James Bidgood, Grasp of Erotic Homosexual Images, Dies at 88

James Bidgood, who elevated erotic homosexual images to an artwork within the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s along with his fastidiously staged phantasmagoric footage, and who was the nameless director behind “Pink Narcissus,” a homosexual movie launched in 1971 that grew to become one thing of a cult traditional, died on Jan. 31 in Manhattan. He was 88.

Brian Paul Clamp, director of his gallery, ClampArt, mentioned his demise, in a hospital, was brought on by problems associated to Covid-19.

Mr. Bidgood, who got here to New York from Wisconsin at 18, was a drag performer within the Fifties at Membership 82 within the East Village, the place he additionally generally designed units and costumes. By the early Nineteen Sixties he was taking pictures for males’s physique magazines like Muscleboy.

“They had been badly lit and uninteresting,” he told The New York Times in 2011. “Playboy had women in furs, feathers and lights. That they had faces like lovely angels. I didn’t perceive why boy footage weren’t like that.”

He set about attempting to alter that. He staged pictures, principally in his Manhattan condominium, that had been lavish fantasies stuffed with references to mythology, adventurous lighting and props, and engaging males — generally in costume, generally in nothing. The images, a few of which ended up on the magazines’ covers, had been each erotic and amusingly campy.

“Enchanted scenes of languorous godlike figures in ersatz splendor are rendered with such theatricality of gesture, temper, shade, texture and material as to parody the very want they’re designed to elicit,” Philip Gefter wrote of Mr. Bidgood’s work within the images journal Aperture in 2008.

Starting in 1963 Mr. Bidgood was additionally taking pictures the movie that, in 1971, would flip into “Pink Narcissus,” the loosely plotted story of a homosexual hustler’s fantasies. Mr. Bidgood not solely directed it but additionally designed all of the costumes and units, most of which (together with a males’s room with a row of foam-core urinals) had been in his condominium.

Vincent Canby, reviewing the movie in The Instances when it opened in two Manhattan theaters in Could of that 12 months, dismissed it as “a passive, tackily adorned surreal fantasy out of that pre‐Homosexual‐Activist period when homosexuals hid in closets and browse novels about delicate younger males who dedicated suicide as a result of they might not go on.”

However neither Mr. Canby nor the film’s audiences knew whose work it was; Mr. Bidgood’s backers had taken management of the mission from him and launched a model of the movie that he didn’t like, and he had his identify faraway from the credit. For years, because the movie gained cachet within the homosexual world, guessing who had made it was a parlor recreation. Andy Warhol’s identify was usually urged, amongst others.

Ultimately Mr. Bidgood’s function grew to become well-known, particularly after the publication, in 1999, of “James Bidgood,” a monograph that included a biography by Bruce Benderson. The movie started turning up at festivals across the nation, and Mr. Bidgood’s largely forgotten images from the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s was reappraised. In 2001 there have been exhibitions of his footage in Italy, in Provincetown, Mass., and on the Paul Morris gallery in Manhattan.

Ken Johnson, reviewing the Paul Morris exhibition in The Times, referred to as Mr. Bidgood “a courageous pioneer at a time when artwork images was overwhelmingly straight (formally in addition to sexually) and the concept that pornography may contribute to artistically severe tasks was virtually unthinkable.”

The photographer Lissa Rivera curated one other exhibition, “Reveries,” on the Museum of Intercourse in New York in 2019.

“Since working with Bidgood’s supplies,” she mentioned by electronic mail, “I’ve understood the deep significance of his work on so many queer folks, who’ve shared with me that that they had not seen being homosexual as lovely in the identical manner earlier than seeing James’s work.”

His pictures, she famous, had been made at a time when erotic photographs and homosexual existence confronted substantial authorized restrictions.

“His work for male physique magazines existed on the sting of legality,” she mentioned. “Regardless of this, Bidgood was by no means ashamed or closeted. He lived a life that was totally uncompromising and expressive.”

James Alan Bidgood was born on March 28, 1933, in Stoughton, Wis., and grew up within the Madison space. As a boy, he mentioned, he was drawn to the imagery of the Ziegfeld Follies and related spectacles, a fascination that years later was mirrored in his pictures.

“He didn’t contemplate himself an artist, per se,” Ms. Rivera mentioned, “however as a substitute noticed himself as pushed by the necessity to create visible proof of his want, which originated from being a bit boy enraptured by Hollywood musicals. Hollywood movies had been steeped in queer subtext, usually courtesy of their closeted creators. Bidgood introduced this subtext ahead with clear, direct expression, and created his personal visible and symbolic language.”

In 1951 he moved to New York.

“New York was precisely because it seemed to be in MGM musicals,” he told Another Man journal in 2019. “It was quick, and it was extra thrilling than your second orgasm.”

He put his dexterity in making costumes to make use of at Membership 82, the place he additionally carried out below the identify Terry Howe. He studied on the Parsons Faculty of Design from 1957 to 1960, then supported himself as a window dresser and costume designer. Purchasers would rent him to design their outfits for society balls, and as soon as he began taking pictures, he would generally recycle these robes to create the scenes for the photographs he took in his condominium.

For his first sequence of homoerotic pictures, “Water Colours,” he created the ocean by spreading silver lamé throughout his condominium flooring and fabricated a cave out of wax paper. For “Willow Tree,” from the mid-Nineteen Sixties, wherein a nude man reclines in a mattress of flowers, he conjured the meadow from colourful items of a robe he had made for a consumer to put on to a Junior League ball.

Mr. Bidgood, who Mr. Clamp mentioned had lived in the identical condominium on West 14th Road in Manhattan since 1974, is survived by a brother, Richard.

Mr. Bidgood’s executor, Kelly McKaig, mentioned Mr. Bidgood picked up his digital camera once more within the 2000s and discovered Photoshop, digital audio modifying and different abilities; he even created a three-hour autobiographical audio play, “FAG — the Fairly Good Lifetime of Jimmy Bundle.” However he was reclusive in his closing years, hardly ever leaving his condominium, and he struggled financially. A GoFundMe web page is looking for to finance a funeral and creation of an archive of his work.

Mr. Bidgood’s pictures had been usually labeled “camp,” a time period whose definition has various considerably over the many years inside the homosexual world and past. In 2019 Mr. Bidgood was amongst a half-dozen artists, performers and others recognized with the time period who participated in a discussion for The Instances about simply what it means.

“Doesn’t camp need to make you giggle at the very least?” he requested. “Camp, to me, is sort of a spouse going to her husband’s funeral carrying a Day-Glo orange gown and a giant feather boa on her head.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/arts/james-bidgood-dead.html James Bidgood, Grasp of Erotic Homosexual Images, Dies at 88

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