We had a great time putting on the show for you, December 15-18, at the Dayton Society of Artists. We put up 50+ paintings, some of which you can see here below, we had refreshments (thank you Donna for banana bread and pumpkin bread) and I gave an artist talk (that has been recorded so I can use it as a video). We sold 16 paintings from the show, and 91 art cards! WOW. Thank you, Dayton! Thank you for everyone who came out and enjoyed the show. I heard many people say they would buy a book of this show and I want to do that too! So I’m looking into possibilities.
I swear people came to the show, but I didn’t carry a camera with me to take pictures…. I was chatting with them and being a host. The pics look a little empty but actually I think 50-70 people saw the show over the four days.
We also made a Dedication wall to Romeo Muller who created the character, Yukon Cornelius, and wrote the TV show script, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” from the Robert L May poem/story. Without him, the show that I created wouldn’t have been the same–or it would have had different touchstones. What I created on top of his character— a whole queer life for Yukon— went far beyond the character as written. I barely referenced the show in a vague way…. but I know the character touched many people and being able to bring out, perhaps, some of the nuances of the original script from a gay, Jewish writer. I’m hoping that he liked the version of Yukon I crafted. We transformed the character but I believe some of the seeds were already there.
Thanks, Dayton Society of Artists, for helping me put on this show! If you ever want to chat with me about renting the DSA gallery and what that experience is like, let me know. I will tell you!
Understanding that Yukon and Bumble’s bedroom is their former living room, you can see why they might also entertain friends and guests there. Anyone with a studio apartment might know what I’m talking about too, as your bedroom is the living room and kitchen too. But doesn’t this remind you of when you were living with your folks? When I was a teen, having friends over meant having them in my bedroom. It was the only place with privacy, and it felt too formal to meet “in the parlor” (I never had one of those anyway!) or in the living room. We wanted to be able to talk to each other, laugh, look at my Stuff (comics, art, computer). Okay, technically I had no friends in high school, and no one came over to see me, but YOU all did, right? My brothers and sister had them—and they all met in their bedrooms. And from watching TV, I know this is what kids do—they live in their bedrooms with their friends.
Here is a hairy fairy seated comfortably in the garden-gloved hand of Yukon. (As you might remember, there were a few ginger-bearded fairies with red butterfly wings in my fairy paintings from last year). He’s come over to chat. If you also recall, these fairies are in a special place that doesn’t connect well to the rest of the world, and they were also afraid that they might get lost if they ever left their own protected garden. But sometimes it takes a brave soul to try— and be the explorer, see what is out there, and then attempt to get back. Sort of a Fairy’s Hero’s Journey!
Who said there were only two stories in the world: someone comes to town, someone leaves town? (I know Cory Doctorow has a novel by that name!) Someone gets a visitor, someone is a visitor. While I may not have had many visitors growing up or later–I have been a visitor many times. Let me tell you how much joy there is in visiting someone at their home. (I miss it. COVID sucks. )
I am so grateful to have been invited into so many homes, so many living rooms, given coffee or water or tea or pop, or food, and had great conversation for hours. I know the most amazing people! I always felt welcome. I always felt loved. I feel very blessed to know good people. I like being able to see people in their “natural habitat.” LOL. We don’t get to decorate the outside world much–or put in it what we would enjoy–but a home, and a bedroom especially, is very reflective of the individuals who live there. (I’ve barely tapped what is actually IN Yukon’s and Bumble’s bedroom/living room besides a HUGE bed, some chairs, dresser, and some paintings done by Bumble. I didn’t see much of Yukon in there… I need to talk to them about being a bit more even-handed in the way they decorate!) You can tell a lot about a person by what they have in their living room–and what they have in their bedroom? Are they different things? Since the bedroom is usually more private–what do we have in there for decor? As a teen, of course, your bedroom always reflected you–posters of your favorite movies, crushes, heroes, musicians.
