Steven Miller / Adrain Chesser, Welcome Figure
In the gallery…

Author and Subject:

Contemporary Queer Photography

April 6 – May 27, 2012

Artists’ Reception: Thursday, April 12, 6-8 pm
Lecture: Kelli Connell & Sophia Wallace, Friday, April 13, 6:30 pm

Artists: Adrain Chesser, Kelli Connell, Katie Koti, Molly Landreth, Steven Miller, Rafael Soldi, Chad States, Lorenzo Triburgo, Amelia Tovey, Sophia Wallace

This exhibition focuses on ten contemporary queer photographers who explore ideas of identity, gender, courage, relationships, sexuality and the human form.

Kelli Connell’s images appear to document a relationship between two women. Their idiom looks familiar: a young couple caught up in everyday moments of pleasure and reflection. The first flicker of unease comes as soon as the viewer registers the similarity of the two subjects, who seem to be twins–and incestuous twins at that. In fact, Connell has photographed the same model portraying both of the women and then digitally combined the two images so seamlessly that not a trace remains of their construction. Connell has been at the forefront of artists using digital technologies for the past decade, but her art is not about Photoshop, her photographs extend far beyond their duplicity into larger and more complex issues of identity and visual rhetoric. Connell is a Chicago based artist.

Katie Koti’s series, Asunder, reflect her exploration of gender and its relationship to sexuality. The landscape works on various levels in her images. She uses the seductive aesthetic appeal of landscape to engage the viewer, but the landscape is simultaneously represented as ambiguous. Koti challenges rigid dichotomies of identity and exposes the struggle an individual can go through inside of their own skin — a struggle that is not only psychological, but also social and physical. She explores the intersection of pain, clarity, and spirituality that can come from this struggle. Katie is based in New Haven, CT.

Molly Landreth offers a more extensive approach to queer portraiture with her project, Embodiment: A Portrait of Queer Life in America. With her photographs she addresses queerness as a multi-dimensional and national experience by collaborating with diverse and often-times invisible communities around the United States. Landreth is a Seattle based artist. Amelia Tovey is a New York based Australian filmmaker whose work focuses on documentary realism, social commentary and live musical performance. Between 2009 and 2011 Amelia co-produced, directed, filmed and edited several short documentary films for Embodiment.

Steven Miller and Adrain Chesser are both photographers in their own right who began collaborating in 2010 after discovering that they were both men in their forties who love to play dress up. Through their trickster alter egos, Beaster and Bear, Chesser and Miller create complex narratives that explore the politics of gay culture, spirituality, and man’s relationship to nature. The photographs have two distinct styles: one mythic and rooted in art history, the other using the conventions of documentary photography – together they create a universe that brings archetypal forces into the here and now. Miller and Chesser are Seattle-based artists.

Chad States taps into the mysticism and secrecy that still exists and surrounds queer culture. He documents hidden points of encounter in public spaces where homosexual men meet to engage in sexual interactions. “Cruising” has always been a part of gay culture; the word itself is a code, innocuous to outsiders, but representing an incognito hunt for sexual partners to those in the know. From the Pacific Northwest back east to Pennsylvania and New York, States obscures his subjects in the foliage of the forest and exposes this time-honored, gay tradition, dragging it out of the woods and into the light of the public eye. States is a Philadelphia based artist.

Peruvian artist, Rafael Soldi, approaches homosexuality from a cultural perspective. These images represent his struggle to surface from darkness, panic and hopelessness. He uses his relationship with a previous partner as an anchor for coming to terms with and defining his sexuality while transitioning from one country to another. Soldi is now living in Seattle.

Lorenzo Triburgo’s, Transportraits, are a series of portraits focused on transgendered men. These works explore identity and representation. Triburgo’s subjects are photographed against oil-painted backdrops that the artist created using the landscape painting instructions by Bob Ross, The Joy of Painting. Each subject is photographed to evoke a ‘classic’ portrait, recalling both renaissance portraiture and popular photography. Triburgo is based in Portland, OR.

Sophia Wallace explores the gendering of aesthetics and how the concept of beauty is tied to sexual objectification. Wallace photographed male subjects using the unspoken rules that dictate the way women are conventionally posed in photographs and paintings. Shorter than most of her models, she used a ladder to shoot them from above while directing them to look at her only with soft expressions. Mostly she asked them to look away – to be looked at. She uncovered aspects of their masculinity which might otherwise be downplayed for fear of appearing effeminate. As viewers, can we look at aestheticized vulnerability without inserting a gendered, sexual agenda onto it? Do beautiful men fall victim to the virgin/whore dichotomy or does their masculinity protect them from this reduction? Wallace is a Seattle artist based in Brooklyn, NY.