In a series of still lives, I explore my relationship with domesticity and identity. The home is a space primarily associated with heterosexuality and reproduction, yet it is as diverse as its occupants. By photographing bondage gear in otherwise ordinary scenes, I ask viewers to question the way they see the American household and the values attached to it. Domesticity, in reality, exists in many forms; my photographs offer a glimpse into my own sense of home.
I explore temporality, memory, and the body through self-portraiture. Resisting normative constructions of time, I examine moments in which the past, present, and future collapse upon each other. My body becomes a vehicle for memory as the past haunts the present. I use historic photographic processes alongside current digital methods of imagemaking to further complicate and queer linear time. Moments are not discrete or bound to sequential time; rather, they bleed into other timelines in unexpected, jarring ways.
In 1992, the year I was born, AIDS was the leading cause of death for men ages 25 to 44. In 1995, the FDA approved the first protease inhibitor, which would greatly decrease the mortality rate of HIV/AIDS. I was 2 years old. In 2012, Truvada was approved as an HIV-prevention tool, dramatically shifting the way gay men conceived of sex. I was 20 years old, fell in love with my first boyfriend, and finally came out to my parents.
For most of my life, AIDS was considered more of a boogeyman than a real threat. The inability to discuss and acknowledge the epidemic or the ways HIV/AIDS continues to affect disenfranchised communities and people of color is indicative of the deep trauma that continues to pervade the LGBTQ community. This period of American history, as well as the contemporary struggles that many face, should not be avoided or ignored; it is imperative that we, as a community, come together in remembrance and acknowledgement despite how painful it may be.
Utilizing fiber arts alongside nonlinear temporalities, I challenge the stasis surrounding HIV/AIDS and celebrate the work of queer vanguards. Fiber art, particularly embroidery, has historically been passed down from mother to daughter. I reference the loss of individuals from older generations through my use of this medium, as well as the physical connection between needlework and medical procedures. Throughout this series, I evoke the words, visages, and tactics of queer icons to illustrate their eternal presence. Some queer theorists contend that the specter of AIDS is ubiquitous, but perhaps it is more productive to examine the ways that individuals haunt us, whether that be through music, poetry, art, activism, or even just a name. Furthermore, we cannot allow those affected by HIV today slip into obscurity and become ghosts.
I photograph BDSM practitioners in the language of family portraiture and engage with issues of LGBTQ politics, family, and domestic space. The queer families that I depict challenge the ways in which we define family itself; since marriage and reproduction may not be available or desirable for queer individuals, they must seek alternate modes of family-making. I present such a mode in BDSM, and look at how its practitioners are connected in ways akin to an extended family. Normality is not fixed, but polysemous – similarly, family is open to multiple interpretations. How can queer individuals envisage the concept of family when it has become synonymous with marriage in the moderate gay movement?
Can we forge new connections with the past or are these moments lost forever? To engage with this question, I began by projecting a video of a former partner and I having sex. My body acted as a screen for this encounter, causing my image to exist simultaneously in the past, present, and future. It is, however, disconnected from each temporal point. I try to return my hands to familiar places, to touch history, but this action is futile. Memory and its various repositories cannot fully write the present into the past; instead, traces of these moments hang in the air - phantasmal yet visceral.
"Refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being.” - Julia Kristeva, the Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection
I am simultaneously fascinated with and terrified of bodies. While they are at the crux of existence, our corporal forms are constantly decaying. Bodily refuse - in the form of fingernail clippings, hair, blood, pus, et cetera - jarringly reminds me of my body's fragility. In this series of mixed media paintings, I utilize the aforementioned materials alongside items that bear verisimilitude to sinew, organs, and other remnants. I harness my own anxiety to examine issues surrounding life, death, and the representation of bodies in art.