What is in your bedroom that reflects you? (I move so much and live with so many people that lately I have not had a bedroom that reflects me as much..,) When I had a bedroom, I did have paintings that I made in it. I also had paintings by other people. I also have a special “chest” of what I think of as sacred pieces— little things that have meant a lot to me over the years that I collected in one place… gifts others have given to me, or little things that remind me of them. I keep them all in a special little chest I picked up in a Tuesday Morning once. It is made, I think, for a young girl and it has written on it DREAMS, ADVENTURE, with clouds and maps and things in purple and pink and cream—but I liked it! lol. This chest though, meant that I could make my Room MOBILE. I could always put my “things” in my new room, wherever I was, and make it feel like me for whatever time I was there.
I hope this fairy has a great time visiting Yukon and Bumble and that they can show him how to get back “home” so he doesn’t have to think of visiting others as the consolation for never having a home again. I would love for him to tell the others that it’s possible–if they want–to leave and come back again.
I hope one day to have a home where people come and visit me, so that I can return the favor of being the guest, the visitor, in so many other places. I hope to see you all again soon. I also hope YOU have visitors who come to you and give you joy. I hope you are visitors to others to bring your joy to them. I hope you entertain and are entertained this holiday season. I hope you know what it is to be the guest, to be the host, and to savor both those opportunities to know other people. Love generously. Befriend hugely. Spread love and joy. We need to spread something good this year.
Our bedrooms are private vaults–we keep our secrets in here. We only show them to people we trust. We don’t let just anyone in. Safe to be ourselves in our room, we relax knowing we are in a private sanctum. This room is locked tight, we think. Except… that balcony… that window.
“What is happening in this painting, Jerome??”
Why is it that, in movies, supernatural entities all seem to have a key to every balcony door and bedroom window? The strange things enter in through windows of the bedroom–whether it is Dracula at the balcony of Mina’s bedroom, or Frankenstein entering through the balcony to kill Victor’s wife, or George Hamilton’s Dracula in the 70s alighting on Susan St. James’ balcony saying with a sly smile as the breeze pushes the curtains away, “With you, never a quickie. Always a longie.” It is the beating on the bedroom window of the gnarly tree in Poltergeist, the giant vulture who brings a cage every night to the balcony of Andromeda to carry her away to see Calibos in Clash of the Titans, The Snowman coming to take James on a magical flight to the Arctic, Romeo climbing up to see Juliet, Aladdin alighting on Jasmine’s balcony, Salem Lot’s child at the window, Phantom of the Opera, Peter Pan, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
The bedroom, inaccessible? Every rogue, bandit, and monster knows how to get into an upstairs window! These three moth men have no trouble. Maybe Yukon left it open because it was hot. It makes sense that horror movies capitalize on bedroom windows–the only way into our security from the outside. But erotic and romantic stories also play with balconies–as the passage into the forbidden room, the access to the Lover that bypasses the guards, the parents, the doors. Romantic fantasies quiver on the possibility of love working hard to find us, especially when we’ve failed to find love before. Fantasies use them as launchpads and gateways to the mysterious and wondrous waiting just outside. “I can show you the world…”
Are we frightened or intrigued by these access points? Something has gotten in and sees us–sees the private things we hide! Oh my. Just what kinds of things are we letting in to our bedrooms?
Our thoughts are the real access points–the other window into our rooms, our sleep –and those we can control, sometimes.
I’ve had a lot of bad dreams and scary moments in my bedrooms. Being a sensitive, imaginative kid, I experienced my share of nighttime paralysis where I would see things in my room that would frighten me–still frighten me. Heads rising up the wall, children coming in and out of the closet, covers being pulled off by invisible hands. I’ve heard voices in my room fly down from the ceiling and whip past my ear telling me I was not safe. It looked like a fortress, didn’t it? Who let these things in?
