…but does “it” with her boyfriend like one!
(click thumbnails for full size)
New York City renaissance woman, Enid Crow, is perhaps most famous for her fairly referential (but still interesting) series of photographs entitled Disasters. This popular group of images, which Crow began work on in 2001, are all self portraits featuring the artist in the guise of different women and men. In each photograph the featured character is dramatically reactting to a looming disaster outside the frame of the image. The assumptive leap can be made that since these images began to be created in 2001 (and the artist is based in NYC) that they are commenting on the overwhelming “unknown” fear that many Americans had internalized in the wake of September 11th. While it is true that Crows first series is visually jarring and thought provoking, the images tend towards the melodramatic and repetative. While this is most likely the artist’s intent, it quickly begins to feel stale and boring upon repeated viewing. Even though Crow is perhaps the first artists to explore this idea, it is hard to view this series and not thinks to one’s self, “I have seen this done before.”
Crow’s latest series The History of Moustaches, revisits several themes from Disasters (self portrait, drag), but brings to them a more freshly contemporary thematic sensability. The majority of the photographs feature Crow posing alone as the archetypical middle-american blue collar working man. We see images of factory workers, farmers, consruction crew, and hunters. The subject matter within these images is very mundane and the images ressemble everyday snap shots. This begs the question “What exactly is Enid Crow trying to say with these images?”. The unremarkable nature of the photographs forces the viewer to focus of the one thing that is unusual: Crow herself. The costuming and sets are dead on accurate, but it is hard to not notice that Crow (mustache and all) is just not very convincing in drag. And this, of course, is where the true depth of the images comes into play. When you view the pieces, you are not supposed to be fooled into thinking you are looking at a man. Given Crow’s earlier works, and her clear fascination with internalized fear, one begins to understand her true intent. This series is a statement on masculine fear of the feminine. The fear that outward presentation may not reflect one’s inherent and uncontrollable inward dialogue. Or inner gendered desire.
Which (yes, finally) brings me to the images posted above in this blog entry. They are a small subset from The History of Moustaches, entitled Faggots. Each of the seven photographs in this subset explore gay male desire (from the chance meeting, to the sexual encounter,to the longterm relationship). The characters are portrayed by Crow and her real life partner Justin Duerr. This group of images takes the next logical step in the series by studying perhaps the ultimate masculine fear, homosexual (feminized) erotic attraction. Where in Disasters we had a looming tragedy out of frame, in Faggots the “tragedy” is front and center. This shift in representation creates a strong statement when looking at the entire span of Crow’s artistic work.
This new work shows a lot of promise for Enid Crow, and it will be interesting to see her future creative trajectory. Perhaps, as one of her self proclaimed (and obvious) influences Cindy Sherman did, she will begin to explore human representations without the conventional use of human models. As far as studies of fear go, there may be nothing more appropriate than a self-portrait photographer giving up total control and stepping out of frame.