You Can Leave You Hat On, 2009

When the film Brokeback Mountain finally made it to the theater, it began a profound spiraling effect on my reconnection to my western heritage. Growing up on a cattle ranch in the mountains of western Montana and being gay always seem to create a clash somehow in my head; the two never quite somehow belonged together. Perhaps the country life, since it was so prevalent in the region, was what I feared becoming. It was almost like I was shamed by my heritage and went to great lengths to hide or deny it. I was familiar with Brokeback in its early short story format and when I heard I they were making it into a movie in our neck of the woods, I applied to become a part of it. I unfortunately didn’t get on the crew and was sadly disappointed. When I finally saw the film on the big screen, it began to change my perception of myself and who I was. There was so much depth and emotion to the characters I recognized within myself, that it was near impossible to deny any longer. I realized that if more people like myself stood up to this backward perception of gay in the west and embraced it we could show our selves in a new light. At the time it hit the movie screen I was on a national theater tour with a show called The Trip to Bountiful. As the tour progressed I began to examine my own life allowing the history of my western heritage to manifest it self physically as well as emotionally, and the cowboy within me began to emerge. In a sense it become my own trip to bountiful in coming home to what I had lost by my silly denial. I began working on a series of images “backstage” at the small town Montana rodeos that surrounded me, shooting life from the cowboy perspective. I even joined the Gay Rodeo Association and began to photograph all things to do with cowboy. I created and explored many amazing portraits of cowboys in my studio and even began to delve into what I found erotic about this lifestyle from my youthful fantasy. It was time to take what I did best and create a new mythology about the gay cowboy, to establish a new icon that would be healthy and alluring. So today’s image, the seventh in the portfolio series, is called You Can Leave You Hat On, my tribute to the western theme I have embraced within myself.

I am merely $600 away from reaching my goal on the Kickstarter The Naked Man Project: Searching for Exposure. If I can make this goal it will prove that even a small boy from western Montana is capable of being given the opportunity to follow his dream and a life long passion and break the confines of perceived discrimination and confines of rural life. For some reason this project has been buried in Kickstarter. All the new projects have somehow been featured and given prominent placement, but mine has become almost unfindable to the casual Kickstarter browser, you can only find it if you are specifically searching for it. I have also noticed that there are not many gay themed projects. Does this project contain objectionable content that still remains taboo and must remain hidden?

Today’s post is dedicated to Sam Maloney, who has grown up much like me here in Montana, and wrote me this amazing letter a while back about recognizing similar struggles. Thanks Steve so much for your support toward this project.

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