|The Blue Room GalleryĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Paul Mahder, presenting the art of Hector Wamboldt at Magnet. ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s his piece entitled Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Before the Mirror,Ă˘â‚¬Âť a colorful vibrant scene of homoerotic fantasies in an urban setting. Photo by Rink
Throughout the month of March, â€śCarnaval: the Works of HĂ©ctor Wamboldt (1948 - 2003)â€ť will be on display at Magnetâ€”the Castro center for menâ€™s health, information, and socialization. Argentine painter Wamboldtâ€™s artistic world centered around Buenos Aires and Adelina, the mansion where he grew up. The paintings vividly depict small, urban, everyday life, somewhere between reality and dreams. His vibrant and colorful scenes are populated with frumpy, buxom housewives, hunky builders, celebratory drag queens, merry mutts, Mardi Gras, and more. His paintings present a world full of homoerotic hints and fantasies. A nearby sign indicates this is â€śa world of vanity and narcissism without shame or prudishness, but free as well of rude exhibitionism or perverted drasticness.â€ť Many things have their own slightly erotic taste, whether tubes or foaming water, succulent lemons, or bulging oranges. The picture world of Wamboldt does not depict real life, but forms itself into a miniature world, which is real and dreamed at the same time.
Wamboldt was born in 1948 in the city of Urdinarayn in the Argentine province of Entre Rios. With ten brothers and sisters, he and his family were peasants who descended from the ethnic group of Volga-Germans in Russia. His father was born in Argentina and his mother migrated there as a small child from Germany. Wamboldt died in 2003 of chronic hepatitis infection. This monthâ€™s show at Magnet features some of the remaining oils on canvas from Wamboldtâ€™s estate, on loan to Magnet from the Blue Room Gallery.
Paul Mahder, executive director of Blue Room Gallery, spoke to Bay Times about Wamboldt and his works. He said Wamboldt came to the Blue Room at the end of 2002 when he was practically destituteâ€”having come from Argentina knowing very little English. Mahder found a place where he could stay, until six months later when he returned to his homeland and later tragically died of hepatitis C. â€śIâ€™m trying to promote his work and continue his legacy on in terms of showing it to the public,â€ť said Mahder. â€śThe people in his works are not real, but are more a part of his fantasy life and his dreamsâ€”letting people just enjoy life.â€ť He said the works have a childlike, simplistic expression, but in the hands of an accomplished painter. Mahder said Wamboldt was very comfortable with his sexuality and probably did drag, since many of his paintings reflect that cultureâ€”especially the Mardi Gras and Carnival parties of South America, where cross-dressing is encouraged during party times. Several of his other paintings depict mothers helping their sons with their dresses. There are none that we know of showing approving fathers, however. The artistsâ€™ women are all motherly types with big breasts and large, visible nipples; but their facial features look a lot like men. The men always have painted toenails.
Matthew Denckla, a volunteer at both Magnet and the Blue Room, gave me a tour of the paintings. â€śBefore the Mirrorâ€ť is unique in that usually Wamboldtâ€™s paintings bleed out to the edge; but in this case there is a distinct frame around the portrait that could indicate the viewer is looking in a mirror and getting a glimpse of a man in what could be a bridal gown. He might be in someone elseâ€™s bedroom trying on their dress, indicated by the pictures of other people on the nightstand, and maybe he was having a little drag moment at someone elseâ€™s expense. â€śIntimacyâ€ť shows a man sewing sequins onto his festive Mardi Gras mermaid costume and having a snackâ€”gazing into the distance. In the background we see his open closet with wigs and a strange wig head-stand that has very realistic features, and seems to be judging the whole scene. The costume, draped to the right, appears to be full and fleshy, as if it is his feminine side; and his hunky body faces left, showing his masculine side. We have caught him in an intimate moment. â€śGraffitiâ€ť shows a middle-aged woman in the middle of scrubbing from her wall a nasty phrase in Spanish that someone has painted on it, roughly translating to: â€śRicardo sucks dick extremely like a whore.â€ť She looks a bit angry; but off to the side is a beautiful orange tree in full bloom with heavy fruitâ€”as if to say, there is still beauty here amidst the ugliness that people can express. We wonder what her relationship, if any, is to Ricardo. Is this his home? Is she his mother or landlady? Or is this just another day of having to remove some vandalâ€™s handiwork?
â€śDreamâ€ť shows a couple in bed, where the man is having some kind of magical reverie, while the woman next to him is peacefully asleep, unaware of all these phallic snakes entwining his body and about to kiss him on his open mouth. He seems to be floating above the bed and has a noticeable boner beneath his boxers. Is that a snake in your shorts, or are you just glad to see me?! He appears at once terrified yet aroused. Is this an erotic nightmare of a deeply closeted married man?
â€śParadeâ€ť is the most obvious of the works displayed, showing a Mardi Gras parade with a huge throng of dolled-up women and/or drag queens marching and dancing down the street in fabulous, colorful costumes and headdresses, while a crowd at the side is obviously enjoying the spectacle. We see some typical drag queen defiance as well as genuine pleasure in flaunting themselves so openly and being so appreciated. â€śStreet Sceneâ€ť shows a dog humping another dog, while still another dog is sucking the dick of the humpee, and yet another is licking the humperâ€™s butt. Other dogs have just arrived on the scene to enjoy the sight with plans to perhaps join in; but this pooch orgy is about to be rudely interrupted by a slightly annoyed, matronly lady with a big bucket of water. Life goes on, but not in front of her house, thank you!