Richard Dodds Shows Beefcake Art at Magnet
By Sister Dana Van Iquity
Published: March 11, 2010
The homoerotic art pieces of Richard Dodds are on display all March at Magnet – the Castro hub of health and well being for gay/bi men. “I am 59 years old, and I’ve been around for a good long time,” Richard Dodds tells Bay Times, “and I wrote for a daily newspaper in New Orleans for 21 years, then moved here 13 years ago where I’ve been writing for the B.A.R. for 12 years.” He says after the tragedy of 9-11, he was shaken into something new, playing with computer images to make art with the then prototype of Photoshop. He began showing his works at cooperative galleries.
The works he is currently showing at Magnet reflect his interest in iconography of earlier eras – specifically the ‘50s of his youth. “I like to bring in seemingly incongruous elements – such as ‘wholesome’ vintage advertising and the homoerotica disguised in fitness magazines of the era – to make a new statement from both images,” he says. He calls this technique “disruptive, pushing the viewer to reconsider his or her perceptions.” Or it could be “arrested development,” where the artist is stuck back in the ‘50s and the closeted battles he went through in his mind back then.
Most of the images are drawn from his digital cameras, created directly on the computer, and with found images. “Often a piece may go through dozens of permutations before I feel it is ready to be shown,” he says. The show at Magnet is an interest in male sexuality that hearkens back to a more innocent time. The viewer will note there are no explicit genitalia in any of the works, much as the old muscle mags used to put almost naked men in posing straps, covering their “naughty bits.” But this was mostly a disguised porn outlet for gay men to gaze upon in the safety of their closets when many were guilt ridden. Dodds takes these images and places them in new backgrounds. “I celebrate them as sort of pioneers in male homoerotica,” he explains. “The fifties were the golden age of beefcake,” he elaborates. “Because in the ‘60s and beyond, it all became very explicit.” He says, “I used to be very scattershot, but I hope now my works show a consistency of style and theme.” He says he has given up on trying to be commercial – what sells – and instead goes for what he likes. He says it is expensive to produce art, but his minimal goal is to break even and not to make money. “The primary goal is to have the excitement to know that in someone’s house, one of my pictures hangs on their wall with my signature on it,” he admits. He notes, “Both of us are in journalism, but thanks to the Internet today, our writings don’t just go into the trash after being read, so they have a life – much as art does. “I’d like to think my art has a life of its own.” He adds, “I love that art works a totally different part of your brain than journalism.”
He takes me on a tour of some of the works on the wall. One of them has the male semi-nude subject holding a hoop, so he incorporated roundness throughout the background. “Bustin’ Loose” has a guy in posing strap and boots holding a gun, so Dodds put him behind bars breaking out. He’s cute but dangerous. “Conservatory Memories” is an actual color photo of the SF Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, played with digitally, and adding a pair of cute swimmers in black and white and somewhat transparent posed in the early 1900s in full swimsuits as singlets – giving a ghostlike effect. My favorite pun is “Ladder Day Saints” with the subject posed on a ladder under saintly light shining upon him. It has a trompe l’oeil effect of a fabric that bends in. Rectangles surround and enhance the ladder rungs. “Bow Man” is a beefcake babe posed athletically while holding a bow and arrow with a cross current of lines. It reminds me of the international NO sign, with circle and diagonal. “Holding the Ball” is definitely a pun, in that we can see a man holding a huge ball along with the outline of his balls in the jockstrap. Note the shadow effect and the background of a bunch of little beach balls. “Cliff House” is a photo of the old landscape at the beach in San Francisco, which is like a large castle on top of the rocks. It seems out of place and overblown. One can notice the little support system trying to keep it from falling into the ocean. A beefcake guy, possibly a Hollywood lothario, is sunbathing on an Oriental rug under a beach umbrella on a beach chair. Dodds says his hair belongs to silent screen Romeo actor Ramon Navaro. “Roller Rink” has a male image who was not originally on roller skates, but Dodds added the skates and the rink beneath him. Above are original photos of Grand Central Station in New York, including the chandeliers. The neon lighting in the pillars comes from a subway station in New York City.
