Category Archives: Gardening

Gilbert M: A Lust For Life

Today I wanted to write about a man to which I owe much of my creative life. His name was Gilbert Millikan, probably one of the greatest champions for arts in the state of Montana. Gilbert passed away in 2003 from brain tumor and I cannot let this year’s project pass without paying a tribute to him.

Gilbert was born, raised and spent the greatest portion of his life in Missoula. His father was a smart businessman who invested in properties and owned the original Bitterroot Market, which is now where the Bitterroot Flower Shop is located. Gilbert’s mother was involved in many social organizations throughout the valley so Gilbert inherited the best of both those worlds. He is probably the kindest, most generous man I have ever known. He was somewhat of a philanthropist toward the creative process, the creation of art, and artists of all sorts. There were two sides to Gilbert, one his outgoing social butterfly, and the very reclusive man who often chose to remain hidden. He lived in an old Victorian Mansion, with his two little yappy dogs Sunny and Happy. He was passionate about gardening and developed the grounds of his Victorian Estate into the most extraordinary gardens. This is how I sort of got to know Gilbert. I was a student in college and rented an old carriage house on the property that had been converted into a self-contained guesthouse. I would occasionally help him with the upkeep and planting of those gardens. Movies were another passion we both shared and every Saturday afternoon we would go off to see whatever was new. His passion for movies so astonishing that he bought a video rental business that he grew to become one of the biggest and best in town outlasting any franchise that would dare enter our small community.

Probably the deepest level Gilbert and I bonded was that we were both gay. Though he was much older then I was, he was fascinated by how open I was and how the culture around us was becoming more open and the world seemingly more tolerant. The reclusive side of Gilbert’s stemmed from a certain amount of shame he felt from being gay and the difficulty he was having with his own acceptance of his sexuality. He had a long time partner, but they had become estranged and lived in separate houses in the same block. Anyone who would meet Gilbert would instantly recognize he was gay, as much as he tired to conceal it. I worked off and on for Gilbert for many years whenever I was in town, eventually becoming his personal assistant until his untimely death. I nursed him through his final months as he struggled with the tumor taking command of his life. Upon his passing, he endowed everything he had owned, properties, massive art collections, and estate to four arts charities in the state of Montana, which were considerably under funded at the time.

All those years with Gilbert I learned to face a lot of my own fears and anxieties. Gilbert had instilled in me a passion for what was beautiful and that all creation comes from the soul weather you are photographing, gardening, or cooking. He was a man of amazing means that lead a humble life. Everything was done and approached with as much enthusiasm one could muster with no expectation of an end result. Though he was not an artist himself, he was fearless in his approach for cultivating other artists and brought humanity to the creative process and instilled a passion for others to create. He became a great patron for many artists in the region, filling his house with the works of others. He believed in me when I couldn’t see it within myself. He believed that we had to earn everything, and didn’t hand it to me, but always created an exchange. The honor of artistry was something that had to be earned, like any other business and that anything was possible with a lot of hard work. This instilled an ethic in me for my own creation that seems to drive my passion deeper.

My dear friend, though it has been many years since your passing I wish you could see the seeds you have laid in my heart for what I have become this year. You would ever be so proud of what I have been able to accomplish. The best of everything you ever were I now carry forward. I have now become that artist you had always believed in as a young man. My compassion, honestly, lust for life, and ability to see into the humanity of others I owe to you. Thank you for the gift of such a precious life.

