Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg 2007
Nando Maphisa and Mpho Sibiya, Sasolburg, Johannesburg 2006
Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Katlehong, Johannesburg 2007
Zanele Muholi, a South African activist and visual artist, explores and re-imagines the intimate portrayal of the lives of black lesbian women in South Africa.
Moreover, Being, the title of this collection, according to Muholi, aims to question the construction of sexuality “and then [the] deconstruct of ourselves […] in order to see the parts that make up [the] whole.”
Black women and sexuality, in conjunction, have always been topics of heated conversation, as it not only refers to sexuality, but also a matter of colonialism and white patriarchy.
The artist is concerned with her sexual identity coming off as ‘un-African’ – perhaps a product of years of stigmatization on behalf of white colonialist and patriarchal societies, deeming the black female sexual identity as one that is hyper-sexualized and strictly heterosexual- or even then, the image of a black female to “reproduce” heterosexuality and white patriarchy.
Leland Bobbé, a New York based photographer, has compiled a series of stunning and complex images that further examine the drag queen persona, what it consist of, its controversies, and multifaceted physical aspects.His ongoing project, ‘Half-Drag . . . A Different Kind of Beauty’, has made a huge impact. Consequently, landing the photographer several awards and features in international art fairs.
The collection provides the viewer with an interesting perspective. These photographs, composed and stylized through the power of hair and makeup, are captured in one snap, and are not digitally composed- which is a lot to take on, knowing that the process could have been much easier having used Photoshop or other editing programs.
I think that Bobbé artistic choices say a lot about the points he is trying to convey with this collection of images. Moreover, there would only be this much vulnerability and honesty if the images were captured this way, and in this way only. Having his sitters pose with their two identities up-front and exposed is one hell of a statement. The sincerity, humble approach of the photographer and sitter alike, lets us in on the queens’ little secret and questions gender constructs, current law, human right initiatives and the possible lack-there-of.
Julia Fullerton-Batten’s models seem naked in their nudity, and this is not just a clever play on words. John Berger, in his book Ways of Seeing, explains the difference: “Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.”
Here, in Fullerton-Batten’s Unadorned series, each model is indeed nude, as Berger suggests, posed on display, manipulated by the photographer to convey an idea, however . . . because he or she wears a certain type of nudity in the vein of old world masters from the 15th – 17th centuries . . . and because they are arranged in contemporary settings by female hands . . . and because their bodies are curvy and soft, as opposed to thin and hard . . . what results is also a fascinating feeling of nakedness: a complex historical/sociological revelation of us as a species in relation to gender, weight, and image.
Kristian Burford’s art installations meditate on the postmortem state of sexual arousal without a partner present. Nestled in a messy realistic setting, each carefully constructed wax figure seems to sigh inward, recollecting him or herself after an erotic whim has been satiated. However, the intention does not stop there: it seethes and penetrates with primal implications. Encountering each diorama, our own interior worlds are challenged and heightened as we find ourselves cast to confront not so much nudity, but even more so, our own erotic inclinations as possible voyeurs.
Romulo Sans creates a dramatic aesthetic using political and cultural iconography. Sans’ photographs address issues of dominance, passivity, aggression, capitalism, and sexuality. Also of note are his blends of Western and Eastern imagery, asking viewers to consider the various absurdities within these contexts. Sans’ background in art direction and interest worldwide politics ground his work. These photographs convey Sans’ attempt to understand disparate cultural elements through a visual medium. Originally from Barcelona, Sans spent some formative years in Cuba, where he admittedly watched the Al Jazeera news outlet regularly, as it was one of the only available news outlets.
Genevieve Blais, a photographer based in Toronto, borrows imagery from classic art history paintings to unpack sexual politics relative to today’s contemporary palate.
Of her intention, Blais states, “The aesthetic/topical dissonance aims to elicit an uneasy response in order to subvert the implicit authority and sanctity of the icon.”
The result confronts and critiques art culture by sitting in an uneasy space between not only imagery, but also mediums– cameras and brushes, forcing us to clearly see the model as the true determinant– a staged powerful variant that has been with us since Caravaggio’s rule, humanizing the myth.
Kim Tucker’s ceramic sculptures are burly messes of gender– exorcising primal desires, akin to a Bukowski or Fante novel, with a dash of Freud, but crafted with more of a surrealistic feminine charge. Each nude, for example, sexually and emotionally gestures at our gentle need for communion from one body to the next, illustrating psychologically how we bleed failure, rejection, isolation or loss.
KCRW’s Laura Schumate laments on each figure’s soft absorption: “There’s a desire to protect them like your own children or a friend, while acknowledging their familiar sorrow within yourself.”
On that note, the entire menagerie evokes not only Tucker’s inner children, but also our own, as they engage in “psychological storytelling”– narrating open wounds we are inclined to protect, lick, mother, or share: a deep commiseration over the tragedy of bodily confinement.
Check out artist Mark Whalen aka KillPixie’s magical worlds, exploring communication, sexuality, and ritual, littered with masked patterned people, mythical animals, and an eerie landscape all their own. His pieces incorporate mixed media ranging from paint to pen and ink to newer works with resin. He’s recently collaborated with musicians The Grates on their album Secret Rituals which seems to be a beautiful fit for them both.