s development, sometimes to the point that she or he does not or cannot understand or accept who she/he is. A major factor in this, it is suggested, is the inability of others in her/his family and in greater society to respect and accept a person’s differences (the “other”).

The book begins with Powell’s great strength: his poetry. Interestingly, in the three works of fiction poems appear as well. In both the stand-alone poetry and the fiction, poems allow Powell to focus the reader’s attention immediately on his themes and concerns. The first group of poems involves children in a presumably Western European (Parisian?) context and their shock at how the world interacts with their innocence: a child playing hopscotch confronting a pedophile, a young girl taunted because she has “two mothers”, a young hijab-wearing Muslim girl also subject to jibes, problems for a child of “color”, a presumably Muslim boy’s trauma at the hands of police after talking of ISIS, the treatment of gypsies and their plight and ostracism, the shock of exploding bombs in an unnamed war zone.

Although much of the poetry deals with “social issues” in one sense or the other, there are purely lyrical moments as well, such as the poem “Jeux d’Eau”.

At a number of points the issue of suicide is introduced: the inability of the characters to accept themselves or others’ perceptions of them. Thus, in the first novella, “Entre Nous.”, a friend of one of the main characters dies of an overdose (deliberate?) days after they’ve had sex with each other. And the beautiful short story “Death Poem”, concerning two young Japanese men, involves the presumed suicide of a father over his son’s homosexuality, and the son’s own subsequent suicide himself. As noted above, the use of poetry, and references to poetry, permeate Powell’s fiction writing and in this moving story he introduces us to a specific Japanese form of poetry relevant to the taking of one’s life.

Both novellas involve casts of characters that are followed through some years of their lives. “Entre Nous.” is presented partially in an epistolary form. The story involves the interaction of several gay friends and various sexual escapades in a number of Western cities — Paris, London, New York — that the author is obviously familiar with. As in some of the poetry, especially the collection of interlocking erotic poems “tu sais je vais….t’enculer (love letters)”, the writing about sex is explicitly detailed, a means for the author to “épater la bourgeoisie” in the mode of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Genet and other French writers. Their cumulative effect is, ultimately, powerful and meaningful. These passages are part of his subtle analysis throughout of various types of love and physical and emotional attraction.

The second, longer novella, “The Stalker”, concerns a young woman and her lover, a transgender man who, at one point discovers that he may be “a lesbian in a man’s body” (294). The overriding theme is one of identity — despite society’s pressures, finding it or creating it and then having the flexibility to change it or allow it to modulate as circumstances and feelings may urge or dictate.

The reader should not miss the great amount of humor and wit, and pure literary pleasure, in Powell’s writing which, as in Proust, may be overlooked if one focuses merely on “the story line” or themes. Be ready for a wonderful turn-of-phrase, or the startling juxtaposition of images. For example, in “Une Lettre d’Une Prostitue…” the letter writer states, “J’aimerais parfois me mettre dans le peau de quelqun d’autre…” Or, “mots doux et traitres a la fois…” (37). Or: “lips part revealing your lizard tongue” (63). Or: “blood-red sugary tension of domestic rape” (55). Or: “the relentless fantasy is more than the sum of reality’s individual parts”. (78)

Especially delightful are the “echoes” one finds between different parts of the works through the use of literary devices similar to Wagner’s leitmotifs. Thus, there is a reference early in “Entre Nous.” to Donald O’Connor and Marilyn Monroe singing “a man chases a girl (until she catches him)” and then much later the reader comes upon a scene of Karol/Mariusz showing his poetry to a closeted priest in which he has written “I delight in chasing straight boys until they catch me” (172).

It should be noted that in both his poetry and fiction Powell’s writing style is clear and precise without being pedestrian or boring. It is a style that is able to draw in and engage the reader quietly and without showiness, leaving one with a sense of pleasure, even when the subjects at hand are very serious ones.

Powell’s book is highly recommended for its many pure literary pleasures but also for its profound insights into aspects of modern life that are often obfuscated or ignored by other writers and media in our contemporary world oversaturated with often meaningless written and visual distractions.

