ON "NAKED TRUTH"

REmarks on the exhibition

by Peter Pup ORpheus

“Exposed” is a complicated word at the moment. Especially during Pride Month the word resonates with the trauma of past outbreaks but also with the stripped-down (and hopefully sun-screened) celebration of bodies that accompanies so many Pride parades and infuriates so many prudes. Now, Pride Month plans have been drastically affected, including this exhibition (intended for the Otis Street Arts Project in Mount Rainier, MD), which showcases five queer artists’ powerful renderings of the human form exposed, naked.

This nakedness is as complex and as multi-layered as its renderings in the Naked Truth exhibition; the works are not solely erotic, nor are they solely academic. In the same way that anatomical lines are redrawn and washed over, showing multiple attempts at the same elbow in Kieran Solley’s Ryan, Lounging, navigating the sensuality of these pieces is not an “yes/no” proposition, but a “yes, and” invitation, as it is the composite that the eye first naturally perceives (this redraw was pointed out in our podcast interview),  warmly embracing the ambiguity.

 

The phrase “naked truth” uses nakedness as a basic, literalistic state, yet many of these renderings of the human form are hardly literal. Jasjyot Singh Hans’s contributions extend beyond the literal, often far beyond with exaggerated foreshortenings. His quickly rendered Revolve multiplies the model into a posterior panorama, employing a masterful economy of line so that there are fewer separate lines per figure than there are figures on the page, style that asserting its recognition on equal footing with substance.

 

Claiming his own space between abstraction and the figurative, Douglas Johnson captures his models’ essence and energy as color, as with Koby, with only the sparest use of lines to define some of the figure’s deeper indentations. His works present distinct and expressive forms that the eye assembles from clouds of pure pigment.

 

Color electrifies many of the Scott G. Brooks paintings in the exhibition, the jewel-tones of his rendering of The Modest Badger complemented by the thicker, expressionistic lines to create a prideful, confident portrait, so that the modesty is only the formality of the placement of Badger’s hands. Here the richness and density of the style demands more than a model; even a modest Badger demands a room to fill with his light.

 

Lania D’Agostino is the only 3-dimensional artist represented in the exhibition and her work explores dimensions beyond the male sphere of the other artist’s portrayals. Her cast sculptural work, Kristen to Kris in 3 Stages, documents in terms both gestural and textural three crucial moments in the journey of the individual’s physical transition over the course of three years. This work and the figures in Animalia each are the result of an intimately collaborative, co-creative process where Lania works with the individual, learning about their life and identity.

 

The entire exhibition is infused with that kind of intimacy. While many of the subjects may float in the suspended space of the drawing page, while each of the Animalia may stand on their own, within these works hums the opposite of isolation. Connection, community, sharing – this is the naked truth behind this artwork and behind the practice that drives these artists. Even as D’Agostino’s work with and about people beyond the gender binary have created and sustained connections, so many of the male portrayals in Naked Truth have come from the Studio 5N drawing group, which has fostered a space for so many queer artists and amateurs in Baltimore to draw, connect, laugh, drink, commiserate, support each other’s art-making and share their struggles.

 

This gallery is full of names, faces, bodies (I am delighted to make a cheeky cameo in Singh Hans’s Tea and Cake VII), and stories. Taken altogether this body of work paints a loving, full-length nude of the community that these five Baltimore-based queer artists help sustain and energize with their creativity. We are all feeling exposed right now, many of us starved for the physical intimacy that has been the centerpiece of queer spaces social, sexual, and in-between. This virtual gallery is the promissory note of a physical show when such activity is truly safe, and of a pure nakedness of affection we hope to reclaim. We continue to sustain these connections as best as can, as artists, models, friends, and lovers.

-Peter Pup Orpheus

Naked Truth Logo by Douglas Johnson

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