Mark I. Chester
Lost on a Sea of Desire

Lost on a Sea of Desire © Mark I. Chester
from "Lost on a Sea of Desire" 1983
16 photographs - 11"x14" matted to 16"x20"


These are dark psycho-sexual portraits of men and women lost in the sensuality of their intensely dark desires. Still alone. Still isolated. In very personal and private space. But rituals nonetheless. While they look like staged tableaus, they're not. They're just moments from my life.

Some of these images were done on the stage of 544 Natoma Performance Gallery. 544 Natoma, run by Peter Hartman, was San Francisco's first openly gay performance and gallery space and it overflowed with art, dance, music and sex. It was the literal birthplace of the SF Jacks and hosted such performers as Philip Dimitri Galas (the gay brother of Diamanda Galas), Ethyl Eichelberger and even Whoopi Goldberg, before anyone knew who she was. It also gave me an expanse of space that I had never been able to make use of before. There is more depth into the perspective of the photographic frame. The images also have a greater range of tones than the highly contrasty images I created just after the Folsom St. Fire.

The photographs often came out of other activities. The image of the man in the silver mask was done as part of a bondage ritual for famed gay poet and sexual adventurer James Broughton and his lover filmmaker Joel Singer for their film "Devotions." They stopped filming and left shortly into the ritual. Broughton was upset by the bondage. He could understand being tied up with "fruits and flowers and vines," but not rope. Here was an artistic and sexual pioneer and he couldn’t connect in any way to who I was or what I was doing. It made me feel very very alone on this path.

The image of the cop tied to the chair was actually a documentation of hanging scene. It was a strange evening. Peter Hartman was constantly changing the lights and running around. David, the cop, was pissed off because he wasn’t the center of attention, being attended to. So I finally tied him to a chair in the middle of the stage. And when the scene finally progressed and he was hung off the ground for one split second, the top, Jim, couldn’t get the noose loosened after he brought Dave to the ground. I had to put down my camera and run to loosen the noose myself. It was a bit TOO close to the edge.

But great beauty came out of these mad scenes.