Heartland Christmas 2013

My heartland is Central Victoria where my parents met and married and where I lived in Colbinabbin in central Victoria in the early 60's -my dad was the headmaster of the local primary school.

The Fields of Colbinabbin are not the fable green fields of Athenry that my grandfather came from. They are however golden with the summer harvest of wheat that is stored in the towns whose only feature is  the large concrete silos stretching above the railway line. In the last 5 decades since I lived there as a small child most of the surrounding countryside has gone from the fat lambs and wheat of the Victorian school’s geography book to wine growing on the surrounding Mt camel range

I remembered a scene from my childhood where a crop-duster -a biplane has landed on the road in the mainstreet and the pilot has gone into the pub. I imagined that they had opened up the top floor and served a big Rutherglen red glass of claret in his honour amongst the dusty table clothes ...could this be a film one day ?

After we moved to the city I spent many very happy holidays in nearby Nagambie with my grandmother and extended family and later as an adolescent got to know the areas with my school mates as a member of the Vale Meadows Adventure Club.. skinny dipping in Lerderderg or camping like swaggies on the banks of the Campaspe or the Loddon rivers..

these images are a taste of what I hope to make a major series of paintings and mixed or multimedia work on this return to my heartland ( see for more details 

This year I have spent a lot of time in Castlemaine Maldon Daylesford Malmsbury and Kyneton 

Sue and Gavin  are kindly  hosting pre Christmas at Scotch Pie House in  Maldon again this year and then Anglesea for Christmas dinner with my brother Richard and his family 

I have prepared some cards for close friends and family based on some images of fretwork and country roses i took in Kyneton in the last few weeks

Hope you enjoy them. In the  coming year I will

be exploring ways of living and working in my Heartland 

here is the countryside on the way to maldon

This is the garden at scotch pie house  

Desley Mike and myself our hostess Sue and hard working Gavin in the kitchen !

Baptist Church at dusk Maldon 

Add caption
Add caption

This Uber friendly cat is up for adoption 
Sunday morning sketch with Coffee main street Maldon

signs of life in this old bluestone homestead on the way to maryborough

post office at Gordon town where Dad grew up

Time to go home 
Is this William Lee in the Old Gordon cemetery an ancestor ? If so I might have a Eureka ancestor !


When I came out as a gay man living and working in the West I was married with three children. There were no queer role models and no support services locally and it has been a very challenging and sometimes lonely journey. I instigated this project because I want others who are contemplating coming out to have access to stories of other queer people in their community who have become WEST AND PROUD.

I teach and practice in community development, I am a member of Hobsons Bay Council’s GLBTIQ advisory group and I have been involved in a personal artistic and professional way in creating opportunities for GLBTIQ people in the west since 2005.  Currently I am employed by RMIT as a sessional social work tutor teaching community development to 7 students across 3 councils in the North and West of Melbourne

 Bridget and Sophie Social Work students RMIT
I was delighted when Hobsons Bay City Council Libraries agreed to support two final year RMIT University Bachelor Social Work students, Bridget McLennan and Sophie Klein, both on 70-day field education placements. Beginning in July 2013, under the guidance of library and community development staff and myself the students have developed a detailed project plan, recruited expressions of interest from community members to participate in telling their stories of GLBTIQ life in the West and begun gathering historical data for a timeline events.

 By the completion of the pilot in mid-December 2013, the students and library staff will have collected a maximum of ten accounts of queer life in the West, edited into long and short documentary films. Along with the photographed archival material and historical timeline, these films will be uploaded to the WESTANDPROUD Website, currently in its development phase.

Last week it was my turn to be interviewed and filmed,I chose my studio as the location 

A special thank you to volunteer MQFF filmmaker Cait Bryan   and her colleague Dan the sound man. it was quite a different experience for  a social worker and artist like myself to be interviewed and documented ! 

There will be a huge launch including a rainbow crossing project during  Midsumma and a forum where I interview the interviewees - stay tuned for details 

Update - here is the link to the website hosted by Hobsons Bay Libraries - great night full house and I felt we were witnessing the birth of a new generation of diverse leaders in the West ! WESTANDPROUD website this gives you the background to the project

here is the actual final edited interview Interview Michael WESTANDPROUD

Queer Eye for the Surf Guy and Sale of Bondi Calling

There is a Surfer  in every Australian – an inward feeling to match the expansiveness of that magic view, a wanting to be desirable and to desire, a longing for that elemental passion of bodies sun surf and sand

This week iI sold a key image from my 2011 exhibition that applies the perspectives of a gay neo catholic Melbourne artist to the cultural phenomena that is Bondi using carefully staged studio based photography, exploring and deconstructing the Bondi myth through representations of the male body. I apply  the  “queer eye to the surf guy” to expand the limits of the myth and its relevance to contemporary art.

The work is not a realistic representation of actual surfers but a symbolic evocation of the components of the surf lifestyle – the elements of beachwear, the surfboard and its accoutrement and the near naked body -in the same way a stage set explores reality without replicating it.

I am inspired by my two recent visits to Bondi particularly the wonderful collection of photographs in the pavilion and the work of Professor Ann Game who has written on Bondi for over 20 years
Initially her work focussed on the role of Bondi in the national imagination and especially referenced the celebration of the body at Bondi.

