The muse is defined as ‘a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist’ — but what about the male muse?
For an artist, the muse is much more than a source of inspiration. It is a relationship that exceeds the norms of sexual attraction, for the muse generally exists as the living, breathing vision of the artist. The topic of the male as a muse was ill-fated from the beginning. The muse’s origin arises in Greek mythology; they were the nine goddesses of arts and sciences. For centuries and centuries, the history of art has relied on them so anxiously that creativity was only coming from female muses. Taking a look back in history however, there are men inspiring men in all artistic fields; literature, art, filmmaking, music and fashion.
One of the earliest examples of love creating art is the eponymously romantic relationship of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, or ‘Bosie’ as Wilde referred to him. It was 1891, and Wilde was confined in a heterosexual relationship. His and Alfred Douglas’ affair wasn’t a steady journey but a rollercoaster of ups and downs, which inspired Wilde to create some of his career-defining plays. Reading the endless amount of love letters they sent to each other explains the beautiful cohesion to their collaboration. The letters were so profoundly passionate that they were collated into a book entitled, Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters.
Love, as a creative tool cannot be defined to just the romantics. Take for instance the relationship between two pioneers of American culture: Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. The beauty of friendship once again shone through in the form of a letter. A piece of writing that is deeply rooted in the bloodlines of American literature. The letter reportedly convinced Kerouac to make a big decision. His defining novel On The Road, a story also about the ties of friendship, was loosely based around himself, Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. After reading the letter, Kerouac apparently scrapped the whole thing and wrote it in a new, subversive way with a whole new tone. It worked, and is now considered one of the greatest pieces of American literature of all time.
When we approach the 1960s, sexuality reigned supreme. A young, spunky (and god-like) guy walks into Andy Warhol’s notorious ‘Factory’. The boy, Joe D’Allessandro had already dabbled in the glorification of his own body. Previously, he had modelled for Bob Mizer’s distinguishingly crucial ‘Physique Pictorial’. Warhol took him under his wing and gave him the attention his beauty deserved. D’Allessandro’s most notable role was in the Paul Morrissey trilogy (Flesh, Trash and Heat) in which he played a gay heroin junkie. The film focused and fantasised on Joe in a way that could have been considered perverse. But because of his unearthly high level of sex appeal, it was allowed. To mark yet another time when Joe D’Allessandro was part of the sexual uprising of Generation X, we look at the artwork for The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album Sticky Fingers. It shows us Joe’s sexuality without showing his face. With the camera zoomed and focused on his crotch, viewers were dared not to look away.
The creator-muse collaboration evolved greatly over the later decades of the twentieth century. Along with the rise of film and television on a greater scale, directors specifically were able to start building strong connections to individual actors. Take for example Robert Rodriguez’s muse, Danny Trejo. The pair first worked together on From Dusk Till Dawn, and have collaborated on several more films since. Trejo has this ultra-threatening, cutthroat manner about him, and Rodriguez has always played upon this with his roles with names like ‘Razor Charlie’ and his most notable, ‘Machete’. Martin Scorsese is also a filmmaker that appreciates the power of having a male muse. Take two of the most successful actors of all time, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The fantastically female, dominant world of fashion is slightly deprived of any prominent male collaboration. But there was a time when fashion met film. Acclaimed designer, Tom Ford experimented for his directorial debut, A Single Man. An ultra-tragic tale of one man’s grief from losing the one he loves, was everything that could have been expected from the suave and sleek Ford. However, it was not the lead role of George played by Colin Firth that brings up this discussion. Nicholas Hoult scored the role of Kenny; a student who allowed Firth’s heartbroken character to come back to life. The importance of Kenny’s boyish beauty was keenly showcased in the film by floods of colour injecting life back into George. Tom Ford’s fascination with Hoult extended even further with Ford using him in his menswear campaigns.
Sometimes though, it isn’t about the specific outcome of a male-on-male collaboration but the emotional ties that are formed between them. The bromance of James Franco and Seth Rogen, a relationship formed during their teenage years on the television show ‘Freaks and Geeks’, saw the birth of their comedic prowess. Fast-forward to 2008 and we have Pineapple Express, the first movie where we see Franco and Rogen channelling themselves on camera. Albeit a film about the misfortunes of two stoners, what is present is their connection, and the chemistry they have on screen is unrivalled. The pair stood at the forefront of the war for freedom of expression in 2014 with the approaching release of their movie The Interview. A satirical approach to the themes of dictatorship in North Korea, the film was released into the world in an unconventional way. Hackers tried to shut it down with terrorist threats, but society stood up and would not stand for it. To gurantee freedom of speech and creativity, the film was fast-released online for free to make sure it made it to the masses.
The realm of male-on-male artistic procreation is one that is growing in unimaginable ways.
After looking at the diversity of these famous couples throughout history, HOWL can’t help but wonder where the artistic universe is going to extend to now. These men are relatable to everyone; there is no limit to creativity.
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