“Nuclear Family” is a political statement. It is based on an old ‘50s advertisement for kitchen cabinets, with a little boy eating a sandwich and his parents looking on approvingly. The change is in Dodds’ switching mom and pop into two very hot, hunky, bare-chested same-sex male parents. “This kid is just delighted that these two hot guys are in his kitchen,” Dodds extrapolates. He confesses, “To be honest, I imagine myself as this eight year old boy ogling these guys with their cool ducktail hairstyles.” For “Bridge Works,” the background is a national park just outside of New Orleans where the artist once lived. Two ‘50s dudes are in popular ‘50s Greco-Roman wrestling poses with an engagement of the physical bodies in an acceptable way for the era, yet significantly erotic to the trained perv.
I was confused with “My Hero,” which I interpreted as Bob’s Big Boy the hamburger restaurant logo kid of the ‘50s, along with Barack Obama. Wrong. Although one can’t really be wrong in what one sees personally. Still, the artist showed me this was quite a different logo – a boy flexing his muscles with a giant Cheerio breakfast food as an arm muscle, implying if one eats this product, he will grow up big and strong. The guy in the background is a more contemporary wrestler figure. “He looks to be in agony, but he might be in ecstasy,” Dodds comments. “But the notion is this bully has lost his wrestling match to the Cheerios kid, who is the hero.” He asserts, “Kids have sexuality, whether we want to admit that or not; in some ways, my art tries to correct any judgment of that.” He adds, “I don’t think I’m going to cure anyone of their internalized homophobia, but it’s fun to play with it and release it.”
I challenge my readers to come check out these gorgeous hunks hung on the hallowed walls of Magnet, and see how their interpretations compare to Dodds’ and mine. What do YOU see?!
Richard Dodds grew up in the New York area, attended college in Los Angeles, and spent 21 years working for The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans as a theater critic and entertainment reporter. Moving to San Francisco in 1997, he continues as a writer for The Bay Area Reporter while pursuing a more recent career as a digital photographer and artist. He is currently affiliated with the City Art Gallery in San Francisco where his work regularly appears.
Sexy San Francisco Artist: Richard Dodds
I was wandering through The Mission recently checking out the vintage stores (which are now located next to some serious high-end boutiques in this increasingly trendy neighborhood). While in The Mission, there are a few places that I always stop at to see what’s up and what’s new and what isn’t new but is still worth seeing.
Those must-stop places include the murals of Clarion Alley, the displays over at Good Vibes, the curiosities at Paxton Gate, the nonsense at 826 Valencia (aka The Pirate Store) and the artwork hanging on the walls at the City Art Co-op. It was at this final stop of my meandering that I stumbled upon an artist with sexy works that I immediately fell in love with.
The artist is Richard Dodds. His bio says that he moved here in 1997 (via New York / LA / New Orleans) and has worked for The Bay Area Reporter while developing a second career as an artist. The art that I discovered over at City Art is his “Neo-Retro Beefcake” art. This takes the ideal of the beefcake man and brings it in to the new millennium. It’s absolutely eye-catching.
Beefcake is, of course, the term used for the male sex symbol who is equivalent to the female “cheesecake” model. We’re living in a time when burlesque is making a serious comeback and it’s easy to find women who are interested in pin-up poses, retro housewife ideals and the teasing flirtation of the 1950’s. In such an era, it’s refreshing to see that we still have room for the beefcake who came alive during the same era as these cheesecake girls.
The beefcake is a guy whose body reeks of physical prowess. He’s the bodybuilder, the weight lifter, the strong swimmer. And something about most beefcake photos reeks of homosexuality … these guys look like the kind of tough guys that are rippling their muscles in the gym because they want to end up with someone in the steam room. It’s pure raw male energy condensed down to its human form. And it’s beautiful.
And Richard Dodds captures that concept perfectly in his artwork. It’s sexy in the way that burlesque is sexy … more suggestive than exposed, more erotic than pornographic. Dodds captures the male form in a way that the viewer can appreciate and then adds to it through a combination of digital imagery, found images and other media. The impact is one that visually takes you back to the 1950’s but then somehow manages to reinforce that you’re still in the twenty first century. It’s like it brings innocence forward sixty years into now.
Note: There are no images of Dodds’ work on this blog post because everything he has on his site is copyrighted but I definitely think you should go look at what he’s done. My personal favorite is this one of a man outside the Cliff House, which is in the Neo Retro Beefcake section at richarddodds(dot)com.
I will be the featured artist at Magnet in March, 2010. I'll be showing works the play off the beefcake imagery of the 1950s, incorporating them into new designs and situations. Come say "hi" at the opening on March 5, 8 - 10 pm. Magnet is located at the 4122 18th St. (near Castro) in San Francisco. More info at .