Gender and Sexuality, 2017
be a more challenging and thought provoking theme?! I don't think it could be overstated just how much our personal
identity, our sense of self, is tied to our gender and sexuality. Personally, I'm beginning to think more directly about how
it is that my own subjectivity is formed. As an artist I'm heavily invested in active looking. One question I often think
about is this: Is vision itself, as coded by Western cultural ideals, gendered? I feel certain that the very things I'm drawn
to as a heterosexual male are to varying degrees due to cultural "visual codes" working on me. We like to imagine
that the deepest inner aspect of who we are is somehow set apart from the rest of the world, a distinct entity unto itself.
But I think about images that we produce as representing not just the individual(s) that made them, but as indicating the
broader cultural values of when and where we are. Often, people will ask what a particular image is "about". But,
to a large extent, I think about the cultural and psychological mechanisms at work as I look in order to paint.
With this in mind I'd like to share a few thoughts that I hope will be of interest
as you think about the things you see here tonight. When I look at Carl's and my work together, I'm struck by what's here
and, conversely, what's not here:
1. Carl and I are both male.
The majority of the images are of nudes, both male and female, but all are seen and imagined by men. This is in direct line
with the whole of art history.
2. Only one painting represents a figure overtly returning the viewers
gaze - Carl's man in a mask. This is significant to me because I think on another level all of the other images are looking
back at us as well. Images reflect the complications of who we are. The S&M mask reminds me that I often wonder if representation
(either in an outward form or in our own minds) is itself a kind of violence; it being a conceptulized version of self
and world that we feel the need to negate, or suspend, through transgressive behaviors.
There are quite a few penises on display here tonight. Most are in Carl's work but one is in mine, a figure that also has
breasts. Carl's paintings of women seem to me somwhat ambiguous, as they have rather muscular builds. There are no explicit
representations of vaginas.
4. Voyerurism is made explicit in the "peep boxes". "Peep"
show typically brings to mind men looking at women. The "window" of the peep boxes repeats the shape and function
of the rectilinear picture plane. As a culture, we're very comfortable with watching others from a distance in video, TV,
movie or picture form. The switch on the peep boxes turns on their only light source. Light and your participation make seeing
the penis possible. Because of the necessity of light for optics generally, we also feel it to represent conceptual clarity.
In response to this, when painting I often think of light as being behind a form, obscuring or dissolving it rather than illuminating
it for viewing. In the peep boxes, what is illuminated surprises and confronts us in a more directed way than in the majority
of the other paintings, with the possible exceptions of Carl's masked man and my painting "With Western Eyes".
5. Traditionally, images have been the visual constructs of men. Our masculine vision has been largely imagined
as directed, clear, abstract, ordered and skyward in inclination. For example, we might refer to God as "Father"
while referring to nature as "Mother". The feminine is largely connected with the earthbound, both as the projected
form of ideal beauty and the earthly forces that men often fear and/or don't understand. Carl's paintings approach the figure
as landscape. He paints with a relative freedom of gesture, trying to be as unrestricted as possible while maintaining cohesion.
My work is much more ordered, but with (often subtle) attempts to undermine full resolution. Although different in methodology,
perhaps in both there is a kind of mourning for the loss of the feminine, or at least a yearning for more balance - away from
the conceptually crystalline.
For me, the individual objects in this
show don't represent a finished statement on such things so much as moments within a process. They don't declare truths but
set in motion the interplay of image, physical materials and the subjectivity of the body outside of the work. They strive
to energize the visible rather than capitulate to a distancing regard. At its best, this is the moment when meaning is not
a fixed concept but a dynamic, live experience.