Steven Arnold - višestruki dizač umjetničkih utega, kozmički nadrealistički Gesamtkunstwerk - filmovi, glazba, fotografski tabloi, kazalište mehaničkih snova, banket prelijepih čudovišta.
Steven Arnold (1943–1994) was a California-based multi-media artist, spiritualist, gender bender, and protegee of Salvador Dali. His work consisted of drawings, paintings, rock and film posters, makeup design, costume design, set design, photography, and film.
Steven also played an instrumental role in giving “The Cockettes“, the famed psychedlic San Francisco drag troupe, their first chance to perform on stage in exchange for free tickets to his “Nocturnal Dream Show” – which was among the first-ever Midnight Movie showcases. This launched The Cockettes into underground fame. Early in his career, Steven also nurtured a prolific creative relationship with pioneer of the wearable art movement Kaisik Wong which lasted until Kaisik’s death in 1989. Their work together included the production and design of a play titled “Dragonfly”, and several tableaux vivant photography collaborations. Throughout his life, Steven’s eccentric modes of expression led him to the upper-crust of both coasts, including encounters, in some cases lifelong friendships, with the likes of Vogue’s Diana Vreeland, actress Ellen Burstyn, psychedelic explorer Timothy Leary, Jay Leno, The Cars, George Harrison, Blondie‘s Debbie Harry, John Waters‘ star Divine, and Warhol Superstar Holly Woodlawn. Among Steven’s most notable early works is a rarely seen film gem titled “Luminous Procuress,” starring Pandora and featuring The Cockettes, which was lauded by Salvador Dali, and Andy Warhol, among others. In fact, Dali was so impressed with the film, that he invited Steven, Pandora (Steven’s muse, and the film’s star), Kaisik Wong, and their entourage to help him open his Dali Theater-Museum in Figueres, Spain. “Luminous Procuress” was edited and scored by electronic music forefather Warner Jepson. The film continues to be screened worldwide, including showings at the Tate Modern, London , and CPH:DOX, Denmark. Steven’s films have been recently featured Museum of the Moving Image, the Tate Modern, London, and the List Visual Art Center Film Night at MIT.
Although his early film work garnered him much attention, Steven was best known for his exquisite, surreal, black & white tableau vivant photography produced from the old pretzel factory he called Zanzibar Studios in Los Angeles. His photography has been exhibited at the Tate Modern, London; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; among others. Steven Arnold’s works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany; the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Cinematheque Francaise, Paris, France; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA); the Oakland Museum of California; and the Cincinnati Art Museum. His works are in the private collections of: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ellen Burstyn, Cher, Salvador Dali, Goldie Hawn, Yves St. Laurent, Diana Vreeland, and many others. Steven published three books of photography during his lifetime: “Reliquaries”, with foreword by Ellen Burstyn, “Epiphanies”, with afterword by James Leo Herlihy, and “Angels of Night.” Steven Arnold Stemmle Edition, a photographic retrospective, was published posthumous.
Luminous Procuress (1970)
Steven’s surrealistic fantasy, lauded by Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol, among others.The Village Voice called the film ‘a tour de force of the imagination – a journey through peekboxes of naked tableaux, theatres of mechanical dreams, feasts of monsters and piles of humanity.’ Edited and scored by electronic music pioneer Warner Jepson.
STARRING: Pandora, ruth weiss, The Cockettes
Steven Arnold’s Noir et Blanc
A collection of three visionary black and white films made in the late 1960s. The collection includes: Various Incarnations of a Tibetan Seamstress, The Liberation of Mannique Mechanique, and Messages, Messages, the later of which was shown at Cannes Film Festival. Collaborators on these films include Kaisik Wong, Michael Wiese and others.
Admittedly, the very sight of an image of the commie hippie drag queen troupe, The Cockettes (led by Hibiscus and his would-be merry man-ladies) is to me the height of radical repugnancy, aggravating aesthetic and biological disharmony, and well beyond redeemable human depravity, so naturally I was quite reluctant to watch the rarely-seen lecherous experimental in arthouse excess Luminous Procuress (1971) starring Pandora and the terribly torturous tranny team, and directed by multi-media artist Steven F. Arnold (The Liberation of the Mannique Mechanique, Gomorrah Borealis); a rather queenish yet refined fellow who had the distinction of being voted "Best Dressed" one year by the L.A. Weekly. Upon first seeing the film none other than famed surrealist Salvador Dalí described Luminous Procuress as “a work of genius” and took on auteur Arnold as his young protégé (who he referred to as his "prince"), thereupon resulting in the young artist’s involvement with the painting and opening of the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, Spain. Despite Dalí, as well as Andy Warhol delighting in the visual luxuriance of Luminous Procuress, the revolutionary work is scantly referenced in the documentary The Cockettes (2002) directed by Bill Weber and David Weissman, which is quite telling as the film owes more to the avant-garde auteur behind it than the exceedingly effete faux queens that rock-out with their cocks-out in the spiritually salacious and sinful cinematic work. Indeed, Luminous Procuress does feature aesthetically displeasing men that look like creepy caricatures of Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse, as well as hedonistic hippie degeneracy and lecherousness love-in lunacy, but this rather experimental celluloid art piece is also comparable to Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Werner Schroeter’s Der Tod der Maria Malibran (1972), and Ulrike Ottinger’s Madame X: An Absolute Ruler (1978) due to its keen kaleidoscopic imagery, hermetic homoeroticism, and overall unwavering intimate idiosyncrasy. Essentially beginning where Jack Smith left off with Flaming Creatures (1963) with a reasonably healthy serving of Milligan-esque low-camp eroticism, except to a more heightened degree (the film features unsimulated sex of the somewhat serious stripe), Luminous Procuress – a film that dared to portray phantasmagorical cunnilingus and intensely iconoclastic imagery (including a Satanic pope buggering a bent over nun) – is a vehemently vagarious and heteromorphic work of celluloid carnality of the absolutely assiduous abberosexual sort.