However, I’ve also had some good dreams of someone coming to take me on journeys, flights, or back up to the Enterprise to live my new life. I’ve imagined lovers, or werewolves that just need a place to stay until the hunting party leaves the forest, or angels watching over me, or fun dreams of wandering through castles, or dogs that I know from the past finding me. Some of us pray in our bedrooms, allowing a safe protective spirit of God or Spirit to enter and comfort us. We want to have good things in our dreams, our thoughts, our hopes! We want to imagine the positive possibilities. We want to have choices about what gets in–what gets access–who sees us–what gets barred.
This was my second painting in the Yukon series, back in art school. The surprise on Yukon’s face! The three moth men coming in through the window to scare him?? to cuddle with him?? I got a lot of kidding by my fellow artists about the magically-supported sheets up against his legs. I swear I just didn’t get the folds right, and now it looks like something else is holding them up. How much fun it was to create this painting!–kind of a taboo for me to break. A giant naked man. My first. I still get asked if this is my body. Why do people want to know? That’s a very private question! I think they want to know because they assume I’m making the private public and that I want public question about what should be unknown. They think they’ve seen something private from my bedroom. They think I’ve given them access to a private fantasy! HAHA, they say! I’ve let them in. Any question is okay now….
Well, mothmen coming in my window, hmm; it is a nicer thought than the fears I used to have about things in my bedroom. I used to be afraid to go to sleep because of recurring nightmares. But I’ve gotten into the habit of thinking of awesome things happening–or reading happier, cozier, fantasy books before bed, or watching something light and fun before I sleep. I fill my room with fantasy and imagination before I sleep. I laugh.
Our dream life and our fantasy life need to crowd out our Fear life. If we have to think about the future in the face of the unknown, let it be warm, inviting, magical and mystical things that mean us no harm. The fantasies (or horrors) we allow into our minds color the way we experience the world–as a place of hope or harm around every corner. They can give us good sleep or no sleep. I choose to believe that there is hope around the corner because I want to open up my window to the fantasies and the magic and be vulnerable to the possibility of joy.
May good thoughts and good fantasies fill your minds and rooms this holiday season!
This is part of the “The Bedroom is Our Living Room,” as part of “The Further (Queer) Adventures of Yukon Cornelius” series of paintings I did, reimagining the prospector from the Christmas special as a gay man whose whole life is helping “Hiddens” (or as other people put it, Monsters) as they adapt to life in a world of often fearful humans. My way of talking about queer issues and queer life.
When I was a sick kid, I would stay in bed and my mom would put a plastic cup of 7-up and a wrapped stack of saltines by my bedside. She would often come in, sit beside me, and take a cool wet cloth and press it to my forehead. That cool damp cloth absorbed all the heat. That sensation lasted much longer than is physically possible from a wet cloth because her presence was really doing all the absorbing.
The bedroom can be the place of recovery. Studies show that sleep heals. Getting enough sleep is important to proper brain function, but also helps the body do its work while we are busy dreaming. But in case of a greater illness, the bedroom is where we gather our strength among all our sacred and familiar objects. Many of us have spent quite a long time in our bedrooms feeling sick, especially these last few years. Except, with COVID, it was difficult to be able to tend to each other because it was highly contagious.
During the plague in the Dark Ages, people who tended the sick, or stayed with those who were dying, would catch it and bring it back with them. They didn’t know how it was spread. Our very acts of compassion and community were being attacked. Still–(though not the plague)–my mom would stay with me through the flu or strep throat or whatever else knocks a kid off his feet. She endangered herself in order to care for me. I don’t remember if she ever caught the flu from us. I don’t think so. But she didn’t know she wouldn’t.
No one likes being sick. Some of us don’t like to bother the people near us with our sickness either–we choose to bear it alone so that no one has to be endangered because of us. Deep down, though, we want someone with us–someone who doesn’t mind us at our worst, or helpless, or dependent. These are traits that are so strongly hated in America today that we are embarrassed by our need and desire for each other. But we ache with needing each other too.
