featured gallery for April 2010

Help! Hold Me!

Studying these images for several months after choosing them, I'm still emotionally impacted by each one in a way that I rarely respond to art on museum walls. I chose these pieces because they made me catch my breath. Now, seeing them as a group, I think that each of the artists is giving us a wrestling match between power and vulnerability. The tensions in that false duality are exciting to me -- which parts are tender and which parts strong?

Works by Gregg Cassin, Preston McGovern, Joe Brainard, and Michael Borosky showcase a beefcake-masculinity with floral-glittery-dreamy-feminine overlay.

Images of birds/bird nests repeat in works by Gregg Cassin and Michael Golden. In many cultures, birds are linked to femininity (including trans-femininity) and homoeroticism. The Yiddish word feygele, meaning little bird, is used as slang for faggot.

Derek Jackson's photos offer a harder-edged femininity, a genderqueer vamp whose tenderness isn't about the makeup but the complicated come-hither look next to the words "HOLD ME."

I think these combinations of gendered elements in work by HIV+ artists are striking together because they defy homophobia, transphobia and AIDS-phobia. In mainstream culture, those fears are so intimately intertwined -- based on negative associations that feminine = vulnerable, fuck-able, penetrate-able, weak. But really we know that the ability to take in, be vulnerable and real, be fucked, be held, ask for help ... these are hard-won strengths.

Thinking about all these pieces together, my sense of Angel Borrero's piece has shifted. At first I saw a chorus of shared desperation ... but in context I wonder -- what is strong? The tall metal buildings with thousands of isolated rooms, or the voices asking for help?