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Howe, Delmas (b. 1935)  
page: 1  2  3  4  

The twelve paintings thus far completed for Stations provide moving commentary on the impact of AIDS on the gay community. Howe has explained that he conceived the series in response to the death of his partner from AIDS in 1993. At that time, he was very angry at religious organizations because of the attitudes of the Christian right towards gay men and lesbians and the AIDS crisis. Deeply moved by the images of tortured male flesh covering the walls of Catholic churches which he visited during an extended trip to Europe in the mid-1990s, he resolved to create a project that would correlate the current sufferings of the gay community with older religious traditions.

Stopping in New York on the way home, he found the perfect setting for his project in the abandoned piers of the West Village of New York--the theater of the "sexual party" that had liberated him during the 1960s and 1970s, but which had also provided an environment in which AIDS would spread. Throughout the series, the ruined architecture seems to dominate the human figures. It, thus, helps to evoke a sense of inevitable doom. Also contributing to the sorrowful character of the pictures are the overall dark tonalities and, especially, the somber expressions and gestures of the figures.

Yet, despite the dark mood, the intense sensuality of the handsome, muscular figures recalls the cowboys in Rodeo Pantheon. Naked, except for boots and leather fetish accessories (harnesses, hoods, caps, and jock straps), the men in Stations superficially resemble characters by Tom of Finland, but their solemn movements differentiate them from Tom's exuberant figures. Thus, Howe's scenes reveal the combination of sexual passion and death, which lies at the heart of the tragedy of AIDS.

Howe closely based many of his compositions upon famous Renaissance altarpieces. For example, in the Flagellation, the poses of the principal figures and their placement within the monumental architectural space recall depictions of the Flagellation of Christ by Sebastiano del Piombo and Caravaggio, among other earlier artists. Howe's selection of the Flagellation as one of his subjects indicates that he does not feel obligated to repeat the traditional Catholic Stations. Because it occurred before his condemnation to death, the Flagellation of Christ does not form part of the Catholic Stations of the Cross. However, the subject is obviously relevant both to the theme of Christ's suffering and to the S/M context of the paintings that Howe has thus far produced for the series.

All of the components of Howe's Stations show sensitivity to the significance of Christ's Passion, as well as awareness of the distinctive qualities of recent American gay life. Instead of the traditional opening subject of Christ condemned to death, Howe has depicted in The Beginning six isolated figures, scattered throughout the huge space of the piers. In Veronica's Kiss, a drag queen kisses the sacrificial victim, who is being led through the piers. Utilizing a composition recalling the monumental and deeply moving Pietà (1604, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Naples) by Annibale Carracci, one of his favorite artists, Howe shows in the Gentle Executioner a burly, hooded figure tenderly embracing the bruised corpse on his lap.

As in his earlier work, Howe has created in Stations: A Gay Passion images that are both universal and contemporary. Never concerned with passing fashions, he devises monumental compositions in the spirit of the Renaissance and Baroque artists that he admires so much. Through his innovative handling of subject matter, he reveals the pervasiveness of homoerotic desire in Western culture, while eloquently representing unique features of gay life in the United States. Showing great integrity in both his art and his life, Howe seeks to define gay history through works that connect past and future.

Richard G. Mann

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Allen, Robert Steven. "A Passionate Apocalypse: Delmas Howe's Stations at Expo New Mexico." alibi (June 9-15, 2005):

Cass, Caroline. Grand Illusions: Contemporary Interior Murals. Oxford: Phaidon, 1988.

Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West. Rev. ed. London: Routeledge, 1994.

Lucie-Smith, Edward. "Intimidation Is the Answer." Art Review 52 (November 2000): 64-65.

_____. Rodeo Pantheon. London: Aubrey Walter, 1993.

Monetti, Sal. "My Jesus Lives in Albuquerque: An Interview with Delmas Howe." The Archive: The Journal of the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation 3.1 (Spring 1997):

Solnit, Rebecca. "After the Ruins." Art Issues 70 (November-December 2001): 18-22.


    Citation Information
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Howe, Delmas  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated August 25, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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