Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tom Bianchi:
On the Couch Volume Two

"My books usually start with a simple idea, which when unleashed, finds its own trajectory through my life. My initial idea for On The Couch was to invite men who were comfortable (or wanted to be comfortable) expressing their sexual energy for my camera. The question I asked in Volume One was, “Can we look each other in the eye and tell each other who we are and what we want. Can we share what we find wonderful about sex.?”

This initial idea, headwaters, if you will, have traversed the plains of my life and become at times a raging stream and powerful river, providing new routes for those of us on the journey of self actualization through the exploration of our sexual essence. Just as the stream insists on its own path as it seeks the ocean, the examination of our sexual desires leads us to an honest connection with our selves, our soul’s true goal. At times, this river accelerated to flood stage, sweeping old ideas and ways of being – fears and limitations – from our lives. That certainly has been the case for me.

Many of the men who appear here have told me that this also is the case for them. As Oscar Wilde observed, “Life would repeat itself tediously were it not for the demonic changes art forces upon it. The artist makes models of experience which people rush to try out.” On The Couch has become an opportunity for many men who want to express their sexual power to do so in a safe and beautiful environment – safe and beautiful in the sense that their whole selves are respected here.

I am now publishing this record in all the media available to me. In addition to the initial telling of their stories at TOMBIANCHI.COM, the project is now being published as a video series, a TV series, illustrated lectures, gallery exhibitions, books, cards, calendars and refrigerator door magnets – a most democratic art form. I have described On The Couch as my Sistine Chapel Ceiling. I do not say this out of ego, but rather as a promise of the attention I devote to the project as an artist. What started out as an idea for a book, has now become an intention to create one of the most comprehensive and candid records of human sexual experience ever made.

I know that Michelangelo -- Caravaggio, Gericault, Da Vinci and Winslow Homer -- can be included here-- were talking about their sensual passions in their work. Only a society in deep denial of its sexual yearnings could fail to see this. I believe that had these men lived in a time, as now, when their patrons, the Princes of the State and Church, were losing their power to suppress their humanness, each of them would have been doing something closer to the honesty of On The Couch. They were masters at speaking in code. But I am fascinated by what they might say today if they could. In fact, I am trying to say it for them.

I also expect that my queer ancestor artists would have been attracted to the use of the various media now available. Michelangelo was, after all, the Steven Spielberg of his age. And this is also why in my recent shows of On The Couch photographs, I had many of the most erotic images printed at the scale of heroic figure painting, life size, and larger. Sex is too beautiful, too precious, and too important to our spiritual development to be treated with less respect than I have given it.

Someone recently asked me if I thought these images might one day find their way in the world’s great museums. I answered, it depends upon the world’s becoming more healthy. If we get over our society wide antisexism, if we learn to use to use our sexual energy to increase our experience of love rather than subverting that energy into power trips to boost our self esteem the expense of others, if we come to appreciate the sacredness of this energy, then we may honor the messages that brought us to this higher state of consciousness.

In the meantime, I am content in knowing the power of my work is manifesting itself every day in the real world. Dr. Howard Devore, an individual, relationship, and sex therapist with whom I have worked closely on my own issues these last four years, told me that he has many patients who are uncomfortable with their sexual selves. After seeing the first volume of On The Couch, he said, “Now, when I have a patient with these issues, I can tell them to look at your images to see what being comfortable with one’s self sexually looks like.”

As a believer in the healing power of art, I can’t imagine a higher purpose – or more personally satisfying a goal – to which to devote myself." (Book intro by Tom Bianchi, 2004)


Photobook, hardcover, 120 pages, 8.5 x 9 inch, 22 x 23 cm