I was initially inspired by her comment on the bodily narcissism so evident in Bondi that she has captured in the phrase
“We have no heart but skin yes” Anne Game and my images explore the skin of the models
More recently Ann and her colleague have explored the spiritual dimensions of Bondi and my works also attempt a reading of things inside the skin, the private erotic thoughts and spiritual longings of the models and their audience

I have been working on images of unclothed men for over 7 years set in my studio against a painted background of the eureka flag –this exhibition continues the process of staged photographic works
-each of the models enjoys being the centre of the attention of the camera and the viewer laying bare the dynamics of desire that is usually only implied by heterosexual men

Grosshans’ contemporary feminist critique of the hero in film is persuasive and illuminating and can be applied to elements of the Bondi myth –she critiques the mythology of the hero on two levels:
-it sets up an artificial world of the solitary hero whereas in fact the hero exists in time community and society and is defined by a complex interplay with others including the media his team his audience and his reputed sexuality and because it is essentially constructed as a male heterosexual story

“some part of me resists the narrative morphology of the Hero Quest as in service first and foremost to the spiritual evolution of men... it leaves women dangling, forced to contort ourselves to be allowed to come along, be one of the boys, cause that’s where the adventure’s been. In Heroworld woman as a conduit of life shapeshifts to the all too real tether, or to a neutered symbol in simmering float above it all, a reason for male action.”
Source: movies alone and discourse.wordpre…
My work sits firmly in the tradition of Gay men who have critiqued heterodoxy in sport and popular culture, from Frances Bacon’s erotic deconstruction of Edward Muybridge’s the Wresters ( Two figures 1953) to Juan Davila’s dystopian vision and Eric Bridgeman’s confronting contemporary works about homoerotic bonds between rugby players.

A Cardinal Sin

Cardinal Power 
I wondered why I enjoyed Drag so much but then I realized I have been around men in dresses most of my life -clerics of all sorts -fat Maltese curates saintly Irish Parish Priests as well as drunk ones, frightening Christian Brothers in their Black habits  -and as an altar boy I got to wear a black soutane with a white surplus . I always envied my cousins who were in the Bendigo diocese and got to wear bright purple under the white.

 Here are two prelates -Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne and his nemesis Cardinal Moran of Sydney  - that set the context for Australian Catholicism.

Like half of Australia I have been flowing the unfolding nightmare that is the abuse by Catholic Priests brothers and  Nuns of children . I followed 2 hours of Cardinal Pell's testimony when he was summonsed by the Victorian Parliamentary  Committee of Inquiry
- and then there is the ideological oppression I feel as a gay man from the Catholic Church that sees my kind  as  disordered individuals despite relying for centuries on gay men as their main image makers.

Pope, Cardinal, Bishop- This subject is a favourite  -its the coloured robes and the combination of spiritual and temporal power that makes the subjects so interesting
Here is El Greco's Cardinal in the NGV and Velasquez's shimmering Pope Innocent

and a more psychological study by Francis Bacon 

Cardinal Boots
Here is my first image responding to all of the above. It can be found at 
Infant of prague 
The pose comes from the Infant of Prague. 

My friend Ron has posed for these pictures in a leather and silk stole I had made recently as well as an old Carnaby Street  leather coat with silk lining turned inside out for the shoot  
All these images have many layers that I have collected over the last 2 years - I have chosen a picture of Winter Fungus for the Cardinal Boots image to reference the parasitical corruption of many clerics on the Bride of Christ AKA the Church

Cardinal Grimm

Cardinal Tin
Cardinal Dislaced 

Cardinal Stone 
Cardinal Book of Dried Bones 

I'm going to give the last word to a modern translation of the Sufi poet Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky 
My general advice is : Anyone wearing spiritual robes is potentially lethal: best to consider they already have two strikes against them .... and if they make just one false move-best to run or hit them with your bat!

Update no 1

 I am experimenting with text on the image such as Matthew 18.6

But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 

Not sure to use just the reference or maybe a selection of the text? 

Matthew 23.27

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones, and of all filthiness.

Matthew  20:26-27
26 Among you this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant,
27 and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave,

update 2 on  9th July 

A fellow artist on deviant art    QUINT mCkOWN

said recently 

"I believe that art, like religion, should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" 

Is art our  salvation when religion turns poisonous ?

 are the arts the only way we can salvage a meaningful belief system from the ruins of the great Theistic religions we have inherited ? 

The great Sufi poet Hafiz wrote:
Great religions are the
Poets the life
Every sane person I know has jumped

update 24th July 2013

I see the church as a stern and abusive father - it has provided me with an education, a rich history to draw on but many many of my family and fiends have been sexually and physically abused and as a father the church has failed that most basic of a father's tests - to give love and self esteem to all his children including gay ones 
I also see a need to  tell the real story of the church that includes many fine and noble examples of the love between men of the cloth. Here is an extract from a biography of a saint who was Bishop of Merz in France
About the year 626 he obtained the appointment of a successor to the Episcopal See of Metz; he himself and his friend Romaricus withdrew to a solitary place in the mountains of the Vosges. There he lived in communion with God until his death. His remains, interred by Romaricus, were transferred about a year afterwards, by Bishop Goeric, to the basilica of the Holy Apostles in Metz.

what are the chances Romaricus was his lover and life companion ?

What will it take to finally break the pattern of clericalism , homophobia , the oppression of women and fear of modernism that keeps abuse happening?

 stay tuned I'm thinking of some comic approaches to my art to keep the debate going !