I remember every person who stayed with me when I was sick. I have forgotten a LOT of things… but I remember Dave in the ER when they couldn’t find a good vein and poked me three or four times in each elbow and on both hands and how I cried. I remember my mother standing beside the dentist when I had three wisdom teeth removed. I remember Doug who sat most of the night with me as I dealt with kidney stones in the ER of Whitehorse Hospital. I remember the first doctor who gave me lots of morphine when I had my first kidney stones. Thank you thank you. I have a skill at making them. (I should sell them!) My Dean of Student Services followed the ambulance when I had a panic attack (which we thought was a heart attack) in college. He was there when they told me to breathe in a paper bag after all of that drama and fuss. My heart remembered these people staying with me when I was hurt.
It seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it? To sit with someone. To be with someone. Not to entertain them, but just to endure with them the space of time that hurts. That time counts. It means everything. Maybe we don’t feel abandoned. Maybe we feel protected. Maybe we feel safe. But that presence beside us when we sleep binds our injuries, holds our bodies together, so they can heal.
The bedroom is a place of healing. And caregiving. And love expressed through easing each other’s pain. We hate when it happens, but it does open up a way to love each other that no other moment offers. It does not embarrass us to see each other dependent or make us hate them. Instead, it makes us value each other more, and each other’s health more. For a fortnight, we become a sentry, guarding each other, fighting off the illness together, till stealthy health comes sneaking back through the gates again.
Not every moment in our bedrooms is filled with Joy ™ or Love ™ or Companionship ™. Those we love and care about could be far away from us for a while. I know that Yukon and Bumble both have, sometimes, long assignments apart from each other. This can turn into a lot of long-distance conversations over a laptop or phone, lots of pizza, soft drinks, feelings of loneliness. How do we cope with missing someone—or not having someone?
Here are ways I’ve found helpful to keep long distance relationships going—and they can fluctuate between being together and enjoying being apart. I find if I balance those two things, it helps both of us. We need other ways to be happy outside of the relationship (that took me a long time to understand). These are just my suggestions—and I’m sure others have great ideas too. These may not work for everyone.
How to be TOGETHER, even apart:
JITSI/ZOOM/SKYPE/FACETIME: at least once a week, we try to meet in realtime on a video to talk to each other.
When we can’t or don’t have the time for ZOOM/SKYPE/JITSI, we use Telegram to send pictures, and write notes and send Voice Messages. We find Voice Messages to be the most effective way to communicate back and forth—you get to hear the full idea of your partner and then respond. We find that if it’s more than 6 min it looks scary—so we try to break it into parts; also if it does get above 6 min, we say “12 min message coming, all good stuff” so that no one thinks there’s a hard discussion hidden in there. We often share really deep stuff in voice messages—because they are like mini essays. And this encourages the other partner to share too. We also sometimes tell each other collaborative stories (because we both love scifi and fantasy)—that are just plain funny, or sometimes titillating. Sharing in a collaborative story can be very bonding.
If we have to have a hard discussion we NEVER use voice messages anymore… it’s too easy to rant, or to get longwinded or to misunderstand and then be 12 min behind the problem moment. ALWAYS CALL if there’s a disagreement… so you can talk it out together.
We watch movies or TV shows together—but apart. So we time when we’re going to watch a show we both like—and then we watch it together separately (not on a share program, but just both hit PLAY on Netflix etc at the same time) and then we send each other Voice Messages to discuss it! We did this with Andor and House of the Dragon.
We try to hear each other’s voice or see each other’s short video message (Telegram has 1 minute video messages) every day. Seeing a face, a smile, and hearing a voice can do wonders.
We send each other articles that we think the other would love (but NOT articles that “prove our point”—that doesn’t seem to be good.)
We send photos about our day. We share messages about our agendas for the day. Mundane, yes, but relationships are built on mundane stuff too.
We try to get to see each other physically at least once every 3 weeks—but we know that’s not always possible for everyone. We live 6 hours from each other. We have gone as long as 2 months without being together physically. It’s doable. But it takes a lot more screen time and message time.
We rarely use email—and he doesn’t have social media, so facebook and Instagram, etc are not on the table. So you may use these too to stay in touch with your partner.
