James Bidgood (born 1933) lives and still works in New York, where he arrived in 1951 and never left. I wanted to see what makes him the unknown “father of the pulp and glamour aesthetic”, even if he is not widely known, not having achieved the recognition he really deserves.
I interviewed him in 2015 and I am proud to publish it to you, exclusively:
You have strongly influenced contemporary artists like David La Chapelle, Pierre and Gilles, among others. Where did you get your own influences? Who are the artists that have influenced your creation during your career?
Maxfield Parrish, Quaintance, Tony Duquette who designed costumes and especially props or odd set pieces for MGM musicals such as Kismet.
For many years your artworks were considered forbidden fairy tales by some art critics. What is the role of liberty in your creation?
I am not sure what this question is about but if you mean the liberation of others… I often receive mail telling me that seeing my work helped some young gay man to feel less shame about being gay… I guess when they saw as much invested in the adoration the male image they figured it couldn’t be that wrong. Maybe my work helped them realize they were not alone.
How do you consider your work influenced your own generation and what is the influence of it to young generations today?
Well I guess I answered that in the question above and really… how what I do or did influences another person is beyond my scope of knowledge. Seeing something similar to something I have done does not necessarily mean I inspired whatever it is.
Pierre Et Giles have credited me with being a source of inspiration as well as being influenced by a million others including Marilyn Monroe. I do not think any one can really say other than the person themselves… what or who influenced their work… I am not sure even they know. We are talking about what lives in our subconscious now and no one can really be sure what goes on in there.
When do you feel you have finished an art piece creation and you are able to present it to the public?
Never really. I am forever finding this and that I wish I could go back and fix. With the invention of Photoshop I am being driven crazy because I can now go back and make things right but I also am not allowed to alter this work to any great degree because they are interesting because of what I could not do and what I managed to get done with out the new technology.
In your opinion what is the most important art piece you have created and why?
Well you see I do not think I have done anything important and I probably never will. I keep trying but in a time when so much imagery and opinion is available and so many are accused of having changed the world for one insignificant reason or another it all becomes hype and a need to fill up a space in some print media such as your own. The days of Zola and Dreyfus are long gone.
What made you change from Fashion to photography?
Well I was never exclusively either one or the other. When I worked as a female impersonator I was also designing the sets and costumes for the nightclub review I was in. When I went home at night I wrote lyrics for songs that never happened. I am seldom doing only one thing except on due dates.
How was the recognition of Pink Narcisus and how was it received by the public. Do you have any projects for a new movie?
There was very little attention paid at the time it was released. Film is the most difficult of the art forms I am aware of. Sculpting out a chunk of marble may be harder… I do not know, The way I work and with my limited funds I would not attempt a film because it is too physical for a man my age and l with such limited resources. If I were famous and well funded I could do any thing but thats all pie in the sky.
What are your future projects and expectations?
As always too many to list and for all I know I may accomplish nothing else. I doubt it and yet at the same time I always believe I will fail because anything is possible and everything is impossible. No one knows about anything until the day after tomorrow and by then we may both be gone. But I will more than likely still be pasting and gluing bling in my grave and having new impossible “ideas”.
Have you written your biography or would you like to have it written by someone and why?
I wrote a screen play several years ago based on my life called “FAG! The Pretty Good Life of Jimmy Bundle” It needs a lot of work!!!!!
I wish I can curate a complete exhibition of this amazing art icon in some point in the near future. Not only I feel inspired by his work in my life but also feel I am part of his psychedelic dream.
My generation forgot its inspirations, drowned into our selfish life. We have forgotten that thanks to artists like Bidgood we can walk free of shame on the streets and even get married (in some countries).
Not only he is a great artist, working aesthetic with tones of glitter but he brought his characters from dream into life: me, our friends and YOU.
Photos: Courtesy from the artist. Phrase: “father of the pulp and glamour aesthetic”, from Bruce Benderson at the book James Bidgood, from Taschen (a must have!).