The Sense Memory of a Garden

Most of yesterday was spent cleaning out the garden.  It’s the final winterizing of the plants for the season.  I put my headphones on and listened to a couple of my favorite musicals and began to pull the annuals, cut perennials, and mound roots of things that need protection.  This will be my last garden post for the season.  The garden becomes my place of reflection and I typically delve deeper into my emotions and feelings when I am surrounded by its grace.  I have not always loved gardening, as a kid on the ranch we had an acre that was mostly vegetables and potatoes and it seemed more of a chore to maintain.  In those days we completely lived off the land, canned or stored everything in a root cellar to last until the next harvest.  We raised and butchered our own cattle and all the men in my family, except me were hunters always filling the freezers with meat.   The ranch was sustained by a natural water spring about a mile up the mountain that we piped down the homestead.  Life seemed so simple then.  But as a kid I think life always seems simple no matter where you grow up.  Yesterday, as I cleaned the garden, I began to realize how connected I have always been with the land around me, just as my father, grandfather, and great grandfather who homesteaded the land were connected.  I once had a friend in Dallas who talked about how the people from Montana have a certain look in their eyes that was recognizable, that was different from everyone else.  I hadn’t paid much attention to it at the time, but have thought about it a lot since then.  Becoming a photographer and creating portraits you become keenly aware of other peoples focus.  What I began to realize, that look my friend was talking about was the openness of one´s eyes to see beyond ourselves.  In Montana we grow up with our vision focused on the beautiful landscape that surrounds us, the mountains always become a point of focus in the distance.   Whereas, when I go to a city like New York, the focus becomes narrow, downward, avoiding, protecting our personal space.  In Montana we perceive the entire world is our personal space.  This focus changes depending on whatever environment which you are raised.  For me working in the earth grounds me and brings me back to center.  I have been focused for so long on something so narrow, upfront, personal and close to my heart, that I almost feel like I forget to breathe.  But working in the garden gives me perspective of where I have been as I am flooded with all my memories from all my previous seasons of the garden.  The garden holds our sense memory within our bodies as often as repeating a task stirs a reoccurrence of a thought associated with that task from before.  Several years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a summer of chemotherapy, though I didn’t have the energy that summer to garden much, I did make it out every day.  I was the only way I survived that summer from hell.   It is the place where I dare to dream in the solitude of my own head.  As a kid I loved digging the mounds of potatoes in the cool fall, there was something satisfying about pulling from that dirty earth something that would sustain you for a year.  So the Fall seasons for me, though they represent the earth becoming dormant, signify the bounty of sustainability for a new year.  I realize I am a man of many opposites and perhaps this is what I love so much about the process of a garden.  Granted, I no longer work the earth to sustain myself and buy most of my produce in the supermarkets, but the idealism of this life is still there and lives within my own hands.   At least with the land I know where I stand and to which I will eventually be returned.  My thoughts this Fall were on my accomplishments this year and how much I have grown and changed as I realize this has been my greatest year of self-acceptance.

With A Little Help From My Friends…

It has been about two and a half months since I returned from my inspirational trip to France and Germany and have since accomplished the goal I set out to do.  This morning I have began reconnecting to some of my Man Art and Red Bubble friends and approaching them on the possibility of building a gallery of their magnificent works that could become featured artist on the new site.  It feels that I have been in a creative hole since my return from the trip that I have lost touch with all my creative artist friends that are also exploring the nude male form.  Hopefully you will begin to see new galleries of their work begin to populate the new website and it will finally begin to grow.  Not that I don’t have enough work of my own to do because I still have 32 of my own galleries that we have created, but not had the time to put up yet.  The site will continue to grow in the upcoming weeks.  I am still trying to figure out some of it operational features and placement and links to the home page.  And, I have been trying to take some time off and get caught up with my own life.  But perhaps, this is my life.  Not a bad life at that if so.  The gardens are about to bed for the winter and this seems like an excellent way to spend my winter, stuck indoors working on this vision.  Today I have to say thanks to Franz Werner in Berlin, who is one of the most inspirational people who have given me the idea for making this project happen.  I have never seen a man so passionate and dedicating so much of his life to showing the modern male erotic form.

If you are interested in contributing to the website here are the requirements. You can link to your own website or to places where the images are for sale, for instance back to Red Bubble or if you sell them yourself.  The site is protected, as much as such sites can be protected, and I will be able to put a watermark overlay on the image. We are looking for image sizes 600dpi at it’s longest point 100 dpi resolution roughly 100kb.  Please contact me if you are interested in becoming a featured artist on the site.

 “What would you think if I sang out of tune,

Would you stand up and walk out on me?

Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song

And I’ll try not to sing out of key.

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends

Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends”

Lyrics from “With a little help from my friends” as sung by Joe Cocker originally written by the Beatles.

Lack of Intimacy In A Creative World

Sorry no blog yesterday, every time I sat down to do it I would get distracted by something else. It was one of those extraordinary fall days outside that was sunny and unusually warm for this time of the year. I had my nephew Brenden come over and help me clean the property and prep it for the winter. I somehow thought I would be able to put him to work and I would get to write and work on my computer. But he is not very experienced and I began to realize the work of pruning and cleaning the beds was only specific to me. It was so beautiful out that I just decided to stay and get everything caught up. Then we had Glenn’s mother for dinner in the afternoon, because I had a wedding consult at 5:00, to shoot a wedding next month, and had to attend the dress rehearsal for a University production at 7:00, for a shoot on Wednesday night. When I got home it seems a bit late to blog so I settled in with Glenn. This seems to be the extent of all of my days.