How to ENJOY Being APART: I date myself when I’m alone. It’s like self-care—but with LOVE and INTENTION to make me happy.
I save good movies that I like and my partner isn’t into for times when we’re apart. I’m a big Marvel fan and Disney fan, so Disney + is a feel-good channel for me. Also Netflix and HBO Max. We both love Indie films so I save those for when we’re together… but Moon Knight and She-Hulk and the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special are for moments by myself. I watch all my Tarot and Astrology and HOW TO ART videos when I’m alone.
I listen to my music. Sometimes loudly.
I work on pet projects. I have art and writing to get done. I do that when we’re not able to be together. (But I also do some of it when we are together, if I’m going to be with him for more than a couple of days.) I get to stay in my studio for 7-10 hours a day!! It’s fun!
I see Museum Exhibits, go to Coffeeshops, walk in the park—do things that I LOVE doing alone. I sometimes send him pictures of it afterwards, but I try to value my alone time too.
I buy foods that I love. I give myself little gifts of food—usually involving chocolate!
I buy myself little gifts online or in stores, when I’m in a store. Just something I know I will use or love. Like new paints (if I can afford them) or erasers!I read when I’m by myself. I love being able to be involved in a book. Deep and undisturbed. I may only be able to do this apart from my partner.
I call other people—my mom, birthmom, friends, or write them—or I arrange to have coffee with them or hang out with them. My partner can’t fulfill all my desires for company and conversation and friends are awesome. Having time with other people keeps us from also being “lonely.”
Church and clubs—if you have a social group outside of your relationship, it can help strengthen your resiliency when the two of you are apart. I always feel better knowing when my partner is visiting friends, his family, or is part of a group that is meeting. Then I know he is happy.It took me a long time to realize that happiness WITHOUT your partner is not just okay, it is good, and needed.
We may not always get rid of the lonely feelings we have when our partner is not with us—that’s okay. That’s natural. That’s love too. But we can minimize them when they become uncomfortable. We are fully rounded people with outside interests and ways of getting joy enhances our time together— two people ADDING to each other from all the outside things we do, not just our shared experiences.
Don’t worry, Yukon! Bumble will be back before you know it! Eat your pizza and hang out with the satyrs!
Reading books in the bedroom, with someone you love–either separately, with separate books, or together with the same book is a wonderful strange feeling of being together and being in completely different worlds or sharing a world and leaving this one behind. You can be engrossed, fascinated, spellbound by a book, and it can also shield you from the outside world for awhile. We probably all learned that as kids.
“Yukon and Bumble Reading in Bed” is an acrylic painting I painted in April or May of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. It was one of the last big paintings I painted for several years (certainly the last I would complete –at that time–in the unfinished Yukon Cornelius set). My goal for the original set of Yukon paintings had been 10 acrylic paintings, sized 36″ x 48″! But here I am, switching to one slightly smaller at 24″ x 36″—on my way, in late 2020 and early 2021, to the tiny 4″ x 5″ postcards I used when I created my fairy garden. There was just no room for big grand things in a house you are sharing with two others, no money for resupplying paints, but also, suddenly, in a world that seemed to be chaotic, our immediate worlds got smaller, more confined. I felt the need to go very small…and the need to complete something in a day. I needed to be pulled in to a fairy garden. Like one is pulled into a book.
Gardens are not so different than books—both are curated spaces, carefully cultivated, designed even, to produce feelings in someone, to create moments. Both pull the viewer/reader in, engross them, fascinate them, and keep out the outside world–through boundaries, rules, thematic arrangements for aesthetic reasons. Books talk about events, people, things and are similar to the real world but in different configurations–fictions; gardens have plants and flowers in different configurations than you’d see in the real world, while keeping the wildness outside the garden. They too are fictions.
Perhaps then, reading is a garden we create in our minds to keep out the wild world. The anagram of “reading” are the words “I, Garden” (or iGarden, if you’re Apple!). We get lost in the carefully planned garden of a book, forgetting what lies outside around us, and we are happy to stay there safe within HUGE walls of dramatic plot and cool characters that block out the rest of the world.
