The male nude has always been a source of controversy. The art world has been much more accepting than mainstream media, but all the same it is a topic that is always treated with caution. Bill Travis is now living in D.C. and breaking down misconceptions about the art of the male nude. “People’s response to my work is really a mirror to society”, says Bill, “and most people are obsessed with sexual labels”. Photography has broken many barriers as an art form and Bill recognizes that artists like Robert Mapplethorpe made it more acceptable to explore with the body, but for some reason there is always an embarrassment or shame that many people deal with when they see a naked image, be that of a man or a woman.
Bill’s paintings are really three portraits in one. The first portrait is of the model he is capturing. Bill says that as a subject the body is inexhaustible and a great vessel for showing very specific emotions. The second portrait is of Bill himself and the imagery that he is imposing onto whatever particular project he is working on. His goal is to have a multi-layered reading, so that you can always go back to the image and find something new. He works on a more passive method, instead of the wham bam school of photography where penis and over-sexed poses get quick responses and are forgotten quickly for lack of depth. The third portrait is of the viewer. The work is not about the body, but about the ability to use the body as a vessel that expresses something real and relatable to everyone. Bill’s aesthetic leads him to find a softness and a fragility in the male form that is beautiful and unapologetic. Inspired by Japanese art, Bill is now working on hanging scrolls that will feature natural landscapes and the male body.
Ruddy Harootian is a writer and photographer currently living in DC. You can follow his creative outbursts and findings on Ruddywashere.com