- Tom- Tom
I’m currently deeply immersed in the production of the book, FIRE ISLAND PINES – my SX-70 Polaroids shot in the Pines in the 1970s. The exercise is emotionally intense, bringing me into the company of lost friends and lovers. Many hours are spent with each image blown up several hundreds percent on my computer screen, examining them in minute detail for the creation of sometimes life scale large format prints for shows, the book, and for sale in our own Gallery at TomBianchi.com. This labor of love is cathartic. I look back at our collective past and discover our feelings then and a great deal of love. We were happy adolescents on an innocent while wild ride. We were sometimes messy and sometimes graceful. We were so alive.
Those hours are also spent reliving many of the stories of my life in those days. The Pines is where David Peterson and I turned a courtship into a committed relationship. He sits in our Pines living room a few months before we moved to Los Angeles. I’d just finished the painting behind him. I was a happy man at this time. My painting reflects how beautiful I found my world then.
Harold Gates, seen here on the beach, was the last man I dated before David and I became lovers. As I was working on this picture I recalled that the pink towel would become an incitement to a huge argument with David on one of the worst days of my life.
I’d stuck this towel in our bag as David and I headed to the gym. When I pulled it out, David was furious. – red in the face foot stomping livid. He couldn’t believe I’d brought this FAG screaming towel for our workout. When I told him he was being ridiculous – he stormed out, leaving me standing dazed – wondering what had just happened.
David died of AIDS in 1988. In the years before his death, I saw the deeply buried shame he’d absorbed from the homophobic culture we were raised in. I learned that we all carried a minefield of doubts about whether we deserved our lives and those doubts could and did prove fatal. On his deathbed, we recalled a few events in our lives that led us to better a understanding of one another. The business about the too pink towel came up. David told me he was sorry about that argument. Then he added, “But when I told you how I felt, you laughed at me. That hurt.”
I told him I was sorry for being insensitive to something that pained him so deeply. That day at the gym, I couldn’t understand how anyone could create a drama over the color of a towel. But now I’ve learned you don’t make someone “wrong” for their feelings. I see now how this pink towel could ignite a firestorm. The need to heal those wounds is what propelled the taking of these pictures then and what informs the making of this book now. I look back at my portrait of David and I see the wings in my painting behind him. We couldn’t image that day that in a short time David would transform from my lover to my guardian angel.