Look at Bumble in that painting. He is HUGE, probably 14 feet or more. As you’ve probably noticed in my paintings of Yukon and Bumble, there is no consistency of size for Bumble. I say Bumble is 10 feet to Yukon’s 6 feet… but the Snowmonster’s body seems to change size with every picture. However, the Bumble from the Star Wars cosplay painting is about 10 feet. And sometimes, in other paintings, it looks like he’s just 8 feet tall; his size changes to the needs of my painting and the scene I’m trying to convey. Just like my paintings moved from very, very large to very, very small to reflect my move from giant, loud, bold feelings to the collapsed, tighter, confined spaces of a small fairy garden in a pandemic–Bumble here reflects my need for peace and safety. He grew like a wall.
There’s a shift in this painting from the others. All my first paintings of Yukon have him Encountering the Wild, his arms thrown back in wonder and surprise at these amazing “monsters”–a werewolf, a sea dragon, moth men, the Loveland Frogs, or the boisterous Eagle Bar on stage singing with Bumble! They are loud! Dramatic! But here–at the beginning of the pandemic– is a different visual theme, away from large encounters and wonder—to the bedroom—into the arms of Bumble–to reading quietly–to a soft lit room that seems to be presented from multiple perspectives at once, as if the edges are still touching chaos but the center is safe… we are confined (look at Bumble’s hands almost locking Yukon in place) but protected, in this welcome, warm, loving, plush space of peace.
In 2020, I needed to be in Bumble’s arms, reading a book in peace. So Bumble was the size I needed him to be– large enough to be a wall, to surround Yukon with his arms, and let him escape the world. Reading can be an act of preservation, of protection. Reading to each other is a heroic act— like the Fellowship of the Ring resting in Rivendell, Mole and Rat at Badger’s House, Mary Lennox in her Secret Garden, Enola Holmes at her brother Sherlock’s house, the House Madrigal…oh look, you came with me to these places. We are there together. Safe for awhile.
I had best hits of the 80s playing when I drew this (“I was dreaming when i wrote this…”) so I was singing hard in my studio… and I pray everyone else in adjoining studios was okay with that! But I know the lyrics to hundreds of 80s songs… embedded in my core memory forever. Not useless data. Valuable data. Shared experience data. You know old folks homes for Gen Xers are gonna be filled with the best music. Nobody will come in there on weekends to play “a bicycle built for two”–they’ll bring in a cover band and play Journey, “Someday love will find you, BREAK those chains that BIND you!” And all us old Xers will be rockin’ out and singing along.
Do you sing in the bedroom? If you have a partner, do they sing in the bedroom? Do you sing together in the bedroom sometimes? (I count the shower as the bedroom in some houses!) Then do you bust up laughing because it’s so wonderful and funny? 70’s-80s songs, Broadway, Disney and church hymns…. that’s my on-call repertoire. Some Irish ballads… folk songs… and okay, Dan Fogelberg and the Beatles can be pulled up when necessary. Currently, songs from Nathaniel Rateliff, Rag & Bone Man, Taylor Swift, and Adele run through my head–because they got me through the pandemic by dropping albums into our difficult times like rocks into a still lake. (And now—Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ “Unholy” is so damn catchy, I’ve been playing that over and over while I work on the big King O the Cats painting) Anyway! When I have had someone who likes to sing, it’s fun to sing with them. (Some cute guy I know enjoys singing in the car! And it’s nice to blend with him down the curvy road.)
Where do songs come from inside us? Are they stored with feelings? I don’t think they are in a bin called “music” in our brain because if someone asked me what I know by heart I couldn’t tell you… that file is empty… but let me have a feeling, and wow, I get songs with lyrics that match that feeling flood my brain. If I hear three notes outside from a windchime–I can sing a whole song in full. Or turn on the car radio and all my notes are there.
