June 30, 2022

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James Bidgood, a Learn of Gay Images, Dies at 88

5 min read

James Bidgood, who elevated campy gay images in the 1960s and ’70s with his very carefully staged phantasmagoric pics, and who was the anonymous director driving “Pink Narcissus,” a homosexual movie unveiled in 1971 that turned some thing of a cult vintage, died on Jan. 31 in Manhattan. He was 88.

Brian Paul Clamp, director of his gallery, ClampArt, said his dying, in a medical center, was prompted by difficulties related to Covid-19.

Mr. Bidgood, who arrived to New York from Wisconsin at 18, was a drag performer in the 1950s at Club 82 in the East Village, exactly where he also occasionally designed sets and costumes. By the early 1960s he was getting pictures for men’s physique magazines like Muscleboy.

“They had been badly lit and uninteresting,” he told The New York Periods in 2011. “Playboy experienced girls in furs, feathers and lights. They experienced faces like wonderful angels. I did not understand why boy shots weren’t like that.”

He set about hoping to alter that. He staged pictures, largely in his Manhattan apartment, that were lavish fantasies entire of references to mythology, adventurous lights and props, and beautiful guys — in some cases in costume, in some cases in absolutely nothing. The photographs, some of which finished up on the magazines’ handles, ended up the two erotic and amusingly campy.

“Enchanted scenes of languorous godlike figures in ersatz splendor are rendered with these kinds of theatricality of gesture, mood, color, texture and material as to parody the pretty motivation they are developed to elicit,” Philip Gefter wrote of Mr. Bidgood’s perform in the pictures magazine Aperture in 2008.

Commencing in 1963 Mr. Bidgood was also capturing the movie that, in 1971, would change into “Pink Narcissus,” the loosely plotted story of a gay hustler’s fantasies. Mr. Bidgood not only directed it but also made all the costumes and sets, most of which (such as a men’s place with a row of foam-core urinals) were in his condominium.

Vincent Canby, reviewing the film in The Periods when it opened in two Manhattan theaters in May perhaps of that calendar year, dismissed it as “a passive, tackily decorated surreal fantasy out of that pre‐Gay‐Activist period when homosexuals hid in closets and go through novels about sensitive young gentlemen who dedicated suicide for the reason that they could not go on.”

But neither Mr. Canby nor the movie’s audiences knew whose function it was Mr. Bidgood’s backers had taken command of the job from him and unveiled a model of the film that he didn’t like, and he experienced his name eliminated from the credits. For a long time, as the film obtained cachet in the gay earth, guessing who experienced designed it was a parlor activity. Andy Warhol’s identify was frequently recommended, between some others.

At some point Mr. Bidgood’s job turned very well identified, in particular after the publication in 1999 of “James Bidgood,” a monograph that integrated a biography by Bruce Benderson. The movie commenced turning up at festivals about the nation, and Mr. Bidgood’s mostly overlooked images from the 1960s and ’70s was reappraised. In 2001, there were exhibitions of his shots in Italy, in Provincetown, Mass., and at the Paul Morris gallery in Manhattan.

Ken Johnson, reviewing the Paul Morris clearly show in The Situations, identified as Mr. Bidgood “a courageous pioneer at a time when artwork pictures was overwhelmingly straight (formally as nicely as sexually) and the plan that pornography could lead to artistically severe jobs was practically unthinkable.”

The photographer Lissa Rivera curated one more exhibition, “Reveries,” at the Museum of Sex in New York in 2019.

“Since doing work with Bidgood’s resources,” she explained by e mail, “I’ve understood the deep importance of his work on so lots of queer folks, who have shared with me that they had not found becoming homosexual as stunning in the exact way in advance of observing James’s perform.”

His images, she observed, had been produced at a time when erotic visuals and gay life confronted considerable legal restrictions.

“His function for male physique publications existed on the edge of legality,” she reported. “Despite this, Bidgood was in no way ashamed or closeted. He lived a daily life that was utterly uncompromising and expressive.”

James Alan Bidgood was born on March 28, 1933, in Stoughton, Wis., and grew up in the Madison spot. As a boy, he claimed, he was drawn to the imagery of the Ziegfeld Follies and related spectacles, a fascination that a long time later was reflected in his photographs.

“He didn’t look at himself an artist, for every se,” Ms. Rivera said, “but as a substitute saw himself as pushed by the need to generate visible proof of his desire, which originated from being a small boy enraptured by Hollywood musicals. Hollywood films had been steeped in queer subtext, frequently courtesy of their closeted creators. Bidgood introduced this subtext forward with distinct, immediate expression, and designed his personal visible and symbolic language.”

In 1951 he moved to New York.

“New York was specifically as it appeared to be in MGM musicals,” he instructed One more Gentleman magazine in 2019. “It was speedy, and it was additional interesting than your 2nd orgasm.”

He place his dexterity in creating costumes to use at Club 82, where by he also executed beneath the title Terry Howe. He researched at the Parsons University of Structure from 1957 to 1960, then supported himself as a window dresser and costume designer. Consumers would retain the services of him to layout their outfits for culture balls, and at the time he began taking photographs, he would in some cases recycle those robes to produce the scenes for the pictures he took in his condominium.

For his to start with series of homoerotic photographs, “Water Colours,” he made the ocean by spreading silver lamé across his condominium ground and fabricated a cave out of wax paper. For “Willow Tree,” from the mid-1960s, in which a nude man reclines in a mattress of flowers, he conjured the meadow from colourful items of a robe he had made for a shopper to wear to a Junior League ball.

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

Mr. Bidgood’s executor, Kelly McKaig, explained Mr. Bidgood picked up his digicam again in the 2000s and realized Photoshop, digital audio enhancing and other capabilities he even designed a 3-hour autobiographical audio participate in, “FAG — the Quite Fantastic Lifetime of Jimmy Bundle.” But he was reclusive in his closing many years, not often leaving his condominium, and he struggled economically. A GoFundMe site was looking for to finance a funeral and development of an archive of his work.

Mr. Bidgood’s photographs were being frequently labeled “camp,” a term whose definition has assorted above the a long time within the homosexual entire world and outside of. In 2019 Mr. Bidgood was amid a half-dozen artists, performers and other folks recognized with the time period who participated in a discussion for The Occasions about just what it indicates.

“Doesn’t camp have to make you giggle at least?” he requested. “Camp, to me, is like a spouse likely to her husband’s funeral wearing a Working day-Glo orange costume and a massive feather boa on her head.”

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