Me, my­self, and you

Des­per­ately Seek­ing Other ex­plores iden­tity

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Michael Abatemarco I The New Mex­i­can

Ahome can feel like a sa­cred place for some peo­ple, and no space within it is more in­ti­mate than the bed­room — the one room where you might feel safe and se­cure enough to let your hair down and be naked. It is a place where we can be most truly our­selves. But how would you feel if a stranger came in, not to rob or as­sault you, but to in­habit your room, to live in it — even if just for a few mo­ments — as

you do? Pho­tog­ra­pher Seiya Bowen’s In Your Room ,a se­ries in which he’s pho­tographed him­self oc­cu­py­ing the bed­rooms of dif­fer­ent peo­ple while dressed in their clothes, ex­plores as­pects of iden­tity, gen­der, and race though role-play. It’s a project that touches on iden­tity as a con­struct. On a more per­sonal level, per­haps, In Your Room is about re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers to un­der­stand­ing, al­low­ing Seiya to view the world from the van­tage point of some­one “other” than him­self.

A se­lec­tion of im­ages from Bowen’s se­ries is in­cluded in Des­per­ately Seek­ing Other, Of­froad Pro­duc­tions’ first ex­hibit of the new year, open­ing Satur­day, Jan. 14. In ad­di­tion, Bowen’s video work Iden­tity Ma­nip­u­la­tion is shown. The premise of the video, which de­picts a shirt­less man, is sim­ple; the viewer’s per­cep­tion of him is al­tered by noth­ing more than a grad­ual shift in back­ground color. “It’s in­ter­est­ing how one’s mind changes ac­cord­ing to the color, how quickly your per­cep­tion changes ac­cord­ing to the back­ground,” said Yon Hud­son, the show’s cu­ra­tor. “Over­all, it’s a re­ally sub­tle work but quite beau­ti­ful.”

Des­per­ately Seek­ing Other arose from Hud­son’s in­ter­est in the sub­jects of iden­tity, long­ing and be­long­ing, and de­sire. Along with Bowen, works are on view by a dozen other artists, in­clud­ing Hud­son, Michael Freed (the pro­pri­etor of Of­froad, which dou­bles as his stu­dio), Tus­cany Wenger, and Har­mony Ham­mond. “Ev­ery­body in the show is work­ing in the realm of iden­tity,” Hud­son said, “whether it’s their child­hood iden­tity, or their re­li­gious iden­tity, or how their per­sonal view­point of who they are is af­fected by, say, the church, or by their as­so­ci­ates at work, or their fam­ily.” Hud­son’s own out­look was par­tially shaped by the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing an out­sider. He grew up as a gay man in a small Min­nesota farm­ing com­mu­nity, but had the ad­van­tage of a large sup­port­ive fam­ily. “My fam­ily felt like the other in my home­town, and yet we weren’t,” he said. “I had to cre­ate my own utopia. I had to find my own realm in or­der to flour­ish. That’s re­ally the bot­tom line of the show; how do we find that space, the space in be­tween these peo­ple and those peo­ple? Where is my true ex­pe­ri­ence?”

Hud­son, an artist who works in col­lage, found affin­ity with a young artist from Mex­ico City who goes by the moniker LONER. His work is also on ex­hibit. “I had never met him per­son­ally,” Hud­son said. “I first no­ticed his work on In­sta­gram around the time I was work­ing on col­lages for my first solo show, back in July of this past year. I was struck by how dif­fer­ent our work was and yet they were the same thing. They were both col­lage. That was in­vig­o­rat­ing to me. There are many dif­fer­ent voices. What re­ally blew my mind was that we ended up us­ing the same im­ages from a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent mag­a­zines in our work. It was strik­ing to me how he choose to use them and how I chose to use them, with very dif­fer­ent re­sults.”

Wenger, an em­ployee at Meow Wolf Art Com­plex, is show­ing Pink Dune, a re­cent 3-D land­scape she de­scribes as a self-por­trait. She made it us­ing pa­per, plas­tic, felt, found ob­jects, and pink-col­ored sand,

which she ar­ranged in a small glass-en­cased dio­rama. “Some shapes are par­tially hid­den in the sand,” Wenger told Pasatiempo. “The idea is that, as the wind blows, some things are buried again, oth­ers are re­vealed.” Wenger de­scribed the par­tially buried ob­jects as as­pects of the self, some of which re­cede in time to be for­got­ten, while oth­ers rise to the level of con­scious­ness: an old mem­ory, per­haps, or a self-rev­e­la­tion. “I sort of en­vi­sioned the life of a dune,” she said. “De­pend­ing on the weather and wind cur­rents, whole sec­tions can get buried for years but are still there. The idea is that were born and have this sense of self that does re­main con­stant through­out our lives.” Wenger is us­ing a lot of the color hot pink as a way to riff on gen­der as­so­ci­a­tions. “It’s slightly per­son­al­ized, draw­ing on my ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing a woman in the world, but pink is also an ob­vi­ous vis­ual cue,” she said.

Wenger’s work touches on the in­di­vid­ual process of de­vel­op­ing a sense of self, which can be a cre­ative en­deavor. Her work epit­o­mizes the lim­i­nal space be­tween self-ac­tu­al­iza­tion and con­form­ity. “For lot of cre­ative peo­ple — and I can speak for my­self only and other peo­ple who have talked about this — at some junc­ture, there’s a mo­ment of ‘OK, I don’t fit in, and where are my peo­ple?’ ” said Hud­son. “But I can be who I am with­out hav­ing to be part of a col­lec­tive. I like that free zone be­tween those mo­ments of ‘Who am I?’ and ‘I am.’ I think a lot of this work re­ally en­cap­su­lates that space be­tween those two.”

Tus­cany Wenger: Pink Dune, 2016-2017, mixed me­dia; below, Seiya Bowen: Iden­tity Ma­nip­u­la­tion, 2016, video pro­jec­tion; op­po­site page, Bowen: In Your Room – Tilda, 2013, pig­ment inkjet print

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