The Altar Barbie came down today. I felt a little odd about it. It’s the first piece I’ve done that is truly ephemeral. Now it exists only in the photographs from the exhibition. And it will be part of a short film made by Susan Stern, the director who made Barbie Nation. But the altar itself is gone.
This feels very different from the relative permanence of photography. It’s more like a gallery exhibition of the photographs, where I hang pictures and text in ways that fit the particular space, and like Altar Barbie, all that remains is the archival photographs of the installation.
I always feel a bit sad when I take things down.
From the studio:
The Nike ads got me thinking about photographs of parts of bodies. They belong to a long photography tradition tht includes both the work of Edward Weston and Ruth Bernhard . Usually, it’s work that reflects the photographer’s vision exclusively (working with shapes, working sculpturally) rather than portraying the model. It’s almost always depersonalizing.
Ruth Bernhard told me that removing the faces allowed her to create the sculptured images that she wanted. She did like my work, and I am a major fan of her work, but they are the antithesis of each other.
What strikes me about the Nike images is that the photos are depersonalized; it’s the words that are personal. We find the real people in the words, not in the images. This is different from most partial-body photography because words are rarely there.
Early in my work on Familiar Men, I began to see what I call “extracts” inside the photos. They were sections of the complete images that worked for me independently as art. I didn’t expect to use them in the book, but as the project developed and my collaborators and I realized the complexity of masculinity, they became an important part of expressing that vision.
“extracts” of Art’s arm and Joe’s chest
But, in my work, the “extracts” are always shown with the portraits nearby. It’s the relationship between the images that is important. The whole model is always in the picture.
Art and Joe