S is for Salvador Dali and sex

S for Twitter

Salvador Dali is known for his surreal paintings, as well as his exuberant wild personality.  He was also a man who experienced a lot of sexual torment, with  profound sexual-identity confusion from his bisexuality . He was also a man addicted to masturbation. In his autobiography, he claimed he kept up the practice well into adult life, often in front of a mirror. Masturbation, at the same time, filled Dali with fear because it was at the time believed to cause impotence, homosexuality, and insanity.  Dali’s father also seems to have played a negative part in formulating Dali’s perception of sex, by  leaving out a book which contained explicit photos of people suffering from advanced, untreated venereal diseases.  We can say that Dali had a complex relationship with his father.  Dali on one occasion exhibited a piece in which he had written “Sometimes, I spit for fun on my mother’s portrait.”  When asked to apologize publicly by his father, he declined. Later on, Dali mailed a condom filled with his own semen to his father and a note reading; “This is all I owe you.

The photos of grotesquely diseased genitalia both fascinated and horrified the young Dali. He began to associating sex with putrefaction and decay, themes that would later appear in many of his most famous works.  With “The Great Masturbator,” Dali’s first significant work, we see a woman believed to be Dali’s future wife Gala rising  out of a downward-facing head, which is suspended over a locust swarming with ants. The positioning of the woman’s mouth next to a thinly clad male crotch suggests fellatio, while the trickle of blood on the male figure’s thighs reflects Dali’s castration anxiety.  As a young man, Dali had a strong relationship with Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca,  how far this relationship went is open to question, but the poet apparently was filled with disappointment when Dali, set his heart on and  married Gala, who  was 10 years Dali’s senior and apparently a far more experienced lover than the alleged virgin Dali. It seems that Dali, who felt  totally inadequate sexually chose to marry a woman who apparently  as writer Ian Gibson put it “her appetite for sex…was so overwhelming that it verged on the nymphomaniac.”

salvador painting

Apart from being the great masturbator Dali also was a  passionate voyeur, this  involved holding weekly orgies, which apparently, Dali himself didn’t participate, (he couldn’t bear to be touched) choosing only to watch.  Renowned British Art critic Brian Sewell said Dali once asked him to take off his clothes, lie down in front of a statue of Christ in Dali’s garden, and masturbate while curled into a fetal position.  The art critic surmised he was not the first to be instructed  to follow such bizarre instructions.  He was  a man who revealed his sexuality in his work and shared his obsessions with very few people.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.


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N is for nudity!

Serpent and Apple


One strong memory of my time at Art school was life drawing classes. There was the atmosphere, a fraught, tense stifling atmosphere, filled with deep concentration, you felt as if you were in a library or in a sacred church. The student’s eyes were fixed on the model, nobody spoke much, if at all,  there were unwritten rules of how somebody should behave in this environment. Students would be religiously measuring proportions of the life model with their pencils. The tradition of using a model in drawing classes goes back hundreds of years.

What of the life model’s perspective? It’s undeniable  we live in a society where nudity is a big deal and does have a stigma.  The first time a model poses in front of a bunch of strangers, it must be very daunting…when it reaches the critical point when the Art teacher says “ok can you take your robe off”. This all sounds totally ridiculous, we all undress every night, it is totally natural…

Imagine in this day and age in the western world  a “fat” competition! Men from the Bodi tribe pride themselves in being fat and  consequently they drink a mixture of blood and goat’s milk to fatten up quickly and win the “fat contest” in their village. The winner is not awarded a prize but is afforded a heroes status for the rest of their lives.

One group of people who liked to flaunt their naked bodies were the hippies, in the 1960s. The West Coast America chose nudity to make  a political statement. Nudity in public became a form of protest, challenging social norms and supposedly conservative, constraining ideas of‘decency’. It was also liberating.

Have you ever had a dream whereby you find yourself the only naked person in a public place filled with clothed people? Apparently it is quite common dream. Dreaming that you are completely or partially naked is very common. Nudity symbolizes a variety of things depending on your real life situation. Becoming shocked at the realization that you are naked in public, apparently reflects your vulnerability or feelings of shamefulness. You may be hiding something and are afraid that others can see right through you.

