Watches of the Night

shirtless male, gazing intently to the side with hand raised in dramatic gesture; an ivy vine is gently draped over the hand which is transforming from flesh to gold

A new series of small paintings

As Shakyamuni Buddha sat under the bodhi tree on the night of his enlightenment, the demon Mara and his hordes attacked him with scores and scores of arrows. Gently touching the ground, the Buddha called upon the power of the earth and quietly transformed the arrows to flowers. An assault became a delicate shower of soft petals, glistening in the moonlight.

painting of standing male figure from the neck down; he's naked except for athletic socks and chuck taylor sneakers; he's standing on a yellow brick road flanked by impossibly large crocus flowers
Gathering saffron
7 in x 5 in, oil on panel

A core tenant of Buddhist thought is the power of transformation. Harm becomes healing, pain becomes joy. Among the volleys of Mara’s arrows hurtling towards us constantly are images of aggressive masculinity—athletes, soldiers, superheroes. These chiseled rocks are to be admired or emulated. These paragons of rugged individuality express a need, a propulsion to dominate. They embody this dominance in their physiques. (Just think about how right-wing the pursuit of physique is these days.) These physiques are now deeply connected in the popular culture with a toxicity that is slowly killing us all, even the right-wing, iron-pumping meatheads who think they’re invincible due to the size of their biceps (and egos). In the way the Buddha teaches us to transform Mara’s arrows into flowers, we can remake these physiques, these emblems of toxic masculinity, into dreaming, dancing, and true pleasure.

These small paintings combine abstract floral elements with male figures–active, passive, sensual, erotic, pornographic. Occasional hints of surrealism decorate a few of them. They aim to re-contextualize. Transformation becomes possible because nothing is absolute or inherent. It’s all relative. The same thing (bulging bicep, erect penis) harms in one setting, heals in another. Are the bicep and the penis inherently one thing or another? I want this series to invite you to look beyond a singular object or person and instead zoom out and take in the surroundings as well. Expand your consciousness to appreciate as much of the whole as you can.

painting of two men, from the shoulders up, one behind the other passionately grabbing his neck, the one in front head thrown back in ecstasy; they set against a backdrop of vibrant purple wisteria
9 in x 12 in, oil on panel

These little gems set out to sparkle–not broadcast. They’re diminutive of size but their vivid colors and evocative imagery attract attention. Like a walk in a garden, you catch a glimpse of a delicate creature coyly flirting with visibility among the flowers. You feel a brief spark that invites a longer look and maybe leaves a gently joyous, lingering sensation. They lighten the mood. They add a spring to your step as you catch a glimpse on your way out the door or settle in for a night bingeing the latest MCE (Marvel Cinematic Extravaganza).

Sexy bois with big…botanicals!

A series of miniatures featuring the sensual muscularity of male figures transformed from dominance to delight with graceful floral imagery.

Published by Edward Ficklin

Edward Ficklin (he/him), maverick artist not afraid to say gay, is a self-taught painter, writer, publisher and sometimes technologist. He creates sensuous and erotically-tinged queer surrealist art, publishes queer-centered sci-fi comix, and pontificates regularly on a range of topics in his Queer Quantum Dispatch newsletter.

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