(The following is excerpted from Why Harry Bush Was an Artist at War, Out Magazine, August 2015)
Harry Bush was a homosexual who drew male nudes throughout the 1970s and ’80s for hardcore magazines but wanted nothing to do with gay people in particular. And although his work rarely deviates from the archetypal youths awakening to their primal urges at the very moment they reach physical perfection, the man drawing those images was a frail and aging hermit who kept an oxygen tank not far from his ever-present pack of cigarettes.
Bush has been described over the years as a talented bundle of contradictions barely covered by skin. Even as his work became more pointed and popular, Harry obsessed that if his fixation on the Boy Next Door ever got back to his relatives, they’d conspire to strip him of his government pension and lock him up in an old age home to die. Even so, and despite knowing that most of his colleagues worked under pseudonyms, Harry Bush signed everything he ever drew with his own name.
Bush died in 1994, of emphysema. He left a legacy of impossibly perfect teens dangling like ripe fruit in the half-light between adolescence and adulthood. But while the gay cognoscenti have long embraced many artists of the era, including Tom of Finland, The Hun, and Blade, much of Bush’s work remains unknown outside a small circle of fervid collectors.
According to Bob Mainardi, who assembled the 2007 Harry Bush anthology Hard Boys (alongside partner Trent Dunphy), most of Bush’s contemporaries were “leaning toward comic book cartoons. Much of their work was a parody of reality,” he says. “Maybe Harry’s work is more threatening because it’s visually more realistic. People would look at it and think that these drawings were taken from life.”
Checkout more of Harry Bush’s homoerotic art by clicking here