I come from the UK,  a country known for its prudishness, the origin of this down to the the Puritans, or Queen Victoria by comparison across the channel, continental Europe has a more relaxed attitude towards nudity, I remember a place outside Vienna where everyone (apart from us Brits) was stark naked and thought nothing of this. Even Catholic Spain is less offended by breasts on the beach than Britain. You couldn’t enter a sauna in Austria or Germany wearing clothes. This bodily shame can be traced back to Christianity’s formation of the doctrine of original sin. Nudity, and nude photos, is the ultimate test of self-acceptance. Do you love yourself enough that you can go all the way?

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.


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A is for Art and Art School.

A finished

I don’t remember the exact moment I decided to go to Art School.  I hated school so much my only refuge was the Art Room.  There were only a few artists in a school that was mostly filled with aspiring military types and future business types.  There was an artist called Jonathon Land,  who painted in the style of Salvador Dali. The artist that influenced me the most at the time was Wassily Kandinsky and his geometrical works.  

My first Art School was Eastbourne,  where I did a “Foundation Course” . Here I was to encounter not only a wonderful group of  students but also a an Art Tutor called Martin.  Martin’s teaching technique was to freak out us students.  He would occasionally use words to psyche us out, but often it would  be the silent treatment, frowns or disdaining looks, as his eyes surveyed our efforts to produce art of some kind of merit.  His method was to test our resolve, to see if we had what it took to get into another college to do a degree.

One thing I discovered while at Art College was that Art Tutors were often flawed characters as well as being alcoholics. There was one tutor at Wimbledon, where I  did an MA in printmaking who would traipse in late reeking  of alcohol.  Another  I recall when I was at Art School, in Cheltenham used to smoke nonstop, his hand would be twitching, he had all the hall marks of an alcoholic.  For many years I regretted my time at Art College,  as it led to a lack of career, no rewarding jobs.  I flitted from one job to another, until I landed in teaching.  Later on I began to cherish the time I spent at Art College, and some of the other students who I met along the way.  I realized that Art School  played a big part in the formation of my life and art a big resource for me.

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Death of a legend

Bowie image

The week began, with momentous news for many. Something almost unimaginable, had come to pass, the great creative chameleon, a man with a legacy of great songs, an actor, a song writer, a saxophonist, a painter, style icon,a man  with a distinctive voice, a total one off Renaissance man, had passed away. There had been mutterings that he had been unwell, but this did not lessen the shock of his demise. Maybe some believed he would simply keep evolving and outlive us all. I recently saw the haunting ten minute “Blackstar” video on the Guardian website, while not preempting his death, I struck by its somberness, those mournful choral backing vocals, sending a shiver up my spine. Was he already starting to drift off to another dimension, it is full of hints, but true to Bowie also lots of anomalies. A man who knows this will be his last record, leaves us with a fitting epitaph. The measure of the man was that he carried on doing what he was brilliant at, despite the restraints of his ailing body.

I don’t know how I first really came across David Bowie, I remember listening to “The man who sold the World” nonstop when I was quite young. I remember having left school, living in London for the first time, having an almighty crush on a girl called Barbara, who was half Danish, half Italian, very exotic at the time for me, she was also sophisticated and had a big thing for David Bowie. Sadly for me she also had a boyfriend called Chris, who shared her love for Bowie. I was suddenly flung full force into the word of David Bowie. I remember I went to see “The Man who fell to Earth” in a small independent cinema in Chelsea.

I was in love with another girl, when I was at Art College, at the time “Scary Monsters (super Creeps)” came out. Again for me love was not to be, but I played this album to death. By the time I had got to my second Art School, I had a big collection of Bowie albums. Unfortunately an old friend from my London days came to stay for a weekend with his drug addict wife and when they left all my Bowie albums left with them…I used to have the live album, with yellow vinyl. These were the days when the New Romantics were in popularity, they owed a lot to David Bowie. I was henna-ing my hair. I suppose at different times I have wanted to be David Bowie, as have many people.

When I moved to Brixton, I lived two doors from the house where he grew up.
David Bowie has always been around in my mind. Somebody to aspire to. His passing will leave a gaping hole. Will there ever be anyone like him again?
Ok he went a bit off track at times, his antics sometimes cringe worthy. For example he by repute had an unhealthy fascination with Hitler’s Third Reich, musing publicly that Britain could benefit from a fascist leader, and when he visited London he was pictured, to his shame, at Victoria station giving what looked very much like a Nazi salute. Then there was that Christmas duet, an unlikely collaboration with Bing Crosby, In 1992, Bowie performed at a concert honoring the late Freddie Mercury. In the middle of the set, he gave a solemn speech about his friend and recited the Lord’s Prayer. Occasionally he slipped off the pedestal of being this ultra-cool icon.