C. Richard Mathews
New York-based art historian, writer and attorney

Recension du recueil ‘Entre Nous et Eux’ de Adam Donaldson Powell,

Le nouveau recueil de Adam Donaldson Powell intitulé Entre Nous et Eux reflète les talents multiples de l’auteur et comprend une série de textes aussi brillants que jubilatoires. Powell, l’activiste, est à la fois écrivain, poète, essayiste, peintre et photographe.  En outre, il écrit en anglais, sa langue maternelle, mais également en français, en norvégien et en espagnol.  Le lecteur découvrira dans ce volume des textes dans ces quatre langues, ce qui, dans notre monde hyper-connecté est encore une rareté, mais en même temps une grande richesse.

Ce volume est divisé en quatre parties: Poésie, une nouvelle intitulée “Death Poem”, et deux courts romans portant les titres suivants: “Entre Nous” et “The Stalker”.

Alors que ces textes évoquent de nombreux thèmes, le fil conducteur est celui des effets de la société et de la politique sur le développement de l’individu, au point où celui-ci ne comprend plus ou n’accepte tout simplement pas qui il est ou ce qu’il risque de devenir.  L’auteur suggère que les autres, c’est-à-dire, sa famille ou la société dans laquelle il évolue, est inapte à respecter, voire à accepter sa différence.

Le livre a pour prémices la poésie de Powell, poésie dans laquelle il excelle. Ses textes de fiction sont eux aussi parsemés de poèmes, plus ou moins longs. Les premiers poèmes traitent de l’enfance ayant pour cadre une capitale européenne, qui pourrait être Paris.  Et des conséquences, insidieuses ou cruelles, que le monde alentour peut avoir sur eux. Voyez cette gosse jouant à la marelle et qui s’éloigne précautionneusement d’un pédophile, cette autre que l’on moque parce qu’elle a ‘deux mères’, ou cette jeune musulmane malmenée à cause du hijab qu’elle porte. Que dire aussi de ce garçon basané que la police menotte dès qu’il prononce le mot Daesch, du traitement odieux que subissent les gitans, de leur ostracisme. L’auteur évoque également le choc que produisent les bombes explosant dans des zones de guerre.

Tandis que nombreux sont les poèmes traitant de problèmes de société, ils possèdent tous cette touche lyrique si propre à Powell. ‘Jeux d’Eau’ en est un parfait exemple.

La problématique du suicide apparaît ci et là: certains personnages ont du mal à s’accepter, d’autant plus lorsque leur entourage les rejette.

Ainsi, dans le premier roman, ‘Entre Nous’, l’ami de l’un des protagonistes meurt à la suite d’une overdose (peut-être délibérément), quelques jours après que les deux ont fait l’amour ensemble.

Dans la magnifique nouvelle ‘Death Poem’, qui met en scène deux jeunes hommes japonais, le père de l’un d’eux se suicide, apparemment à cause de l’homosexualité de son fils, lequel à son tour met fin à ses jours. Que ce soit dans ses textes de fiction ou dans sa poésie, Powell évoque le suicide en utilisant des éléments particuliers de la poésie japonaise. Y percevrait-on l’ombre de Mishima ?

Les deux romans mettent en scène des protagonistes sur des tranches de vie. ‘Entre Nous’ est raconté en partie sous forme épistolaire. On y parle d’amis gays, de leur interaction, de leurs expériences sexuelles vécues dans certaines grandes villes occidentales, telles que Paris, Londres ou New York, villes que l’auteur connaît bien. Powell, n’ayant pas froid aux yeux, n’hésite pas à écrire des ‘lettres d’amour’ contenant des mots crus, comme par exemple: “tu sais je vais….t’enculer”. Et cela pour ‘épater la galerie’, à l’instar de Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine – qui, à l’époque écrivaient sous des pseudonymes -, Genet, ainsi que d’autres écrivains français. Mais là, il ne s’agit pas uniquement de subterfuges, ces vers érotiques, voire pornographiques, participent de l’analyse subtile de ce qui constitue l’amour pluriel, qu’il s’agisse de la simple attraction physique et/ou des émotions qui peuvent en découler.

Le second roman, ‘The Stalker’, qui est plus long que l’autre, est l’histoire d’une jeune femme et de son amant, un homme trans-genre, qui se demande s’il peut être “une lesbienne dans le corps d’un homme”. Le thème principal ici est celui de l’identité qui, envers et contre tout, tente de s’affirmer et de trouver un équilibre.

