Prolific artist, filmmaker, and author Clive Barker has been leaving his mark on he horror genre since the 1980s when he debuted his short story collections Books of Blood. He directed his most notable work, Hellraiser, out of a fear that his original story would be treated poorly in the wrong hands, as he had seen happen to another adaptation. Since his early forays into fiction he has branched out into other genres, including – of all things – young adult literature. For the positive portrayal of homosexuality in his novel Sacrament he was honored with a GLAAD Media Award in 2003.
A multitalented gay cult film creator, John Waters was the creative mind behind notorious Dreamlander productions like Pink Flamingos and the tamer Hairspray, which was later adapted as a Broadway musical. To all of his productions he has brought his trademark sense of offbeat, taboo humor, the kind that involves feces more often than not. Outside of his shock films, Waters is also a fine artist and writer. His humorous concept art installations have been featured in prominent galleries, including a photograph of flowers that squirts passers by with water. His adventures hitchhiking across the United States are documented in a memoir called Carsick, which contains comical fictional accounts of his journey along with the real one.
Through his paintings and figure drawings Paul Cadmus depicted satirical scenes of debauchery and homoeroticism, drawing attention to same-sex relationships in ordinary daily life.Cadmus’s style, which blended Renaissance and neoclassical aesthetics with exaggeration, was referred to as magical realism, though he himself did not use the term. His government-commissioned image of two sailors flirting with each other, even while surrounded by heterosexual couples, was removed from its display after complaints were submitted, making it the first in a series of attention-drawing censorship disputes; sarcastic takes on class relations and Coney Island beach goers followed to similar controversy. On occasion he did paint serious pieces such as What I Believe, which depicted the positive role art Cadmus saw it playing in the future; later in life he dropped painting altogether and concentrated on charcoal figure studies of naked men.
“Golden Age” comics artist Clarence Matthew Baker is remembered primarily for his “good girl” pieces, a genre featuring scantily-clad pin up-style heroines, but he was involved in pencil and ink work for romance, Western, and science fiction styles as well. His cover for Phantom Lady #17 received a special shoutout in Seduction of the Innocent, an exaggerated chronicle of comics’ moral failures that helped spawn the Comics Code Authority. It Rhymes with Lust, considered one of the precursors to the modern graphic novel, was another one of his projects. Along with his artistic accomplishments, Baker is notable for being the first black comic book illustrator; his entrance into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame; and his uncommonly snappy taste in clothing.
Vehement disagreement exists among Baker’s friends and relations regarding his sexual orientation. As chronicled in the biography Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour, accounts range from assertions that he was gay, to outright denials, to a joke about him being a womanizer. Baker himself never spoke on the issue, leaving it permanently unresolved barring new evidence.
Author and photographer Loren Cameron was responsible for the landmark volume Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits, a photoessay of trans men (himself included) in various stages of transition, which won him two Lambda Literary awards. His second book, Man Tool, a collection of post-surgical trans men with commentary on the results, was published online. He travels and lectures with his photographs, occasionally sparking controversy due to the nude content, and has appeared in numerous films and television programs; one interview is available here. A collection of his papers and other personal material is available for viewing in the Columbia University archives.
Author, art collector, lecturer, and proprietor of a chic Parisian gathering spot for up and coming creative celebrities, Gertrude Stein was a living cultural hub. Originally from California, she and her partner Alice B. Toklas moved to the Left Bank to join Stein’s brother Leo as he was pursuing painting. They opened up their household, 27 Rue de Fleurus, as a gallery for artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. Stein’s own writing, a mix of poetry and prose, employed a deliberately simplified style that went on to play an influential role in American Modernism. Although Stein had a reputation for feminist and democratic politics, she was – and is – infamous for her support of the Vichy government during World War II, despite her own Jewish heritage.
Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was infamous for his candor surrounding the eroticism in his art and his own participation in the sadomasochistic acts depicted in his most controversial pieces. His subjects ranged from single flower buds, to portraits of the wealthy and famous, to nudes, and were displayed in several high-profile exhibitions during his short career. His final display, entitled The Perfect Moment, occurred only months before his death, and spawned a censorship trial and Congressional panic over public funding of prints that included a self-portrait with a whip inserted inside the author’s anus; dialogue around The Perfect Moment and censorship remains ongoing, and even had a conference framed around it in 2009.
The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, formed to promote photography and fund HIV/AIDS research, has a website here; curiously, its online galleries do not include the explicit works that brought Mapplethorpe his fame in the first place.