New Jersey artist E. Gibbons pitched his concept for a book for close to five years that featured a collection of images by various artists that depicted the male image. He had seen photography books, erotica and cartoon illustrations, but nothing that focused primarily on the classic male figure and was sure publishers would see the hole in the market. They didn’t, until Schiffer Publishing caught whim of Gibbons’ idea and asked him if he would consider taking the 26 artists he had already gathered and adding 74 more, so they could publish it in their series of books.
Gibbons, owner of The Firehouse Gallery in Bordentown, knew he could fill the pages and began contacting artists whose work he had admired. In March the “100 Artists of the Male Figure” was released.
Gibbons had a deeper intention with his book than just displaying beautiful artwork. He wanted to change the perception of the male image. “History shows that art was more male dominated or at least balanced for hundreds of years until about the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. Then it dropped off,” Gibbons went on, “It has to do with the Victorian prudishness. Then there’s the religious background where some people think male images are dirty.”
Although he enjoys and own works of erotica, he says it isn’t necessarily what he wants hanging on his walls. He knew there were many people in the LGBT community who enjoy fine art and wanted to give them a slice of what is happening today in the world of the male figure. For art lovers in New Jersey, this book can also be used a reference, since Gibbons says the art scene in the area has been plagued with ups and downs, though mostly downs. He takes the Apex Gallery of Asbury Park as an example. He says it was a nice spot in a dreary art world that embraced openly gay exhibitions, but it closed. “If 10% of the population is gay, why is not 10% of the work in institutions or rotating exhibitions ‘gay friendly?’” Gibbons asked.
When putting the book together, he thought of himself as a conductor of a symphony. Like a symphony his book is filled with many colors, tones and moods. In order to achieve that, Gibbons looked for diversity. Not only did he choose to highlight established artists in the book, such as James Childs, he also looked for budding talents like Richard Stabbert of Redbank. Gibbons says he finds “childlike joy” in Stabbert’s works that he rarely sees in other artists. Although Stabbert, who has lived his whole life in New Jesey, says his world, the gay world, always moves him in the moments when people let down their guard; he doesn’t paint from a sexuality perspective.
“When I paint, I don’t paint from any sense of ‘in’ or ‘out,’” says Stabbert.” My paintings are based more from an emotional, rather than technical expression—in a way a personal journal, a way of capturing beauty or a moment in time.”
Stabbert isn’t the only New Jersey artist featured in the book. Brian Bednarek, Bob Gherardi and Tai Lin are also included. If other locals want in, Gibbons is already working on the next volume. In the meantime he encourages readers to explore the genre because feels these artists create works that are visually priceless.
To purchase “100 Artists of the Male Figure, visit www.schifferbooks.com.