Scared stiff

By |2009-02-05T09:00:00-05:00February 5th, 2009|Entertainment|

If Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” got a rise out of you, his nude-male photographs could very well do the same – in the most literal sense. The horror-fantasy virtuoso, popularized by creepy films (he produced “Candyman”) and mind-trippy novels (his latest being “Mister B. Gone”), is, unbeknownst to many, an established painter; his Los Angeles place, which he shares with his photographer life-partner, houses some 800 paintings. But recently Barker, 56, has been substituting guys’ bodies for canvases, provocatively capturing the male physique in a way not many have. Barker, folks, isn’t a follower.
“I’m not interested in the conventional stuff you can buy in a magazine,” he tells Between The Lines, name-dropping magazines like “Inches,” in his gruff, English voice.
“I’m trying to find a way to represent men that’s – I don’t want to say ‘arty,’ because that’s pretentious. I just wanna say that it’s gonna catch the eye in a different way, in a way that’ll make people look at the body in a different way.”
Indeed it will during the Dirty Show, the 10th annual erotica show Feb. 6-8 and 13-14 at Bert’s Warehouse Theater in Detroit, where he’ll debut his erotic photography.
Calling one of Barker’s works “orgasmic,” the expo’s founder, Jerry Vile, compliments the surrealist’s use of color, composition and, in one image, a huge erection: “That is the real ‘Hellrasier,'” he says, spotlighting the cultural influence of the blood and piercing elements in the 1987 film, “which has seeped into art – especially some genres of erotica.
“He changed horror,” Vile continues, “or brought a new element that is as iconic as vampires and mummies.”

Gushing, Barker can barely stop talking about shooting – not with a camera, but with a linear spray of sperm. He’s referring to his symmetrical piece of a man’s abdominal area, groin and scrotum wallpapered in paint squiggles. It captures the model ejaculating one foot into the air, Barker recalls before intercepting his own recollection: “I’m sorry to be obsessing about a fucking spurt of semen.”
If this is art, what separates it from pure smut? Barker’s deadpan reaction – “Who gives a shit?” – pretty much says it all.
“One man’s pornography is another man’s theology,” he says, adding later: “To me, it’s one of the arguments that’s not worth having, because it’s not worth winning or losing.”
His goal: To instigate a reaction, which he hopes to do with his forthcoming books, featuring some of the 60,000 male nudes he’s shot over the last several years. Also, he’s writing the third installment of “Abarat” and, next month, hardcore-horror flick “The Midnight Meat Train,” adapted from Barker’s novella, will go straight to DVD – “because it has two-and-a-half minutes of extra, extra moist stuff in it,” he teases.
He’s unapologetic for his artistic exertions – a feeling all artists should embrace, he says. And for him, one of life’s greatest orgasms is getting the wide-eyed, mouth agape look from someone. Anyone who couldn’t look into a mirror after watching “Candyman” knows he’s not kidding.
“It’s an artist’s job to say, ‘Come on, take it. Take the images. Take the intensity of my vision.’ I’m not gonna apologize for that. I love, I love, I love the idea that the people (in Detroit) will look at that cum shot and go, ‘Oh, my god.'”
For Barker, that’s as liberating as isolating himself in a studio and transcending reality. “Each day,” he says in regards to the weekend, “there will be a different kind of fantasy; the fantasy of painting a living person – that is, actually physically painting, taking colors and painting their bodies, painting erections – is the most fun in all the world.”
He pauses, adding, “… or better, making them erect by painting them …”
And his partner, photographer David Armstrong, is not-so-shockingly unfazed. His 2003 collection, “Rare Flesh,” features male nudes, complemented by poetry and prose by Barker.
“I am also, ya know, wandering around with a woody (in it),” Barker laughs, “so what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Which of us is the goose and which of us is the gander is another question.”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
Chris Azzopardi is the Editorial Director of Pride Source Media Group and Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ wire service. He has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.