The first in a series showcasing the artist's multifaceted practice.
Best known as the frontman of alt-rock band R.E.M., Michael Stipe is an artist in the most far-reaching sense of the word. His distinct vocals are hard not to recognize thanks to the popularity of tracks like “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People”. Stipe has also worked extensively in film, founding two production companies and acting as the executive producer behind well-known independent hits like like Being John Malkovich and Velvet Goldmine. His circle of friends — musicians Natalie Merchant, Tori Amos, Thom Yorke, Courtney Love, and the late Kurt Cobain, just to name a few — reads like a who’s who of the 90’s alternative rock scene. It should comes as no surprise that Stipe would extend his practice into the realm of the visual for his latest project — a photo book.
Volume I is the first in the series “presenting different aspects of Michael Stipe’s multifaceted artistic practice.” Here Stipe and co-collaborator Jonathan Berger work with photographs; there are thirty-five in total and through them Stipe plays an array of roles. He moves fluidly between subject, photographer, and curator, putting together his own photographs with found pieces from his collection. Present in condensed form are 37-years of Stipe’s artistic practice of creating and collecting materials, and he involves the two practices in Volume 1 as he conflates “figures in his own life with those in American history and popular culture,” focusing specifically within his experience as a queer man.
The book features many of his friends, lovers and fellow artists. …
The Factory's hedonistic hit comes to print
In 1966 Andy Warhol released The Chelsea Girls, a three and a half hour experimental film which would become his greatest commercial success. Part documentation, part experiment in hyperreality, the film is a series of vignettes in which Warhol’s superstars play altered versions of themselves. Everything is shown in split-screen and the audio alternates between the two videos. In one sequence German singer Nico cuts her own bangs. In another the artist Brigid Berlin plays herself (nicknamed “the Duchess”) wearing gold chains and shooting up amphetamines. In one of many scenes shot at the Chelsea Hotel, Mary Woronov, playing Vietnam War-era radio host Hanoi Hannah, barks at Warhol’s Ingrid Superstar, Angelina “Pepper” Davis and Susan Bottomly, also known as International Velvet. The Chelsea Girls is dark and glamorous and mundane, and above all, voyeuristic. Upon its release audiences were captivated, critics were polarized but ever opinionated, and the film would go on to be played internationally for two years.
Since then, apart from occasional museum screenings, The Chelsea Girls has been nearly impossible to see. However in honor of their 24th anniversary, the Andy Warhol Museum is undertaking the major project of digitizing hundreds of Warhol’s films— including The Chelsea Girls. Coinciding with the museum’s project is the release of Andy Warhol’s The Chelsea Girls, a “deluxe treatment of the 12-reel, split-screen film, featuring stills from the newly digitized film, previously unpublished transcripts and archival materials, and expanded texts about each of the individual films that comprise The Chelsea Girls.” …
How a small town boy went from jock straps to pop stardom
Before a celebrity begins writing a memoir, they need to decide who they’re writing for. Is it for fans, or a general audience? For any gay or LGBTQ+ identifying celebrity there’s another layer of consideration: Is this for the community?
In Boys Keep Swinging (Atria), Scissor Sisters‘ front-man Jake Shears claims “I don’t make music just for gay people,” but his brutally honest memoir delves into nuances of queer existence that are rarely seen in print. For example, when Derek (aka Del Marquis, lead guitarist for Scissor Sisters) makes an off-handed remark about “trashy bottoms” it leads to a physical confrontation with Jake:
“A jealous animosity had spewed out of me that I had been shoving under the rug. I felt threatened by Derek’s fascination with representations of masculinity: the utility van he drove around, the butch-worship. I thought that because I was a freewheeling fag, it somehow made me less-than. I allowed myself to wear sequins and prance around the stage, performing queenery. But I told myself it was twice removed, an act. I still carried shame about who I was.”
It’s a powerful moment of self-awareness that most gay men can relate to. At its heart, Boys Keep Swinging is the story of an effeminate boy realizing he is an outsider. He’ll need to learn to harness the anger, and hidden mental anguish that are often supplemental to being a fag.
