“The Anxiety of Influence”
“The Anxiety of Influence” explores the visual and cultural slippage between corporeal forms and sculptural representations using the stylistic lens of historic figurative photography. This series was developed when I was working on my essay “Robert Mapplethorpe’s Italian Devil as Self-Portrait”, in which I argued that the devil-cum-satyr was a figure that the photographer used as an alter-ego throughout his body of work. I was examining the legacy of Mapplethorpe and the artistic ancestors he had in his own personal collection, including Fred Holland Day and George Platt Lynes. Like the Mannerist painters of the sixteenth century, these photographers made images of idealized male instances of body that were selected in order to reference the anatomy and highly polished surface of ancient statuary.
Unlike the Mannerists, however, these image-makers used the monochromatic palette of black and white photography to render their figurative subject matter, making the distinction between skin and stone even more unclear. These blurring boundaries were compeling to me because they rendered visible the constructedness of cultural ideals in specific historical moments while also commenting on how culture informs expectations of lived, corporeal existence. This body of work was a reaction to the expectations that, as an emerging artist, I was expected to follow in-line with queer-identified photographers I was studying in order to appear legible in that particular narrative. Although it was difficult for me to articulate in words at the time, this discomfort with institutional expectations of how to accurately perform a legible “self” in the form of an artistic practice would be the foundation of my future work.