There are songs appropriate for every feeling we’ve felt and I thank musicians for cataloguing those experiences and feelings so well. When I have to clean, I turn on the music to get me happy enough not to mind the cleaning. When I am sad, I turn on music to purge the sadness, to reflect in it, to bleed it out. Music puts us on a collective train of a feeling–and the lyrics and our lives merge in the windows of the shared landscape passing by. By the end of the song, we know the singer has “felt” our experience, and we theirs, our shared music of the moment
In the bedroom, we have a chance for many duets. Yeah, our voices aren’t perfect all the time. (But I bet opera baritone Bryn Terfel’s morning voice can be froggy hilarious too!) But I love my partner’s voice. I love singing with him. I love laughing about how we know all the lyrics, or- or- or- or… stay with me… how I memorized the lyrics ALL wrong… and those can be really funny too. Music allows us to share feelings– in a way like no other. We are full-throated blasting the Joy of our “Summer of 69” or we are harmonizing and synching in the sadness of our “Mercy Street” together. It puts us, for a moment, on the same page as our partner. And they know, even when they can’t express their feelings in words yet, that yeah, we “feel” their music too.
That’s the Black Dog of Death coming to visit Yukon and Bumble, sleeping on the big bed, being kept awake by Bumble’s snoring.
We sleep and recharge in the bedroom–it’s a long period of vulnerability, where our guard is down. We are open for any attack, naked to any sudden thing that could change–and yet we have to be vulnerable somewhere. We have to rest. We have to stop and get sleep.
I lock the door to my apartment, and I close the door to my room. I can’t have my room door open while I’m sleeping. I’m always afraid I will be able to feel the presence of someone standing in that door, looking at me. Last night, when the heater came on in the apartment, it opened the door of the room (the latch doesn’t always catch) and I said, “No, no, no,” and got up and shut the door.
I used to be afraid of the dark when I was a kid. Many many nights I spent under the covers pressing down on them to stop any monster from getting in until, lacking oxygen, I gave up and pulled back the covers and, because of how cool and refreshing it felt coming out from under those airless covers, I fell asleep right away–allowing myself to be vulnerable.
Some of us are more comfortable being vulnerable in less safe situations— camping (where we zip up the tent tight against bugs and bears….), or sleeping outside with no tent! (Are you THINKING??). Some people fall asleep in public places feeling safe because there are so many people they have a better chance of not being attacked. Some people have to fall asleep outside or in public places because they have no home, no bed, no safety, and they are vulnerable every single time.
Some of us feel like we have a private place in our bedrooms, safe from the judgement of others, able to be vulnerable in a way we could never be with other people. We can open up and be ourselves. For many, it takes a LOT to invite someone into that vulnerability–a lot of strength and a lot of time–to know that we are safe with them. On the other hand, sometimes it takes only a second to realize when we are not safe with someone–revealing ourselves or revealing our vulnerable sides or even being physically safe with them.
We are very blessed when we find someone who can handle our snoring worst, our naked, vulnerable self, our fears, insecurities, and our imperfections–and we are blessed with so much trust when someone invites us into that place where they are vulnerable too. A good relationship is constant vulnerability with constant safety. I’ve heard it’s a sign of feeling safe when dogs and cats sleep in our presence… they feel safe with us. When a person can voluntarily sleep in your presence, what an amazing trust they’ve given you, handing you their vulnerability and closing their eyes.
And cuddles and cool art. Those are Ted Harrison-ish paintings in the background. I have given Bumble several influences from northern artists, both Inuit and other Canadian artists. Harrison is one of the most well known Yukon artists. I will make another post introducing you to Ted Harrison! His work is stunning, and my amateur attempts at his color selection reveal the mastery he had of color templates. Just trying to “create” my own Harrison helped me realize how DIFFICULT it was to choose his colors and make them work so well for him. He used very pure colors, very pastel. I have painted the paintings in the background of the first picture with gouache to give them a painting feel–and the rest of the painting is watercolor and ink.
