Rader - “Beaten”
Brad Rader is an interesting artist. This picture is probably one of his best known images, a study in unrestrained anger and violence. The situation seems to be consensual judging from the state of arousal of the recipient but you wonder if boundaries are being crossed. The equipment on display, an odd mixture of standard 'dungeon' paraphenalia and potentially lethal household tools, does nothing to dispell the sense of danger. It's a disconcerting image if you reflect upon it, comparable with Greasetank's cruel sadism and makes the average, real-life S&M encounter seem quite tame, but I suspect this daring picture brutally portrays an unspoken temptation that lurks in the soul of many fetishists.
Rader - “Burnt Oranges”
“Burnt Oranges” is equally challenging. Is it depicting a lovers' tiff between an older and younger man - or something more sinister? A hapless cabin boy trapped into extra duties on his rich employer's yacht? Power and coercion fantasies are the foundations of S&M fetish but this simple picture lays it bare, all the more disturbing because the protagonists look so unequal. Rader uses a completely different drawing style here, cleverly invoking a decadent 20's atmosphere (like Prevot does). The figure drawing and composition also reminds me of the work of 'Teddy of Paris' (who I have yet to review) but in fact Rader uses a wide variety of styles and does sometimes mimic other artists.
Rader - “Hot and Hairy”
“Hot and hairy” is vanilla in comparison but amazingly sexy. A muscular, hairy man gets dressed, seemingly unaware of the young man in the doorway casually lusting after his body. I particularly like Rader's sensuous depiction of the T-shirted observer showing that he can draw realistic figures and capture male traits. The relationship between the two men is undefined but the flag on the wall suggests this might be the younger one's fantasy. As for the bizarre portculis headboard on the bed, this could signify an interest in dungeons, toy soldiers - or maybe nothing at all!
Rader - “Love For Sale”
In “Love for Sale” Rader reverses the hot and hairy scenario with telling effect. He exquisitely captures the immature awkwardness and innocent pleasure of youth and contrasts it with the frustrations and degeneracy of later life in the form of a drunken, dishevelled, overweight adult leering in through the doorway. More illicit desires are lurking here, we're back in Harry Bush temptation territory but with the lust explicitly shown and a disturbing domestic setting. The college paraphenalia, body hair and the subject of the song suggest that the young man is old enough, but he doesn't particularly look it. Fortunately (for my sensibilities at any rate) the desire goes unfulfilled and that artistic restraint allows us to see a piquant commentary on the reality of gay men growing old, 'Hot and Hairy' seems a long time ago now.
Rader - “Prison Scene”
Anger, Violence, Coercion, Lust, Rader's work is a compendium of fetish essences with their ambiguities and paradoxes explicitly revealed. Superficially, this prison scene could be about shaving, ritual blood mingling or outright mutilation. Rader's humourous slant takes the edge off, suggesting a boyish prank is in progress, but the harsh, glinting blade, the legs prised open, the contrasting states of arousal and the inescapable bars, leave no doubt that the real subject of this picture is fear, literally naked fear. I've rarely seen it so graphically expressed although it's an emotion which is present by implication in most S&M activity. Fear of course is linked with sexual release by nature (survival of the species and all that) which maybe tells you something about the sexual behaviour of oppressed minorities. Rader shows us things about ourselves we didn't really know.
Rader - “Barn Flogging”
Out of fear comes anger, which brings us full circle back to the beginning of this article and another brutal punishment scene. But this time the participants are not the aging adults of my opening example, playing out their world-weary abuses. Here the victim is young and clean cut while the whip is in the hands of a man who is ruggedly handsome and muscular and who, were it not for the disfiguring, out-pouring of anger, would be the epitome of attractive male virility in it's prime, every young man's hero. Perhaps it's fanciful, I can see in this picture a mirror held up to our own feelings - pain repaid in kind, innocent love punished, suffering shared.
I don't drool over Raider's men as I do with Tom of Finland's (for example). The distorted anatomy and harsh shadowing isn't sensual but it brings out the drama and emotion of his situations in a way that you can't ignore. I regard most erotic art as simple entertainment, but looking at these drawings I feel that the artist has reached deep into his soul to draw out and force onto paper feelings that are not comfortable and which are actually quite hard to communicate in a tangible way.
It's quite an achievement.
Raider's web site is called Flaming Artist and has a selection of images showing other equally interesting facets of his work.
For other articles in this series click on the A-Z label below or use the search box to find a specific artist