Often as I was reading, I wanted to reach through the page, grab Jake by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. …
“Pray the Gay Away actually started as an idea after we came out and our mom threw holy water at us. So, after that rather interesting response, the book started as just a sticky note. Then more strange things started happening with/to us and the sticky notes turned into our book.” When we met The Zakar Twins last summer they casually mentioned they were writing a book in between stripping off their underwear and bearing it all for our magazine. I’m a pretentious asshole sometimes and was like: These gays work for Monster, how are they writing a book? (Sorry, guys!) When I wasn’t trying to look at their dicks and trying to style the image we were shooting with Tom & Abi, I was curious what their book was about. They told me they had been writing it for a bit, in hopes of shedding a different light on the LGBTQ-Arabian community, something they talked a about in GAYLETTER Issue 7. Along with trying to make the LGBTQ-Arabian community more inclusionary and visible, they wanted to show readers that things don’t necessarily get better, “but they do heal in their own fucked up ways.” I’m here for that because I’m a pensive realist who sometimes just sounds morose, but coming from Zack and Michael maybe some readers will take comfort in the fact that even though their life feels like a hot mess, it’s just running its course and the best thing to do is stick it out and be gaggy anyway. She’s a cute read for any day of the week and the cover features a nun and the boys, so you’ll get some bulging eyeballs if you read it on public transit. (Always good.) Zack and Michael told me they have two other books planned and just started outlining the next. Get behind their authorship now or forever hold your peace!
Chances are if you ask me for a book recommendation I’ll provide six. When I’m not reading GAYLETTER, I’m reading several other things. It’s the only way I stay sane. I begin everyday with reading and end my day with some pages as well. Literature is probably the most important thing to me so every Christmas I usually just ask my family to gift me books or cash. I came across The Vanity Fair Dairies when it was written about in The New Yorker in an article titled “How Tina Brown Remixed The Magazine.” Naturally, I read it in one sitting. Brown’s diaries, collected over the hot and heavy decade that was Manhattan in the 1980s, are a first hand account of the ups and downs of society at the time. Reagan is in the White House, Trump’s golden toilet of a building illustrates the heyday of his early corporate-malfeasance. With countless publishing-politics at stake (Brown is in cohorts with all of the Conde Nast big-wigs) and many business lunches at the then Four Seasons’ Grill Room, Brown takes her journalistic training straight into her journal each night and provides all of the necessary details of her days while not holding back on personal dislikes and her own insecurities as well. She is a poignant observer, something she relates to her alcohol allergy (if you can believe that) because had she been drinking through the 80s like the rest of her colleagues, it would be impossible to report back on her rise into publishing fame. As Anderson Cooper writes on the book jacket: “High, low, smart, sexy… a must-read for anyone interested in Hollywood, high society and the movers and shakers of pop culture.”
"Dior is a key name within the past, present, and future of couture.”
The House of Dior, founded in 1946 by the eponymous Christian Dior, should need no introduction, but in case you are unfamiliar, The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture is a lavish introduction to the breathtaking evolution of one of fashion’s most honored houses. Dior is a titan in the fashion industry that has continuously boasted successful lines of ready-to-wear fashion, fragrances, leather goods, accessories, timepieces, jewelry, and, of course, haute couture. Together with the National Gallery of Victoria, Dior has released this brand-new, gorgeously constructed book to celebrate their 70th anniversary.
In the foreword, the director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Tony Ellwood, writes: “This fully illustrated publication…explores the rich history of the fashion house, the design codes synonymous with the House of Dior, insights into the Dior atelier workrooms, and the role that accessories and perfume have played in expressing the complete Dior look.”
Written by Katie Somerville, Lydia Kamitsis, and Danielle Whitfield, The House of Dior breaks down each era of the house since its inception in 1947, separated into sections and themes based on the tenures of the many legendary creative directors of the house: Christian Dior (1946-1957), Yves Saint-Laurent (1957–1960), Marc Bohan (1960–1989), Gianfranco Ferré (1989–1997), John Galliano (1997–2011), Bill Gaytten (2011–2012), Raf Simons (2012–2015), and the first female creative director of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri (2016–present).
