SotW: What the Water Gave Me by Florence + the Machine Sunday, Nov 13 2011 

I am now officially obsessed with Florence + the Machine. I started listening to their new album, Ceremonials, on iTunes the other day and then I purchased it. It’s definitely a great album. So far, my favorite track if “What the Water Gave Me“:

I love the video for this song too. I’m fascinated by how different Florence Welch looks from different angles and in different clothes. Sometimes she looks like a teenager; sometimes she looks like a middle-aged Joan Crawford. She’s actually 25. I love the way she plays with her image in this way — sometimes seeming to be an innocent girl and sometimes being an amazonian woman. Her visual sense is even more impressive to me than Lady Gaga’s (who I also love).

While “What the Water Gave Me” is my favorite track, I also love several others: “Only if for a Night,” “Shake It Out,” and “Spectrum.”

Here’s the video for “Shake It Out”:

And here is a live performance of the song on The X Factor, just to show her visual aesthetic:

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Weekend: A Review Saturday, Nov 12 2011 

Last night PJ and I went to see Weekend, a new gay independent film about two men, Russell and Glen, who meet on a one-night stand and end up spending a weekend together. Here’s the trailer:

This movie has gotten great reviews, and we assumed we would have to wait until our trip to New York next month to see it, so we were really excited when our local art theater, The Athena, announced that it was showing here. It’s not a perfect movie, but I really enjoyed it — it’s far and away better than the average gay independent movie!

Tom Cullen plays Russell, a not quite fully out gay man in search of connection after spending the evening drinking and smoking pot with his best straight friends. Chris New plays Glen, an artist who politicizes his gayness by talking loudly about gay S&M while hanging out in straight bars and then arguing with the other patrons about it, for example.

As the two men spend the weekend talking, arguing, fucking, and partying, they begin to open up to one another as they’ve never opened up to anyone before. The most appealing aspect of the film is the emotional honesty that these characters have. You feel like you’re eavesdropping on real conversations. For example, Glen and Russell talk about their coming out stories. Both of their stories feel real and honest. These moments seem incredibly wise and insightful but not out of character — Glen and Russell are never wiser than men like them would be. I tend to like talky pictures; that’s definitely what I like best about Weekend.

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J.C. Leyendecker: A Book Review Sunday, Nov 6 2011 

After reading Hide/Seek, I became interested in illustrator J. C. (Joseph Christian) Leyendecker, so I looked around for a good book to read about him. Eventually, I settled on J.C. Leyendecker (2008) by Laurence S. Cutler, Judy Goffman Cutler, and the National Museum of American Illustration. This book is a wonderful collection of Leyendecker’s illustrations accompanied by excellent essays about the Golden Age of American Illustration, Leyendecker’s life, and Leyendecker’s distinctive work. I enjoyed reading (and looking at) it!

Leyendecker’s importance in the history of early twentieth-century American illustration can’t be overstated. He produced over 300 covers for The Saturday Evening Post and was one of, if not the, most popular advertising illustrators of the 1920s and 30s. His images became iconographic representations of sophisticated, urban American chic.

Leyendecker was also gay, and his illustrations often incorporate homoerotic imagery. I find the way this book discusses this element of his art to be very interesting:

Knowing that revealing his secret would threaten his popularity and success, Joe never came out of the closet…. He also attempted to conceal his sexual orientation in his work, which was often characterized by heterosexual female adoration for handsome males depicted in overtly erotic poses. Yet, ironically, he was the most manifest homosexual artist of the early twentieth century–a virtual hero–as his work clearly demonstrates to today’s enlightened audience.

To create such delicious illustrations, he smoothed oils on models’ muscles, enhancing the light reflecting on male surfaces he admired most: one model said that Joe always painted him in a darkened studio, with only candlelight highlighting the erotic qualities of his gleaming form. The gay subculture saw the irony in his work and appreciated the erotic images he lavished upon the world.

These homoerotic images appealed to heterosexual viewers as well, however. In a subtle subversion of heterosexual mores, unattractive men turned to them in their quest to be more appealing through the products being advertised. Sportsmen never saw the football players’ images as anything but manly, for they reveled in the enthusiasm created among the fans. College men, particularly Ivy Leaguers and prep school chums, were proud that their alma maters were highlighted. And most of all, women were drawn to Joe’s images, dreaming of intimacies with men who possessed “The Leyendecker Look.”

While Leyendecker was not publicly out, he did have a partner, Charles A. Beach (1886-1952), whose image is sometimes featured in Leyendecker’s work, as in this illustration, which is included in the Hide/Seek exhibit:

Beach is on the left. Beach is also the model featured in the book’s cover illustration.

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SotW: Dance me to the End of Love by the Civil Wars Saturday, Nov 5 2011 

I recently came across The Civil Wars, a due made up of singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White, while browsing iTunes. I was immediately attracted to their music and downloaded their first album, Barton Hollow, which was released in February.

It’s a great album, and I’m enjoying listening to it, but one of my instant favorite songs on the album is a bonus track, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.” Here’s a live version of The Civil Wars singing it:

[youtube+http://youtu.be/ED97KMfm8O8]

I love this version of the song. It’s romantic, beautiful, and haunting — I’ve been singing it and playing it in my head all week! I also love one of the comments on this video: “these two need to get a room.” I love the playful sexiness going on in this performance. Having watched a few other YouTube clips of them singing live, I can say that it’s not always this incendiary, but it’s always great! (Note: since Williams is married, I assume this sexiness is part of the act rather than a reflection of them having an off-stage relationship.) I’ll have to keep an eye on their concert schedule — I’d love to see them live sometime.

The Leonard Cohen version is quite different:

[youtube+http://youtu.be/7pA5UhNaYw0]

PJ loves Cohen’s music and really likes his version of this song, but I think The Civil Wars’ version is wonderful. To his each own, I guess!

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