featured gallery for September 2006

Do You Remember The First Time?

Sexual awakening is a subtle progression that beckons the feelings of lust, desire, love, shame, fear and hope. These feelings transcend description and yet are often recalled by visual references. This collection of images from the Visual AIDS slide library gestures towards these emotions through its simplicity, playfulness, seriousness and its ability to emote. The transformation from youth into maturity is an experience one never loses. In some respect, even as adults, we may still feel like children, and vice versa. But we are only able to look back and realize what we have learned by moving forward. This learning process often encompasses uncomfortable, sometimes painful memories, but also allows for us to relish in the remembrance of good times past. Memories may take the shape of ambiguous dream-like scenes or sharp, clear instances as if they were of the moment. All of the selected works utilize these forms, whether real or fiction, and their ambiguity or exactness allows others to recall their own awakenings.

Ferenc Suto's Untitled (Boy in a Dress), 1997, depicts the vague image of a young boy whose bright smile emerges from a murky, stained background. Although the dress is barely recognizable, the title informs the viewer of what may be captured in this image. Like a distant memory, this work is layered and illustrates how memories are muddled images that re-surface in numerous variations.

Pieced together from a myriad of sources, the characters of Jerry Hooten's collages emanate from natural and domestic landscapes. Children and nude men frolic and play in flowering gardens and manicured lawns of good homes, embodying vulnerability through their nakedness and innocence. These scenes capture the essence and carefree nature of adolescence and sexual discovery.

The vulnerability of youth is fragile and delicate. Imagination is an escape we all possess at any age. Rene Santos' photographic/text work functions as a storyboard for a film that may never have been made. The manipulative coddling of a younger girl by an older woman is both comical and jarring. Santos captures the confusion and defeat of a young girl being beguiled by the absurd thoughts of the older woman and the frightening reality of its plausibility.

The ransom-note script from Joe DeHoyos' Diary collages tells tales of childhood memories that are haunting. Jumbled, cutout letters express the fear and energy of retelling tales from one's childhood. These mismatched letters arranged to recount unpleasant moments are dizzying, heartfelt and anonymous. They cause the viewers to remember their own uncomfortable memories and perhaps even share them.

Mark Morrisroe used photography as a visual diary and as a method of recording his feelings and relationships to those that occupied his world. These self-portraits, taken four years apart, are a testimony to photography's ability to document and preserve visual moments of time. From a demure, nude youth on a bed to the brooding expression on a young man's face, Morrisroe's photographs are only a glimpse into the hard and tragic life of this young artist, who left our world far too soon.

Rene Capone's watercolors are inhabited by male figures at all stages of maturity. His palette and technique exude a number of emotions associated with change, transformation and self-discovery. Capone uses the medium to veil his subjects and to contextualize them in psychologically charged environments.

Combining images from gay male porn magazines and illustrations from children's books, Jonathan Leiter's playful In The Bedroom series creates erotically charged fairy tales that marry the naiveté of youth and the contrived naturalness of contemporary gay male pornography.

The enigmatic image of Jimmy DeSana's Self Portrait (Vile), 1979, depicts the body of a lanky, white victim of autoerotic asphyxiation. Composed like the cover of a checkout-line tabloid, Vile heralds the danger, fatality and intrigue of this alternative sexual practice. By posing the image as a self-portrait, DeSana points to the darker side of sexual awakening: the unexplored terrain of experimentation.

Resembling Victorian botanical illustrations, Joel Carlson's watercolors of single flowers are charming portraits of nature's work. These images represent the beauty and life we tend to surround ourselves with. Flowers are often used as symbols of youth, beauty and innocence and Carlson's charming watercolors act as portraits of youth caught in its peak.