Gender Specific is an exhibition that explores the perpetual conundrum of gender identity and ponders the generic characteristics that foster societal acceptance. At a time when civilization (Western, specifically) is so caught up in the insidious Culture of Self, it beggars belief that egalitarianism is not metered out in equal measure across the board. We live in communities that profess to care, in an age that trumpets progressive enlightenment – and yet we remain stymied by a gamut of archaic prejudice, always at the expense of the vulnerable in our midst.
Since the beginning of the art historic time-line, it has been the business of art practice to reflect the social mores of its day. Art at its best is not merely illustrative; it’s not ‘that nice little still-life that matches the duvet in the guest bedroom’. Art at its best is a visual social commentary of the time. There’s not an artist worth their salt, from Leonardo to Warhol, who didn’t interlard their work with ethical and socio-political observation – whether public or private – and it is precisely this aspect that underpins substantive art to this day. Art plays a significant role in keeping us, the viewers, in touch with our common humanity.
The introduction to the show comes courtesy of local (Bega) photo-media artist Eryca Green who eases us into the exhibition with Jessie; the dead-set heterosexual with the military background (without the baggage of stereotypical bias that generally comes with the territory.) Jessie transforms from hip dude to sultry vamp to demonstrate to his children that he’s comfortable with the possibilities of gender re-evaluation. Although, of course, for Jessica it’s a matter of play, of free choice – with a click of those red heels she can transport herself straight back to Kansas, to the ‘real’ world.
Eric Krebs-Shade brings an iconic take on the buff Aussie male with his canon of quasi-religious, perspectivally challenged spunks. The work contemplates society’s adulation of the historic male heroic and sporting figure – representations of the heavens, foreshortened figures in illusionistic spaces and pictorial compositions that have the capacity to dominate large interiors. It’s a lovely study in torso – and brings to mind the famously gay Leonardo’s catty comment about his young rival (the equally famously gay) Michaelangelo’s muscular figures ‘looking like a sack of walnuts.’
In Margot Seare’s photographic portraits, Almost Real, the use of lenticular printing throws almost mesmerizing light on the multi-dimensional complexity of the lives of her trans-gendered subjects. The shift of depth and the ‘sleight of eye’ in each work is metaphor in itself for the reality of life for each – but what we’re not prepared for is the familiarity and warmth she captures in her sitters; the frailty of the human condition, the utter honesty, the connecting humanity.
While Desire is a conscious theme of this exhibition, it reaches well beyond the ‘eye-candy’ glam and sexual. The overwhelming Desire here is for genuine acceptance and universal fellowship. This is a ‘love me tender’ scenario with a very sweet twist.
Exhibition up until 12th September.
For all the snaps go here.