You talk about the 19th century having very similar problems to today. Is there someone you see from that period as having an approach to those problems that you try to emulate?
There was a man named Paschal Beverly Randolph. I wouldn’t say that he had any solutions to the time, but he embraced the kind of hodgepodge nature of the 19th century. In fact, I got a lot of fashion from him, even if you look at his image.
He self-described as a free mulatto man and an abolitionist in a time when slavery was still rampant. He traveled to Europe from New York — I don’t know how he got there — and studied the occult faiths, because he didn’t believe the fundamental Judeo-Christian religions were everything in the world. He wanted to further explore beyond the field of right and wrong. And then he came back with that and became one of the chief facilitators of the occult, nontraditional religions in America.
Then he became a sex magician, which was basically couples therapy at a time when that wasn’t popular. He would invite couples up, and and help them find orgasms between each other. Like, there was a story I read where he would have them make love and, at the point of climax, he would have them say whatever their desire was in life — let’s say it was money, or harmony within their family — and they would say it at the point of climax. They called it sex magic, because his followers believed these things would happen, because sex was what you used to give birth. His claim was that it would “give birth” to the desires these people had.
He was also a novelist — he lived a very full life in a time when men who looked like him, people of color, were not freely traveling everywhere in the world. He pushed the boundaries, and I love studying him, mainly because my goal right now is just to learn as much as I can. Any different subject that I can get my hands on, I want to soak in, because I really care about understanding the time that we’re in, and I think he did too.
He didn’t necessarily solve any one particular issue, but he did what millenials do, which is embrace the times. He recycled, he pushed and learned about the new trends of the time, and he wrote about it and he created. That, for me, is what we do in general; everybody in our generation is a photographer because of our phones, everybody is some sort of creative, everybody wants to be an entrepreneur. He reminded me of these times now. He was definitely one of the guys who stood out, and history doesn’t write about him often.
“Healing sex magician” sounds like a really good description of the ideal artist.
Right? The ideal rock and roll star, superstar: healing sex magician. Yeah, man. He was cool.