Okay, so I was in Baltimore for this art show…
Back in December, I contributed to a Kickstarter project started by a sculptor named Cameron Stalheim who was working on his MFA thesis project, a 30-foot sculpture of a dying merman that he described as “the first in a new series of work that questions the relationship between fantasy, reality and the objectification that happens in between.” One eensy problem, though — since he would have to cast the model (fellow artist and adult film star Colby Keller) for the merman’s upper torso and casting materials are muy expensive, he needed outside funds to finish the project, hence the Kickstarter campaign.
Right around that time, I had a bunch of royalties come in which totaled in the very low four figures. Since 1) I already had all my Christmas presents purchased, and 2) knew that mermen were going to play a major role in Breaker Zone, I decided to donate the royalties to the project. It wound up getting funded on December 21st, and Cam was able to cast Colby as scheduled and finish the piece.
Fast forward to this month. The MFA graduates’ show was scheduled to begin on April 11; as my contribution level included a reward of dinner with Cameron and Colby, I decided to fly to Baltimore for the weekend, see the show and the sculpture, and generally be a patroness of the arts. And apart from the fact that I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before my flight and wound up landing after being awake for 35 hours, I had an absolutely fantastic time. Cameron is intelligent, charming, and one of the sweetest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to have met, and he excitedly told me about the other figures he wants to sculpt in this series. As for the merman sculpture itself, it was breathtaking.
A long shot of the sculpture. Because of its size I couldn’t really get the whole thing into one picture.
A medium shot of the upper body. Apparently a woman pushing a food cart almost hit the hand, and the entire gallery made sounds of horror at the same time. Cam was in a different part at the time, and said he thought the walls were coming down.
Maybe it’s just me, but the fact that the merman has a streamlined penis (partially hidden in a cloaca-like compartment) deeply pleases the biologist in me, and I may lift the concept for Breaker Zone.
The only way I could get the entire sculpture in one shot.
A closeup of the tail.
Closeup of the merman’s profile.
It’s extremely eerie because it looks like an actor in makeup, and you expect him to open his eyes and blink at any moment.
The finished artwork and the model, somewhat more beardy than he was when originally cast.
After the show, there was a party at the coffee shop where Cameron worked, and I got to meet Colby and his partner Karl, Cam’s parents, and a bunch of other MFA students and other people in Cam’s circle. I described it on my podcast as the art world version of a cast party, and it had that same fun, loosey-goosey vibe (the kegs in the corner of the shop probably helped). And once I’d asked the barista if she had a narcoleptic special and she made me a double Vietnamese iced coffee with God only knows how much espresso in it, I was even awake enough to thoroughly enjoy myself! Colby and I also talked about a concept he had for a book, so, yeah, there may be something new in the WIP queue.
The next evening I headed out with Cameron, Colby, and Karl to a gorgeous little pizza joint named Iggie’s where we spent a good three hours eating fabulous pie, getting more than a bit squiffed on local beer and wine, and discussing such disparate topics as the Chinese space program, writing the world’s first erotic romance musical, the role of intelligence and meritocracy in American culture, why women like reading and watching gay porn, and a variety of other topics. Afterwards I staggered merrily back to my hotel, getting into an argument with a black cat hanging out in an apartment window on the way, and putting together the outline for a gay Gothic romance in my head. If more of my Saturday nights could end that way, I would be a very happy camper.
Sunday morning I went over to Colby’s to take possession of some art (he’s giving away all of his stuff due to an unexpected move. It’s a long story — details are available here) and give the boys goodbye hugs before I headed to lunch with another friend, then off to the airport. All in all, I have to say that Baltimore is an utterly awesome city, and the people there are amazing.
And now I have two more books to write, so that’s all good!