The 12 photo-media artists in Re-identifications -“ from the futuristic self-portraits of Monica Tichacek to the mythological work of Ray Cook -“ all set their sights well beyond any easy or traditional notions of gay and lesbian art. Some achieve this with surprising simplicity, others create complex layers.
Photography has had a privileged place in the development of gay and lesbian art -“ a contemporary art form for a contemporary movement. Photography’s ability to document -“ both bodies and subcultures -“ has recommended it as a unique form for those wanting to both mirror and subvert reality.
Photography’s down-side is that it can easily fall into either a didactic or a glamorising pose -“ the photography of advertising or fashion. But photo-art at its best slips subtly between what is and what might be, gifting the imagined with new reality and the real with new possibility.
C. Moore Hardy is well known for her photo-journalism, her exhibitions and her commercial work. In a set of images she affectionately calls her Girl Gang series, Hardy presents very simple group photos that sit beguilingly between family snaps, commercial studio shots and nightclub pics. Highly saturated colour gives these girls punch.
Di Barrett also uses bold colour to create bodyscapes which celebrate middle-aged women as post-modern goddesses.
Garrie Maguire’s work is closest to what might be called traditional homoerotic gay art. However, his portraits of Asian men also challenge us to look again. Posed in traditional portrait stances, these images celebrate their subjects as objects of desire but also undercut traditional stereotypes with such figures as his Asian Anzac soldier and his Asian leather master.
Kaye Shumack’s abstract nightscapes celebrate not the gay or lesbian body but the social contexts of sexuality. Her colourful blurred images of night streets issue an invitation to party but also signal some sense of caution or perhaps hidden danger. At another level they are simply the ordinary streets of our lives.
James Verdon’s video project of a digitally constructed man that reaches out to touch us and touch himself adds an important new media element to this exciting exhibition.
Re-identifications can be seen at the Australian Centre for Photography, 257 Oxford St, Paddington, from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm, until November 10.