Okay, now that I’ve distracted you with talks of ART—the elephant in the room: Joy. Of course if we are in love with the person we share the bedroom with, there are lovely moments of cuddling that give each other Joy. I tried to be tasteful but still include this part of “living” in the bedroom. I wanted to know what the bedroom looked like. I had not imagined it yet… I needed to get a good idea of what a 10 foot long bed that can hold the weight of an Abominable Snowmonster might be like!
I had painted another painting of Yukon and Bumble singing in the room for a future painting, but the room looked like a hotel room–spare and bland– and I was not happy with it. How would an artist decorate their room? With paintings—either their own or others. I can imagine Ted Harrison painting this for Bumble… I think he’d like that. (Right, Ted?) But this could also be Bumble painting in Harrison’s style.
SEX AND THE ARTIST (or Why is Yukon so Naked and Sexual?)
So, sex. As a person who didn’t know they were gay until they were 34, and who had been clinging tightly to notions of purity and virginity according to Christianity– no sex before marriage, no experimentation, no looking at images, no fantasies–because we have to keep the version of God we’ve imagined happy, I neither had desires that I could recognize, nor had I ever experimented. So, when I figured out I was gay, it was a rush of sexual feelings that I had not even noticed— there was a lot of Joy in just recognizing that I wasn’t broken, as I had imagined I was. I still had a lot of unpacking of my moral restrictions and faith to do–so my experience was limited and remained pretty limited for years. The car wanted to go places for which I didn’t have a map. And because I never saw myself as a sexual person, not only was everything new and simultaneously confusing, it was joyful because This Was Me, part of me I didn’t know was there. (Oddly enough, guys were often turned off by my sheer glee and joy— “like, dude, it’s just sex.” Like–okay, but it’s also “just a glass of water” to someone who has been thirsty and not known it for twenty years. Every time I could hold someone –for me– felt like Christmas. )
I think my background with sexuality plays into my art choices—why Yukon is naked so much, why I feel like being more sex positive (even as the old evangelical part of me is Shamed and Embarrassed and Scared to talk about it or depict it–even right now–as I use a confessional essay format to unpack my fear of just drawing two people having sex), and why sexuality plays a role in the stories (albeit a small role, but because he’s gay it SEEMS like more). This is me trying to understand part of me, exploring something through art and fiction.
I was never comfortable in my body. I was super thin for thirty years and with my “broken” sexuality, I felt ugly and undesirable and wanted to keep myself hidden in large clothes. Only since 2018 have I started to get used to my body–through photography and painting in my own art studio. You can read about that in my essay in Fat & Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives called “A Fat Lot of Good That Did: How an Art Studio transformed my eyes” (there are links to Amazon at the website above). So while it seems I just like to draw naked hairy men (and I do–which is also part of the continual coming out queer people do–allowing myself to draw, in front of my friends, naked people I desire, thereby acknowledging that part of myself)–I think this is also a way to become more comfortable with myself and to learn what it means to be more comfortable with my body from this fictional person I’m “fleshing out.”
In conclusion, Sex can be part of the living we do in our bedroom–and it can be very bonding, and very joyful, and in some cases, healing.
nvitation to what? Rest, relief, comfort, recharge? While I imagined that Yukon was thinking of/looking at Bumble when he put the card there, like a place-setting, like an invitation to come to bed, like the pat his hand might be doing on the sheets there to indicate that Bumble is welcome, I know that’s a card in everyone’s bedroom— even when I’m alone, the bed always looks like it welcomes me to my spot. We look to the bedroom to hold us and give us comfort and rest till the morning.
I also know that when there’s a partner involved that we like to know we are invited, even if that place is “always” ours. We share it with someone. The Bedroom–as a sanctuary–is sometimes a shared sanctuary where we have to be comfortable with the person sharing it. It’s nice to see the smile of someone inviting us to the place they’ve saved for us–even after a 1001 Nights. It’s reassuring to know they enjoy the seating arrangement!