Christian Dior mannequins in the salon of House of Dior’s headquarters. 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris 1957. …
Mixing painting with the written word 'We Can't Make You Younger' shines new light on the queer experience.
Manuel Solano is a multidisciplinary artist whose first solo show at Museo Carrillo Gil opened last year, in Mexico City. The exhibition consisted of mostly paintings from their series Blind Transgender with AIDS, made shortly after he lost his eyesight in 2014 due to HIV-related complications. (Solano has identified as both transgender and nonbinary, but uses masculine pronouns). “The impression I have is that I was left for dead,” he told writer Benoît Loiseau in GAYLETTER Issue 7.
“We Can’t Make You Younger” marks the first collaboration between the Mexico City writer and artist. The collection includes three short stories written by Loiseau with accompanying artwork by Solano who was recently selected to show in the New Museum’s 2018 Triennial. The stories are simply and directly written, and when matched with Solano’s gestural, immediate painting style, create a collection that is stunningly powerful, and quietly haunting.
“The stories deal with fundamental issues, including loss, sexuality, romantic attachment, and so called spirituality,” writes Chris Sharp in the foreword. Simply put, this collaboration is beautiful synergy of the queer and the relatable: striking images and poignant stories that both delight and devastate with their quotidian and universally resonant content that ranges from Michael Stipe to a not-so-friendly queer cabaret performer.
Loiseau is a Belgian author, but is currently based between London and Mexico City. His stories are blunt and are unconcerned with lyricism, but are focused on the complexity of queer desire and existence. …
Before you rush out to see the highly acclaimed new film Call Me By Your Name, we suggest you first read the book. Written by American writer André Aciman (who is, shocker, straight) the book tells the story of “a love affair between an intellectually precocious 17-year-old American-Italian Jewish boy and a visiting 24-year-old American Jewish scholar in 1980s Italy. The novel chronicles their summer romance and the 20 years that followed.” Aciman’s writing is super engaging and erotically charged, immersing the reader in our 17-year-old narrator’s mind and world. Set in a small town outside Rome, Elio Perlman is the son of a professor at a nearby university. Each summer the family takes in a visiting fellow as a writer in residence. Elio resents the program because it means giving up his room for the time the writer is there. When Oliver shows up for the program however, Elio has no complaints. This handsome American with his aloof charm is all that twinky Elio can think of. He is obsessed with this man and his every move. How a straight novelist is able to describe the sexual longings of a young gay boy so insightfully is an impressive feat. Call Me By Your Name is a captivating read, and a wonderful break from the world we’re currently absorbed in. Try something new, read a book!
The first exposure I ever had to Jack Pierson and his photography was GAYLETTER Issue 1. His photo on the cover was striking but in a most subtle way. The moment he caught on Eli’s face is once that I find myself falling into. So when I walked into the GL office and saw Pierson’s new photo book The Hungry Years on our cute wooden slatted coffee table, I knew I’d have to take a look.
The book’s press release is actually beautifully written so I’ll relay it to you gorgeous readers. “The Hungry Years collects the early photographs of Jack Pierson, taken throughout the 1980s — photographs that have increasingly captured the attention of the art world since they were first editioned in 1990.”
“Informed in part by his artistic emergence in the era of AIDS, Pierson’s work is moored by melancholy and introspection, yet his images are often buoyed by a celebratory aura of homoeroticism, seduction and glamour. Sometimes infused with a sly sense of humor, Pierson’s work is inherently autobiographical; often using his friends as models and referencing traditional Americana motifs, his bright yet distanced imagery reveals the undercurrents of the uncanny in the quotidian. Fueled by the poignancy of emotional experience and by the sensations of memory, obsession and absence, Pierson’s subject is ultimately, as he states, ‘hope.’”
