Spread is my upcoming Master of Fine Arts in Photography series. The exhibition opens April 11th and runs through April 26th, 2014. Please enjoy this sneak preview! (Full series and installation views to come after the exhibition opens.)
Sampled (and Expended)
Each of the vitrine-like pieces of Expended (and Sampled) presents the viewer with documentation of two kinds of specimens: the first, private writings, and the second, a selection from a variety of intimately exchanged fluids, all of this collected during a relationship that has since failed. The documentation of this failure invokes Roland Barthes’s stance on the photograph’s ability to preserve something prior to its death while simultaneously representing its impending end. For Barthes, “every photograph is a catastrophe.”
Positioned in the foreground of the vitrine, the images of the fluids obscure the viewer’s ability to read the text properly in the image filling the rear of the frame. As with a more traditional freestanding vitrine, changing position affords the opportunity for the viewer to encounter more of the work as the text becomes visible, revealing more of the context for the specimen in front.
Spit, sweat, and ejaculate: these are generally considered undesirable to share outside of an intimate relationship. The tragic images stored in these vitrines emphasize texture and color, offering overly aestheticized abject fluids. The formal choices in the work come directly from my need to contain and organize as a coping mechanism, working to control this “catastrophe.” The images present evidence of hanging on and letting go, both invoking and challenging the preservation and re-imaging of our personal histories.
The images shown here emphasize the photograph-as-object nature of the work, including a few angled views to show the depth and how the layers work together; the installation views are from the MA/MFA Exhibition II, April 2013 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"… [M]ale primping never loosens the male lock on initiative taking. Indeed, glorying in one's appearance is an ancient warrior's pleasure, an expression of power, an instrument of dominance." – Susan Sontag, Women, 1999.
Even though my body is seen in only half of the photographs presented, the images are a detour from what Sontag's presupposition that this body of work would be about touting my powers as a man. I do not preen over myself, but instead present myself as a juxtaposition to the ideal.
When seen in the photographs, my body is presented in such a way that the viewer can engage with me and consider my state of being, without being confrontational. When I am absent from an image, the forms that are seen represent society's ideal version of the body - and more specifically, the epitome of gay male beauty.
I have come to accept that I do not conform to the ideal - sculpted abs, bulging biceps - that my peers expect from each other. I also believe there's more to ideal beauty than what can be quantified by a tape measure. Positing the viewer directly in front of my form as well as the ideal form will help them to see that beauty.
The quiet beauty of this work is anything but the warrior's pleasure to which Sontag refers.
This series is composed primarily of images that were shot as new works in 2010 and early 2011 to flush out a portfolio of images based on a few earlier self-portrait photographs taken between 2005 and 2007.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue
This triptych is based around the (now dated) Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue policy of the United States military, and how culturally we tell our children to look up to the members of the armed forces as heroes while simultaneously implying that you cannot be gay and be a hero. Meanwhile, the toys based on these brave men (and women) are overly sexualized objects with completely unrealistic body types, and the mixed message that this is sending.
This work was installed at the Lawton Gallery for Senior Exhibition II in April 2007.
Things You Have Not Seen, and Never Will
This series of images was shot while in Italy, the title of the series is meant to emphasize that, due to the ephemeral nature of the subject matter, it would be impossible for the viewer to ever see the same thing for his or her self, while also playing off the photographic notion of the lens as mediator, which means that I never even "saw" these images either.
Four of the images from this series appeared as two sets of diptychs in the 34th Annual Juried Student Exhibition at the Lawton Gallery, Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 2006. The image of the bike by the pole was reproduced in the Sheepshead Review that same year.