When you watch interviews with him, you get the sense he enjoyed playing with the interviewer. He was a man hiding behind many masks, a man also living in fear of going insane, there was schizophrenia running through his family. He used his creativity to hold this in check. He never be forgotten and he will be missed by many, so many people identified with him. A legend and a genius.
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Paris still alive and rich in culture, despite the attempts of those who seek to destroy…



Last Friday’s events brought about a senseless waste of life, as well as much pain and trauma to those caught up in an unimaginable horrific situation, as well as leaving many others in deep shock, but if it was the intention to try to destroy the rich culture and the desire to share creativity in Paris,they failed.

Last night I was lucky enough to participate in a wonderful typically Parisian cultural event, called “Paris Lit Up”. Musicians, poets and writers all shared their feelings and ideas. We had honest accounts of failed love affairs, an interesting account of what Paris was like in the 1980s, when smoking was permitted almost everywhere. There was a rendering of a gospel song, done acapella style. There was wit, repartee and banter between participants, while at the same time some chose to share their thoughts on what happened at the end of last week. The shadow of last Friday still remains and it etched on the minds of many, but Paris retains its characteristics, a city brimming with culture and creativity, which so many love and cherish.

If you have ever lived in Paris or stayed for a long time, you will know what Paris has to offer.  We can’t change what happened last Friday, but creative people can stand up and say...we’re not going to change our lifestyle, because of people with twisted minds who want to destroy so many things we hold true.

Sing your songs, write your poems, enjoy the Paris night life…


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Living in the Shadow of a Genius

Living in the Shadow 222

What would the world be like, if all gifts and talents were shared equally. A Utopian world of matching talents… A world in which all spoke with the wit and eloquence of Oscar Wilde. All had the calm of Buddha. Could sing with voice of Aretha Franklin, Bjork, Kate Bush, or perhaps Elvis Presley, or Luciano Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, or whichever singer you deem great…Could dance like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Margot Fonteyn, Vaslav Nijinsky, Josephine Baker, Rudolf Nureyev or “Pina” Bausch. Could draw like Leonardo De Vinci or MichaelAngelo, or depending on your taste Picasso. Could run as fast as Usain Bolt. Have the brain Einstein. Write a piece of music as powerful as that of Carl Orff: Carmina Burana, or Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Brahms.

But no…we are all blessed with a variety of different talents, at different levels. “God” does not bestow talents far and wide, only the lucky few are blessed…and the rest of us can only admire with awe…or perhaps curse our luck…

I was really impressed by Amadeus, a film directed by Miloš Forman, written by Peter Shaffer. Two men (different ages) go down the same path, of being musicians. We can say that the Antonio Salieri character, is by most people’s standards a reasonably talented musician, the trouble is he has to coexist in a world of Mozart…this prodigy who has this natural talent and to put it crudely the “X factor”. Salieri is crushed into mediocrity by the looming shadow and pure talent and glaring genius of Mozart.

In my story “Slashed” I write about two brothers. One is a genius painter (a Leonardo type figure) the other is rather like Salieri, left behind in the wake of his looming shadow. The genius brother is simply called “Maestro”. The brother Constanzi arrives by chance drunk at Maestro’s studio and forces his way in. He is stunned by the brilliance of the work of his brother, which is about to be shipped off for a major exhibition, his brother’s name on the verge of being cemented in immortality… Constanzi then goes on a rampant wave of Art vandalism, pouring paint, dubbing graffiti…slashing works…It is not puerile vandalism…it is laced with revenge…but I also imagine him conducting himself like Jackson Pollock…there is elements of creativity…be it in a style that does not exist in the epoch the story is pertains to. The two brothers are both painters, but one has been given an incredible gift, the other the far lesser light is prone to be accused of living off the coat tails of his eminent brother and has little chance of flourishing, whatever he does. Constanzi’s destruction is a way of cleansing all the pain and hurt he has experienced over the years.
Here is a short exert from the story…as Constanzi enters his brother’s studio.
Even drunk, and in the gloomy light, the works looked
magnificent, more so than the few people who’d been privy to see
them claimed.
Swaying back and forth, he marveled at the way hundreds of jars
of pigment were meticulously laid out each according to hue. In front
of the jars were rows and rows of brushes arranged in descending
thickness. Unlike his, this studio was impeccably organized. He
mumbled something unintelligible, and listened to it echo throughout
the room. This studio felt more like a mausoleum, or, at the least, a
sacred space, leaving him feeling small and unimportant.
Unimportant? He’d show everyone he was far from being unimportant,
his inebriated mind screamed.