Although I cannot say I agree with his political persuasion nor hermaphroditic fashion sense, I undoubtedly believe that Steven Arnold was practicing what he preached, at least in terms of aesthetic authenticity, when he stated, “art is revolution or it’s nothing,” as Luminous Procuress is indubitably the sort of cinematic work where the auteur fought tooth and (broken) nail to bring his uniquely unruly and ruthlessly risqué images to life as if he was engaged in a cinematic crusade for the reevaluation and reinvention of the artistic medium of film. Unfortunately, due to the influence of certain financial backers of the film who wanted the cinematic work released asap, Arnold was apparently removed from the production of Luminous Procuress not long after the film’s principal photography was finished, or so says Warner Jepson, the man who was responsible for assembling the haunting, hypnotic, and hallucinatory synthesizer score for the work. On top of composing the music for the film, Jepson and Victor Barberi were responsible for editing it together, which probably explains why Luminous Procuress is even more nonlinear in structure than the works of Jack Smith. With the dialogue recorded for the film being deemed useless due to the noise of trolley buses and voices interfering with the recording of sound at the studio in which it was originally mixed, Jepson and Barberi opted for dumping the original dialogue and replacing it with foreign (a sort of mishmash of pig French and Slavic languages) and mostly indecipherable voices, henceforth further adding to the otherworldly esotericism of Luminous Procuress. Despite Arnold’s lack of involvement in the post-production aspects ofLuminous Procuress, the film is undoubtedly his auteur-piece as made apparent by the unmistakable aesthetic essence of his previous black-and-white quasi-psychedelic surrealist shorts like The Liberation of Mannique Mechanique (1967),Messages, Messages (1968), and Various Incarnations of a Tibetan Seamstress (1969), with the subsequent film starring The Cockettes – the only work he shot in color with the exception of the impossible-to-find work Gomorrah Borealis (1984) – being his cinematic opus magnum. Far too murky, menacing, meditative, mystical, and lacking in mock-heroic humor and musical numbers to be a mere cheeky Cockettes cinematic concerto piece, the members of the fag drag gang purely act as peculiar yet surely potent props for Luminous Procuress. Influenced by historically revolutionary artists ranging from pioneering French illusionist filmmaker Georges Méliès (A Trip to the Moon, The Impossible Voyage) to Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo, Steven Arnold was certainly an artist with a grandeur artistic vision, certainly more so than a group of campy commune communists of the superficially sardonic and mostly senseless sort.
As an assuredly ambitious artiste who sought to “save the world” and create a “new mythology” through his audacious artistic creations, it is beyond question that Steven Arnold’s Luminous Procuress is a work of metaphysical, if soundly self-indulgent and sensual, cinema. In the brief 10-minute ‘video portrait’ Steven Arnold's Heavenly Bodies directed by Stephanie Farago, Arnold proclaims that his great and grandiose goal with his art was: “creating things for people to look up to…young people…and giving them miracles, giving them hope, giving them shrines and giving them hope, giving them new forms of religion and new ways to believe and believing in all things.” As a sort of perverse quasi-Jungian prophet of the notably homophile persuasion, Luminous Procuress is Arnold’s virtual cinematic holy writ and certainly a singular and strikingly stylized work in the history of American film that deserves greater recognition as being – not unlike the works of James Sibley Watson (The Fall of the House of Usher, Lot in Sodom), Kenneth Anger (Scorpio Rising, Lucifer Rising), and Paul Morrissey (Trash, Women in Revolt) – a rare example of cultural mongrels creating authentic and seemingly organic art in a most mercenary and materialistic nation with next to nil kultur nor history. Seemingly too ominous for fans of The Cockettes as a sort of "bad trip" and "post-hippie nightmare," Luminous Procuress is conspicuously the sort of work that cinematic dreams are made of, hence the film's virtual consignment to the celluloid garbage heap of history; a realm of no return better suited for the likes of high-priest hippie Hibiscus and his horrid flock of serenading and springing fashion victim faggots. - Soiled Sinema