Malgré la gravité des sujets abordés, le lecteur pourra apprécier, tout au long du volume, la veine humoristique et spirituelle de l’auteur, à l’instar d’un Proust qui se ‘moque’ gentiment de certains de ses personnages. Powell joue avec les mots et s’amuse à juxtaposer des images, comme dans ‘La lettre d’une prostituée’, où l’auteur écrit: “J’aimerais parfois me mettre dans la peau de quelqu’un d’autre…”, ou encore, “mots doux et traitres à la fois…”. D’autres  exemples me viennent à l’esprit, tels que “lips part revealing your lizard tongue” , ”blood-red sugary tension of domestic rape”, ou encore, ”the relentless fantasy is more than the sum of reality’s individual parts”.

L’on trouve des passages particulièrement jouissifs tout au long de cette oeuvre si singulière, rappelant les leitmotifs de Wagner. L’un des personnages écoute un ancien vinyle de Donald O’Connor et de Marilyn Monroe chantant “a man chases a girl (until she catches him)”. Plus loin, il y a une scène dans laquelle Karol/Mariusz montre l’un de ses poèmes à un prêtre, où il écrit: “I delight in chasing straight boys until they catch me”.

Dans ce livre, qu’il s’agisse de poésie ou de prose, le style est clair, précis, et à la fois engageant, sans jamais être pompeux, même lorsque l’auteur traite de sujets graves.

Cette oeuvre mérite d’être lue pour diverses raisons. D’abord pour la belle phrase, un plaisir purement littéraire, ensuite parce que Powell aborde ici des thèmes de notre société contemporaine qui souvent sont, soit ignorés par d’autres écrivains et les média, soit négligés en raison de la quantité phénoménale de distractions vaines, aussi bien pseudo-littéraires que visuelles, que l’on nous bombarde quotidiennement.

C. Richard Mathews, historien de l’art, écrivain et avocat new yorkais

ORDER MY NEW PAPERBACK “ENTRE NOUS ET EUX” HERE!

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SHORT AUTHOR BIO:

ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. He has published several literary books (including collections of poetry, short stories, and novellas, two science fiction novels, and essays) in the USA, Norway and India; as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He writes in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has read his poetry at venues in New York City (USA), Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kathmandu (Nepal). His book “Gaytude” (co-authored with Albert Russo) won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the category gay/lesbian non-fiction. Powell was also the winner of the Azsacra International Poetry Award in 2008, and the recipient of a Norwegian Foreign Ministry travel stipend for authors in 2005. Powell also took initiative to planning and organizing the “Words – one path to peace and understanding” international literary festival in Oslo, Norway in 2008. He has been an author under the Cyberwit label since 2005, and he has published 12 literary books since 1987.

CHECK OUT:

MY AMAZON.COM AUTHOR PAGE: HERE!

MY CYBERWIT.NET AUTHOR PAGE: HERE!

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:

adam-in-tub

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:

Trivia: Great concert pianists I studied under in the 1970s and early 1980s …

These include: Arminda Canteros, Berenice Lipson-Gruzen, John Ranck and Jacob Lateiner.

Here is a short video about Arminda Canteros:

Loss (y yo pienso aún en ti)
Loss (y yo pienso aún en ti)

Arminda: I still remember you, your grace, your inspiration, your teaching … thank you! — Adam Donaldson Powell.

The classical musician society in New York City at that time was rather “interesting” to say the least. I remember the half snobbish – half avant-garde very competitive classical musician scene in Manhattan in the seventies and eighties, where musical pedigrees and lineages which could be traced back to famous composers and pedagogues helped concert pianists in need of cash to command prices of $100 or more an hour for weekly piano lessons. I studied with several myself: most notably John Ranck, Berenice Lipson-Gruzen, Arminda Canteros, and finally Jacob Lateiner. They were all colourful personalities, talented concert pianists and – with the exception of Mr. Lateiner – patient with the imbalances between my excellent interpretative skills and somewhat lagging technical skills. These were the days and years of Carnegie Hall debut dreams, lp (and later cd) recordings for the elite performers, hours of practice, mandatory Beethoven, Bach, Grieg, Mozart, and of course Brahms ( which was my favourite ), before I could earn the right to play with the fun French Impressionist composers like Debussy, Ravel etc. and with Karol Szymanowski.

