Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work
My father, who was an artist, gave me my first 35mm camera when I was nine years old, and I have been in love with the power of the photographic image ever since. If I hadn’t chosen to pursue the arts, I would have been an archaeologist. In a way, that very much describes who I am as an artist. My traditional work is focused on my love of world cultures, traditions, and the environments in which they live. In my nudes, I seek to represent our need to remain connected to the natural world, to reintroduce our latent primitive connection to mother earth on an almost spiritual level if you will, and that in turn has been inspired by the many remarkable cultures I have been honored to travel among.
When not overthinking humanity’s role in the world, I can usually be found at home, being a bit of an introvert, enjoying the company of my wife and children. There is no doubt a glass of red wine is involved.
Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work
The majority of my work has focused on cultural photography, mostly being done over the past couple decades in Africa, with an emphasis on the cultures that call the Sahara Desert their home (that work can be seen at www.kurtbeardsley.com).
In regard to my nudes, I started this self-portrait project a few years back, endeavoring to express the connection to nature that we in the West seem to have forgotten about or have largely ignored, often at our own peril as we continue to rape the planet at an ever alarming pace.
In both mediums my themes remain constant. I create work that reflects what I find aesthetically beautiful about humanity, hoping that the viewer will emotionally connect with my work and be driven by their own desires to explore the world outside of their own comfort zone, or at the very least, inspire folks to run around naked in nature, taking in the sublime feeling of the wind blowing against their thighs.
Your work focused on the body, what image and concepts are you trying to convey?
As a Humanist living in this particular time of unreason, as the struggle for gender equality, identity, and inclusivity continue, a large component is missing from the conversation- the restructuring of the dialog regarding the views associated with the male nude body.
In the era of the hashtag #freethenipple and #bodyfreedom movements, the battle is decidedly one-sided. Women display images in attempt to regain their own bodies and how they choose to represent themselves (and rightly so), but it still largely caters to the male gaze.
I began researching the male nude in art, and beyond the historical classics, there is precious little contemporary work out there that holds much merit. It would seem that our daft society has confined representation of the male body to being either homoerotic or cheesy beefcakes. There is nothing out there that simply portrays the male form as the Yang to the female Yin. Balance. We are all creatures of nature. Mother Earth, Father Sky.
There are millions of photos in the world of nude women, arguably only a few thousand hold any artistic value, though that is not to discount the worth of the millions of selfies or boudoir photos taken by men and women alike. There is nothing wrong with embracing the sexuality and sensuality of human beings. Yet attempts to represent the male body with any sort of compositional value are generally dismissed as a “dick pic”. This is largely due to the normalization of viewing the nude female by a male dominated society, but it has affected both male and female perceptions to the point of hypocrisy. We must be able to accept the human body as something completely normal and natural if we ever hope to move into a realm of genuine equality, where we respect each other regardless of our gender specific identities.
And so it is that I have this body of work. “Dick pics” if you will, but I believe they speak to the much larger conversation. We have sought to represent the human body artistically since our earliest days living in caves, having continued to do so for about the last 40,000 years. Clearly, we find something intrinsically powerful about our bodies that we are so compelled to represent and adorn them. These images are my contribution to the spiritual story that makes us all uniquely human.
How has the pandemic affected you, your artwork and day to day?
This pandemic, as horrible as it is, has given me hope. I read about how in the short span of our isolation much of nature has begun to restore itself, I read about people coming together virtually to share their stories and experiences, and I see families rediscovering the joy of spending time together. I am optimistic that those changes in our society will stick around long after the virus dissipates. In terms of my art projects, I am limited by what imagery I can work with in the landscape, due to quarantine restrictions on traveling, but as long as I can continue to keep Photoshop up and running, I am all good.
What is your working process, what tools and mediums do you use?
My camera which I love, is a Fuji X30. I prefer a small, unobtrusive camera when travelling, something that doesn’t draw attention to it. My process is rather freeform. I pretty much just take my camera and go, letting the environment I am in influence what my image will turn out to be. As far as I am concerned, the artist statement doesn’t exist until the image is created, and when I am happy with an image, I feel as though it speaks for itself.
What do you feel the role of artists and photographers is in society?
To quote my father, “Art is simply an expression of what it is to be human in a particular time and in a particular place. To say anything more will require the use of a laxative.”
I think art has always served as both a mirror and an instrument of change in society. Sadly, it seems art is at its strongest when the world is at its worst. Great art has always been born out of turmoil. The beauty of art is that it transcends cultural, religious, and language differences. It is the great unifier. The arts are perhaps the only medium that has the ability to reach out and emotionally connect to people around the world. Think about the incredible art that was born out of the horrors of the Mexican Revolution, WW II, and Vietnam. The world is certainly in chaos right now, the United States is stewing in their own unique hell, raising the definition of absurd to new levels, so I reckon some good art ought to be headed our way…
Exhibitions and public events are currently on hold, have you any projects or goals you are working towards in the meantime?
I do! I am taking this time to work on some outdoor gear I have designed. I am working with an outdoor apparel company right now, hoping to collaborate on a backpack I created. Like my other artistic endeavors, the design was inspired by my travels among the cultures that exist in some of the more remote corners of the planet.
I also have an app idea right now which I don’t want to say too much about, in case there is a lack of follow through on my part in getting it done. But it has to do with art, and I am excited to see where it goes…