Before Pierre et Gilles turned the art of "tableaux-vivants" into a pop phenomenon, California-born Steven Arnold established the foundation of a medium merging photography, costume design, painting, and illustration in his highly-sexual work.
A protégé of Salvador Dalí, who set up an exhibition at the St Regis to introduce Arnold's masterpieces to the New York elite, the artist, born in Oakland, CA, in the 1940s, found his calling when he travelled to Europe to attend the prestigious Beaux-Art school, in Paris.
There, he discovered LSD and the effect the drug could have on his work: "It was so euphoric and visionary, so positive and mind expanding," Arnold said. "I ascended to another dimension, one so beautiful and spiritual that I was never the same."
Back in the US, Arnold turned to filmmaking and won a New Director's award in 1972 for Luminous Procuress, a surrealist movie which Dalí hailed as an "extraordinary, fantastic film." Arnold continued photographing, combining dream-like imagery, mythological and religious references, and hunky male subjects to create a unique, erotic universe.
In the late 1980s, at the height of his fame, Arnold was diagnosed with AIDS. For the first time since his death (he passed away in 1994), a collection of his vintage photographs will be on view in a New York gallery, at Daniel Cooney Fine Art. It will be the occasion to honor Arnold's legacy, and find some (drug-free) inspiration from one of the greatest gay visual artists of our era.
Steven Arnold, Epiphanies, on view until December 19 at Daniel Cooney Fine Art, 508-526 West 26th St, 9C, New York, NY.