What do you do when a head loves a hip?, 2015 – ongoing

The title of this work comes from a break-up letter I wrote to a lover many years ago after he came to understand that he loved me mostly just as a mind with which he could process his emotions and thoughts.

The project sits uncomfortably at the interstices between my various roles in the art world as an artist, critic, curator, and educator—at a precise point where intellectual and emotional labor is devalued and rendered illegible within an art world cultural economy. I began this work in order to examine the ways that my different roles within this field overlap and give shape to one another. I want to have conversations with other willing participants about how they feel about power within these photoshoots and the conditions by which they are produced. The work is dreamlike for me: an honest attempt to understand desire, exchange, interrelationships, control, domination, negotiation, and most of all, consent.

These photographs result from studio visits I do with other artists. In most cases, when I receive an e-mail soliciting me for a studio visit, I write back with a standard reply that reads something like this: “When I receive an invitation like this one to come discuss an artist’s work with them, I email this counter-proposition that I’ll gladly come and have a conversation if we can also make my art in the process. The number of these sorts of invitations often overwhelms my mailbox and my calendar of commitments, and the intellectual labor that I’m meant to do in those meetings goes uncompensated and sometimes taken for granted. While I can’t justify the hour meeting and travel time away from my own studio, if you’re willing to be involved in one of my ongoing projects that allows us to make art while I’m at your studio, then I’d be glad to offer my thoughts and conversation about your work. The project is fairly straightforward: I’ll bring painting supplies with me. When I arrive, you would undress and start making my paintings for me (usually two fills out the time; my current paintings are paintings of Sherrie Levine paintings). I make photographs of you undressed and making my paintings while we have a conversation about your practice.”

The majority of responses I receive to this counter offer is to decline to be involved—it’s crucial that this project contain a threshold for resistance, dissent, and refusal. An emergent sociology can be read across those who elect to be involved, whose privileges or lack of inhibitions inform their participation. Further, the counter-proposals from some of the willing participants show the flexibility of the project: how the nature of what images I make can be determined in conversation together.

Not every shoot comes about from so tidy a formula: there are a few exceptions when some plans are made more organically in conversation with someone who is interested in the project. The motives to participate in this piece vary from artist to artist, and most of the conversations we have during the studio visit aim to address what feelings may accompany their decision to participate. While I can’t speak for the interior experiences of everyone who has been photographed, I perceive this work as dealing with vulnerability (physically, with one’s self-image, but also professionally), yet not explicitly sexualized.

As with many other participatory works in my practice, it’s my great desire that those who I work with want to be photographed and want to be involved in this artwork. Ongoing negotiation that looks to find an ethics amidst a number of taboos triggered by this work is the main site of my research.