Out in The City

 |  June 29, 2011

Chiang Mai is an extraordinary city that attracts extraordinary expatriates who have an enormous pride and affection for their new hometown and who rightly claim to be different from those who have chosen to settle in Thailand’s resort destinations. Among the western gay men is an army of culturally sensitive and amazingly talented individuals. Filmmaker, artist and photographer, Galen Garwood is but one.

Galen and gay novelist, Peter Weltner have forged a startlingly unusual creative collaboration that has resulted in a strikingly beautiful new book that partners pictures and poetry: The One Winged Body. Galen Garwood is a softly spoken man. His work is a softly spoken symphony of heart stopping images. He was born in Georgia, USA and first visited Thailand as a student in 1969. His eyes glitter with an innate knowing and he is modest about a career that has seen worldwide exhibitions of his work and drawn countless accolades and awards. He moved to Thailand in 1998.

“I was in my studio in Seattle. It was a warm evening. I had a glass of wine and was reading about the plight of the Asian elephant. Suddenly, I realised that I was in tears. It was an epiphany,” recalls Galen. A decision was made: “I’m going to help those elephants!” Within six months, he had sold up and moved close to the Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang.

Galen and Peter Weltner have been friends for 35 years – ever since Weltner purchased some Garwood original paintings. Their work on The One Winged Body is reminiscent of the partnership between Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin. Galen sends an image to Peter who is then inspired to write the words. This apparently disjointed method produces a surprisingly cohesive combination that is a modern gay classic of pictures and prose, described by Galen as, “A weaving of the creative spirit.”

“It is an intimate book,” says Galen of this limited edition volume that comes in a luxuriously crafted black silk box. His lover’s body inspired the work and the pictures taken during a trip to Sicily and Crete. The enigmatic title, ‘The One Winged Body’ serves as a mythological metaphor – being between heaven and earth. Even though the book is hot off the press, Galen is already planning his next endeavour: “I’ve begun to explore a new project, using Thai men set in an erotic, historical/mythical context,” says Galen, “something available toward next winter or so.” The One Winged Body is published by Marrowstone Press.

You can be the proud owner of The One Winged Body by purchasing online: www.marrowstonepress.com and Amazon $13.99

James Barnes is editor-in-chief of OUT in Thailand Magazine.