The production I saw the rehearsal for was called Grace And The Art Of Climbing and seemed to focus on a woman dealing with intimacy issues. It really got me thinking about my own life and I began to question if perhaps I too have intimacy issues of my own. I began to think about relationships in my past and how perhaps I have pushed so many people away. When I began to ask Glenn about his perceptions of me and how I function within our relationship? He genuinely said he was happy and realized I had lots to accomplish. Most of the time I feel so focused that I know I am not really present to him and our relationship, and often times it feels like I notice him in the distance watching me. From my past experiences it seems the points of my life where I have been highly creative are the points where the relationship begins to falter. I cannot equally focus my attention in both directions at the same time. That’s why in the fall when Glenn goes off for two months to work somewhere else I try to focus on huge creative projects and seem to get the most productive work accomplished. I think artists in general are people who suffer from relationships more then anyone else because we have to disconnect and rechannel our passion toward what we create. Life in art is not easy and I think this is why many artists are single and probably drink and or use drugs. When we are creative our intimacy is our art. I am lucky, Glenn recognizes this and allows me that creative flexibility with little demand in return, in fact supports, it by taking care of the everyday things that distract me from the creative process.

I am reminded of an incident when I first met Glenn and I was asked to work as an associate director for a large film festival we used to have here in Missoula. I was responsible for logistically pulling the entire festival together. I worked with a woman named Cinda Holt who had help Robert Redford organize the Sundance festival in it’s early stages and we created a similar festival here in Missoula for and with artisans behind the camera: art directors, cinematographer, writers, directors. We screened films for a week and brought in all the filmmakers including Kenneth Turan from the LA Times to facilitate the event. For this project I had to book the films, that spaces, contact all the people and logistically get them to and from Montana, arrange accommodations and coordinate the mass army of volunteers to make the project happen. For several weeks it was all consuming for 24/7 to pull the project off. The project was a huge success, but it about destroyed my relationship with Glenn at the time. He was so angry that he refused to attend any of the events I had just spent every ounce of my being orchestrating. This hurt me so deeply that my own partner would not stand beside me at a moment of my greatest achievement. I now recognize it was a defining moment in the relationship where I disconnected, perhaps we both disconnected. Our relationship has since grown. Now Glenn is my creative partner in all my wacky self-absorbed endeavors. My projects and creative life has since grown and some how we have all adapted. My days do not get any easier and my need or sense of accomplishment never seems to cease. I don’t promise it will get any easier, because I know that would be a lie all I can recommend it that you “fasten your seat belts because you are in for a bumpy ride” as Bette Davis says in All About Eve.

I Can Always Sell Matches

Wow it is mid afternoon and I feel like I have been sucked into the world of cyber reality as I am trying to figure out how to put together yet another piece of this mysterious website. My topic of search today has been: “How can I actually protect the images I put on the Internet?” I have completely come up blank. There are no real solutions actually available out there that can or will work. It seem that it mostly comes down to choice of completely marking the images up with some sort of watermark that will completely cover or obstruct the nature of the work or just putting the images out there for free access. I am not over comfortable with either. The nature of artist is free expression of the art or images without obstruction. I would like to be able to market myself somehow, but if most everything is just for free on the Internet then we end up working for nothing and it completely loses it value. What a strange time we live in where modern media is so limitless and expendable. I feel like I am living in a world of constant frustration that I can’t seem to make work and that the only options are a loss on either end. I wish somehow I just had a limitless wealth so that I could just be creative and not have to worry about the possibilities. Am I just two or three steps behind the technological world where I live? It feels most of life has been lived in a world of dying art forms. I was passionate about theater, but in a sense as I entered that world it too was coming to a close. Overall, the next generation is not really interested in such art forms and it seem that fewer and fewer young people are going to such events. Broadway still seems alive and thriving, but the ticket prices have become so hefty that many can no longer attend a show or will save up for one or two during the course of a venture into NYC. There was a time when I would fill every possible slot with a show when I was in the city, often two a day seeing 16 shows within a two-week visit.

Then I moved into the world of my second passion; photography. I believe the downfall of this medium is has been the advent of instant capture, instant see era. Everyone with a cell phone becomes a photographer and it’s instantly on line. I have seen the images from the new I-phones and I have to say they are utterly awesome. You no longer need any kind of training or experience to get really great results and people around the world are able to share your expression within moments. Perhaps this project becomes for naught, and is just a cry in the darkness of its fading history? I guess I am still having a blast in the creative process though most of the time I have no idea where I am heading. I still love theater and the experience of live interaction. I still love photography for the experience of live interaction and the beautiful essence of what lingers in its wake. Perhaps I should just remain in the garden because of my live interaction with nature, but then again it’s also heading to its season of dormancy. What is a girl to do????? One of my favorite scenes in a movie is from Victor/Victoria, where Julie Andrews dress has shrunk from the rain, and it’s the middle of the night, she is at wits end and begins to sob, “What am I going to do?” Robert Preston replies, “Sell matches!” But then again I live in a world of eternal flame and smoking seems to be on the decline.