By Drew Wilson
Denver PrideFest 2012 takes place this weekend, June 16 and 17. But before the festivities and parade in Civic Center Park, another event will be taking place in Denver's Art District on Santa Fe.
They call it Gay on Santa Fay, and local gay artist Don Campbell of Don Campbell Images Studio and Gallery will be presenting 'The Male Form', an exhibit of fine art male nude photography, sculpture, and drawings. The photography and sculpture are the work of award winning artist Don Campbell and the male nude drawings are the work of deceased artist Will Laughlin.
"I think, in part, I try to show people that they can be proud of who and what they are. Proud of what they look like. The medium of photography has always appealed to me and I like to photograph all body types. I use bodybuilders, skinny guys, older men and overweight men. There’s beauty in all of them," says Campbell, who has been a photographer and sculptor since elementary school. "I’ve always done this type of work but years ago it was sort of undercover. There wasn’t a gallery anywhere that would show it."
Times are changing, according to Campbell, in terms of mainstream acceptance of the male nude form as fine art and events like PrideFest and Gay on Santa Fay play a large part.
"I think PrideFest is a time for all of us to be out and who we are," says Campbell. "Every time we’re seen out like this we are accepted a little bit more. I’m a firm believer in being out. Out to everyone. That’s key. It’s made my work more acceptable but my gallery is still one of the few in the country that openly shows male nudes. There are very few others. The male form still raises eyebrows but people are accepting more and more that fine art can have an erotic element to it. People are used to the nude female form but I say the male nude form is just as beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with that"
As for his sculpture, Campbell describes it as a mix of figurative and abstract works - sometimes all at once. "My sculptures are figurative as well as abstract but most of my work is a combination of the two," he explains. "If it’s abstract you can still see shapes that look like they might be alive. I like to say they might have been alive at one time or maybe they’re in the process of becoming alive."
Don Campbell Images Studio and Gallery has made it's home on Santa Fe for the past two years and Campbell loves being part of it's vibrant art scene. "Oh, it’s great," he exclaims. "We get tons and tons of people in here on First Fridays. It’s wonderful to see people look at my work and eavesdrop and hear what they say. And a lot of people do have something to say about it because my work can be a little controversial sometimes. Some people get offended but I tell them if they’re offended to just go to another gallery. But usually I get comments that I'm able to walk the fine line of male nude eroticism so that it doesn't cross the line into pornography."
And as for what distinguishes eroticism from pornography? Campbell says, "I don't know exactly, but it’s a fine line. And it depends on the individual. As they say, it’s in the eye of the beholder.
Don Campbell Images Studio and Gallery presents The Male Form as part of Gay on Santa Fay on Friday, June 15 before Denver PrideFest 2012 weekend. Prints are available starting at $30. For more information visit www.doncampbellimages.com or find him on Facebook.