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What if they’d been writers ?

genius negative

They have had every morsel of their lives dissected in every conceivable way, but what if they had been writers themselves…what would they have written?

John Lennon could have been an artist (he went to Liverpool Art School) his work appears to be scribble-like cartoons, with an element of wit. His life was dramatically cut short, killed by a crazed “fan”…but what if he’d lived much longer and felt inspired to write a book? What would he have written?

John Lennon was somewhat of a complex character…he was brought up by his aunt and only formed a relationship with his mother, when her life was cut short, by an accident. His autobiography or Beatles Memoirs would have made compulsive reading and copies would have flown out of book shops…unless of course he inserted some controversial comments, like his quote concerning The Beatles being more popular than Jesus Christ.

Would he have written a book similar to a “Beat Generation” type novel? Some kind of psychedelic drug induced masterpiece. He certainly went through an acid phase. He was noted for his acerbic wit and sometimes cruel sarcasm, juxtaposed with this was his passion for causes, and for “world peace”. What would he have made of…this post September the 11th world we live in?

Jim Morrison packed a lot into his 27 years on this planet, he was a natural poet, might he have not also been a great dark fiction writer? Similarly he might have written some great drug fueled novels.

The more recently diseased Amy Winehouse, who could have written an open honest account of all the demons residing in her head, but unfortunately drugs and alcohol got to her aged 27…Alternatively she might have chosen to write about how the Music industry manipulated her fine talent.

What of Politicians…once Richard Nixon had passed through all the political memoirs…he might have chosen to write a political thriller, full of corruption and intrigue. Bill Clinton (ok this man is still alive) could write something with political intrigue mixed with erotica/kinky sex…there seems to be an influx of EL James type writers, so he could do really well out of this.

What of artists? Picasso tried his hand at a multitude of artistic disciplines, what would a cubist novel read like? The story would have to be viewed from different angles and facets and would be very fragmented. Or perhaps he would have written a novel about “the noble art” of Bullfighting (which in my book is far from noble).

Leonardo Da Vinci, was a writer of sorts, well Leonardo was everything, not just a genius painter, he was a visionary, who could have written some of the most incredible Science Fiction stories ever, he would have surpassed HG Wells, who equally had an incredible vision of the future. If his novel was written using “mirror writing” to read it would take forever., with lots of obscure references.

Stanley Kubrick, a brilliant film director, would be hard to predict what kind of book he might have written…he was such a versatile director, capable of turning his hand to different types of film. He Was also a very meticulous and precise man, who did a lot of research into his films, so we could expect books with lots of detail, as well fired with a rampant imagination.

Comic genius and a master of mimicry, Peter Sellers, was another “complex character”. Almost preordained that he would be an actor, his life guided by his strong Jewish pushy mother “Peg” who contrived to build up a massive ego in her beloved son. Though known as a “comic and incredibly naturally funny man, who is well known for his portrayals of inspector Jacques Clouseau, Sellers desperately wanted to be seen in a much more serious light, not type cast as a clown like Clouseau. A great paradox with Sellers as well as many other comic greats, was that he suffered so much anxiety and from deep depression. He could easily conjure up different characters, so if he had written a work of fiction, maybe he would have been a highly imaginative character developer. Given his bent to be taken seriously, perhaps he would have written a very serious dark novel. Because he played so many different characters, he himself was lost amongst all these characters, maybe writing a book might have helped him to find himself.

Maybe if a lot of these characters had settled down and written novels, there would have been many therapeutic gains and maybe their shortened lives might have been extended…what if?

Francis H Powell is a writer and author of Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories. Follow him on Twitter @Dreamheadz