I have been fascinated
by the penis for as long as I can remember.
In my first college
figure drawing class I experienced drawing the nude human form for the first time and was immediately enthralled with the
freedom to draw bare flesh and the penis in particular. While fellow students were drawing the entire figure, I was
depicting charcoal “ human landscapes” featuring the penis as the composition’s focal point.
Representational realism over photo realism is my preference from Renaissance masters
Michelangelo and Leonardo to later artists like Eakins and Pearlstein. I love the sensation of working in charcoal with
my bare hands, rubbing and smudging, striving for the sensual contrasts between light and dark found in the works of Caravaggio.
Over the years, first subconsciously then decisively, I began
to explore the relationship between my interest in the male nude and larger issues of male identity. Through books as
diverse as Stiffed; The Betrayal of the American Man by Susan Faludi and A Mind of It’s Own; A Cultural
History of the Penis by David M. Friedman, I have pursued the theme of what being a “man” means.
Through most of history the penis was depicted openly and freely across most cultures
around the world. From cave paintings to Egyptian tombs, Native American hieroglyphs to Hindu temples, and Greek vases
to Roman statuary, the penis was an object of reverence, spirituality, and devotion. But after the fall of Rome, a new
era of systematic suppression and even demonization of the penis prevailed and continues to this day.
The resulting absence of the phallus in our culture has had consequences to our society. Ideas of masculinity and our
collective definition of what a “man” is are intertwined in this suppression. Through our abolition of the
natural male member, we have simultaneously given it more power in our psyches than it merits and made it an object of emasculated
impotence. It is no wonder the “American man” is struggling with a sense of identity and “place”.
It is time for a paradigm shift in male identity in our society and part of that
involves lifting the ban on images of the penis. It is time to raze the ridiculous metaphors we substitute for the phallus
and stop dancing around the very thing that defines the male gender. This series is my way of inviting some of the conversations
that are missing in the dialogue we need.