The book itself is about 100 pages with luscious full-color images on every other page. It’s minimally designed, which focuses the reader on the images themselves; the presentation of the photos is secondary — perhaps even tertiary. …
Gengoroh Tagame's new graphic novel explores old prejudices
Gengoroh Tagame’s manga My Brother’s Husband marks a dramatic shift from the artist’s other work. Tagame has been a fixture in the Queer Japanese BDSM fetish community since the 1980s and has been published in numerous publications and collections. He often sites Bill Ward, the British gay BDSM erotica artist as a major influence and his work is often compared to Tom of Finland’s illustrations due to their hyper-masculine beefy builds.
My Brother’s Husband follows Yaichi, a heterosexual single father whose gay twin brother, Ryoji, left Japan in his early twenties in search of a more accepting home. After Ryoji’s death, his husband – a Canadian named Mike Flanagan – travels to Japan to connect with Ryoji’s family and explore his childhood home. Yaichi, a deeply homophobic man, learns to empathize with Mike and posthumously accept his late-brother through the eyes of his young daughter Kana, not yet affected by the prejudices of her father or larger Japanese culture. While the story Tagame weaves is both touching and effective, it makes far more sense aimed at a Japanese audience than an American one. Japanese culture has an ingrained homophobia that Tagame himself mentions in an interview with Vice, saying “there was no term ‘same-sex marriage’ when I started to write My Brother’s Husband”. While there are many American readers who would benefit immensely from reading the manga (i.e. the 37% of Americans that still oppose gay marriage), the market the novel seems to be aimed at is gay Americans in their late-teens. …
Edited by Edmund White
Like the very best jewels from the family vault, Edmund White, in 1991, gathered together these 32 stories about and by gay men. Spurred on in his idea by a very enthusiastic Robert McCrum, renowned editor of the equally renowned Faber and Faber, White set about to unearth as many gay treasures as he could: those he remembered liking the first time he read them, those he had heard positive words about, along with a few outings from (at the time) new writers, lending the collection a contemporary as well as a historical feel.
The Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction is a valuable and valued anthology. More than twenty years after its publication, its stories crackle with vitality and talent. Here is a gala gathering under the roof of one book of every legend of gay culture and the gay literary world, men now gilt in myth, gay history and the magic of words. So many versatile writers cover these pages, it is difficult to know where to begin —
Henry James’ The Pupil, quite the most amusing of the lot, delights with its tale of a near-unresolvable bond between a teacher and his young student. Gore Vidal’s bitter vetch piece, Pages from an Abandoned Journal, appears here and the old contrarian’s voice rings out eager and strong. Here also to be found is the tenderness of Denton Welch’s alarming encounter at a Swiss ski chalet, as well as the always salty, backwater perversities of James Purdy. …
Photographer Matt Lambert's upcoming book
With everyone and their dads releasing original content, we’re glad to know the folks at Grindr are starting to do the same. While other platforms have surely dabbled in productions related to gay life and culture, Grindr is guaranteed to bring audiences material created by queers, about queers, for queers. And soon: their first book will launch.
Thankfully it’s by L.A.-boy-gone-Berlin Matt Lambert, a photographer whose art we’ve admired for some time now. Simply called Home, Lambert’s work is concerned with space and its meanings, both physical and virtual. As we know queers’ conceptions of both these things — home and space — can often be fraught, malleable, and life-affirming, Home features photographs and interviews that are both intimate and poignant, warm yet also chilling. With a foreword penned by critically acclaimed queer filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, Lambert’s Home portrays generational and cultural shifts from the bars and bathhouses of the ‘70s to the virtual cruising grounds of the now.
These are spaces that gays begin interacting with in adolescence and onward, so Lambert’s decision to cast through apps like Grindr and Instagram is quite apt. This choice lead him to a group of beautiful boys, and this publication presents them as finding pleasure and intimacy in fucking, along with comfort and kinship in explaining the nuances of cruising and understanding one’s sexuality in our digital moment. With a Nan Goldin feel, infused with aesthetics that are particularly contemporary, Lambert’s photos express distance and proximity, love and something else. …