John Ranck became my friend and mentor, in addition to being my first serious piano instructor in the non-college world. He was a kind and generous man who taught me musical discipline, cured me of my stage fright by continuously inviting me to perform at student recitals and soirees, and he also taught me much about ridding myself of destructive love relationships and other problems which threatened to get in the way of my musical pursuits. He was openly gay and lived with his partner in a luxurious condominium on Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, in The Village. We remained friends long after I moved on to new teachers, and even after I moved to Europe. Unfortunately, years later – once when I visited him while on vacation in New York City – I made the mistake of telling him that there was at that time much heated debate in Europe regarding the Israel vs. Palestine issue. I proceeded to tell him that I had sympathies for both. He started to wave his arms, but I continued talking – not understanding his sign language. Suddenly his partner came into the living room and ordered me to leave their home. I did not know he was there, and did not know that he was Jewish and/or a Zionist. Not that that would have stopped me from voicing my views. Many of my employers, best friends, neighbours and lovers at the time (and before and later) were Jewish (including some Zionists), and I had studied and practised both the Kabbalah and Sufism myself. I have always been open to discussions with persons with other and alternative perspectives. However, that stupid incident ended a precious longterm friendship, as John chose to let me return to Europe in silence in order to maintain peace in the household … and his partner (S.) was not interested in explaining his behaviour or why he had a bug up his ass.

My next teacher after John was Ms. Berenice Lipson-Gruzen. Berenice looked like a Parisian fashion model with her stunning features, used heavy French perfumes, smoked French cigarettes, and looked half her already then advanced age. She was a fireball and extremely sexy … She excelled at performing Debussy and Ravel, and literally unnerved me with her electricity. She made a habit of sitting tightly up against me on the piano bench, covering and guiding my hands with her own. I went nuts, and eventually had to tell her that she was deliciously distracting. Her comment was a coy: “Oh, really Adam!!?” Berenice had me bathing in Debussy and worked with me for quite a while on Ravel’s “Valses nobles et sentimentales”, which became my signature piece along with several Brahms piano pieces ( Opus 117, 118 and 119). While Berenice was away on tour she arranged for me to study under her teacher: Arminda Canteros.

Arminda was a charming elderly lady, an amazing pianist and a great pedagogue. It was Arminda who started me on the road to proper classical technical discipline. When Berenice returned to Manhattan I decided to continue studying under them both. I explained that I needed what both of them were teaching me. This, of course, insulted Berenice.

After some time I eventually moved on to my final teacher ( also on the Upper West Side of Manhattan ): Jacob Lateiner. Jacob was an excellent pianist, very well-known, “all business”, and both soft and hard at the same time. I can give one colourful example: one day on my way to his condo for my weekly lesson, I was mugged outside of Zabar’s in the middle of the afternoon … by a wacko who insisted that I had jumped him the day before. I was knocked to the pavement and suffered a mild concussion. When I arrived at Lateiner’s flat I explained what had just happened and said that I was unsure if I could play the piano. He immediately fetched a drink of whiskey, told me to drink it quickly, and then commanded me to sit at the piano. Like a military commander, he ordered me to play Beethoven, Mozart, Grieg etc. ( all pieces he had started me on ). Finally, he told me to play the Ravel. After a few minutes into the piece he marched over to the piano, snatched the music away and threw it to the floor, and barked: “I don’t know who these people are that you have studied with previously, but I forbid you to ever perform this piece in public!”
And with that he smiled, said he hoped I was feeling better, took his $100 and I was off to practice for my next lesson in the following week.

Here is a recording of Mr. Lateiner performing Beethoven Op. 126 (Bagatelles)

Because I had started my professional training at such an adult age ( in my twenties ), it was doubtful whether my talent would be enough to gain me a musical career. In New York City in those years EVERYONE was an artist of some sort, and the litmus test was earning your income from your art. I managed to earn half my income from performing music at all venues possible, including restaurants, bars, weddings, bar mitzvahs, hospitals … whatever – both solo and in violin-piano duos. I even got a great compliment and generous tip from Art Garfunkel while playing at a restaurant across the street from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s condo building.

I realized that I would never be as great or well-known as my teachers, and being a classical musician was a hard life and all work all the time for me. Thus, I went back to school and took a master degree in international and development administration, before writing my first poetry book and moving to Norway to start a dance- theater company with my Norwegian dancer-choreographer lover.

Music gave birth to my poetry, which again became « my music » through words and pictures … eventually encompassing visual art as well ( I had my debut as a painter in the mid-nineties ).

Adam Donaldson Powell (piano) and Cathy Craig (violin), New York City.
Adam Donaldson Powell (piano) and Cathy Craig (violin), New York City.