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The Aesthetic of Intimacy Art Show

Release date: March 27, 2012

In The Aesthetic of Intimacy, a new art exhibit at Goucher College, nine artists explore the beauty of relationships in all their multifaceted splendor.

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, runs in the Silber Art Gallery on Goucher's campus from Tuesday, March 27, to Sunday, May 6. The art can be viewed Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. An artists' closing reception will be held Friday, April 6, from 6 to 9 p.m., with an artists' talk at 7 p.m. Call 410-337-6477 or visit www.goucher.edu/silber for more information.

Works by artists Geoffrey Aldridge, Ben Gest, Sarah Harrington, Jen P. Harris, Jason Horowitz, Ginny Huo, A.B. Minor, and Nicholas and Sheila Pye strive to portray more than just the expression of libidinous sexual desires. Instead, they highlight all aspects of intimacy, including the social, physical, affectional, sexual, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.  

In his recent series of performance video works, Geoffrey Aldridge is interested in the connection between cultural constructions and personal decisions. Using acts of intimacy as a way to position a private context in relation to cultural ideas, his work reveals the integration between his own life and art practice. Whether referencing his American Baptist upbringing, his relationship with his partner, or ideas about masculinity, the performances are a way to reflect upon the cultural layers that inform our daily lives.

Ben Gest's photography is a study and depiction of how human self-awareness subconsciously rises to the surface and reminds us of who we are (or who we've failed to become). Gest constructs images that feel seemingly normal on the surface, but they have subtle discontinuity. His work explores the internal struggle of life's irritable frustrations and anxieties. The tension between the figures in Gest's work, in part, results from the final image being a montage of many digital captures (between 20 to 50 photographs), which allows for an indirect exaggeration in the reconfiguration of the parts. These photographic oddities create tension for the viewer looking at the image, as do the incidences described by the photographs.

Sarah Harrington's work with embroidery has been influenced by women's history and her desire to explore the traditional trappings of womanhood in a different and often-critical light. The pieces cement the artist's creative, and therefore greater, experience as definitively feminine, while also poking fun at and questioning accepted traditions and norms. In her underwear pieces, Harrington embellishes "private" garments with messages that highlight the darker or less pleasant sides of some sexual encounters. The play between intimacy and indifference in casual sexual encounters is what most informs these pieces.

Mainstream popular culture has rendered certain groups and individuals invisible. Jen P. Harris' body of work American Kiss takes sexual difference out of the margins and places it squarely in the center compositionally, thematically, and culturally. The project consists of polychromatic oil paintings and monochromatic works on paper. Evoking film stills, the works on paper are tightly cropped portraits of ambiguously gendered figures kissing or embracing. The images are sensual and bold, but the dark legacy of the closet also has a place in this work-in the recurring presence of the hidden or anonymous face.

Jason Horowitz's large-scale photographs are up-close and personal studies of intimacy. He invited couples into his studio, where they were free to shed their inhibitions and interact sexually to whatever degree they felt comfortable. The comfort levels varied widely from couple to couple, thus enabling him to capture a broad range of intimate moments. Voyeuristic in nature, Horowitz is aware of the potential for a pornographic reading of this work. To remove it from that realm, the images were photographed with the camera lens only a few inches from the subject's body, thus limiting the viewers' gaze by only offering a snippet of the physical interaction between each couple. Playing with the tension between attraction and repulsion, the images reveal a hyper-realistic amount of detail about the subjects.

Ginny Huo's process of assimilation into an American life has greatly impacted her artwork. Influenced by her family's Korean stories, she is fascinated by the importance of speech and how stories are relayed mimetically from one person to another. Influenced by her own experiences, she speaks with other people to find out similar or contrary stories. This creates the necessity and importance of conversation in her work. Within the work, a central structure functions as a platform of interaction between the participants. This allows an opportunity to introduce the element of a barrier, accentuating nonverbal and/or verbal communication. The awkward situations that the participants face in the work create a vulnerability that connects them to one another, and perhaps it is only through this awkwardness that they find ways to assimilate.

On small mounted boards, never bigger than 12" in any direction, A.B. Miner paints windows into his reality. His Too Close for Comfort series of self-portraits beckons viewers to move in closer, like spying through a keyhole to take an intimate look at his body and soul. With claustrophobic compositions and almost-distasteful skins, the art exposes his experience. Conjoined faces (Miner's with that of his sister) also symbolize his life as a chimera of sorts and represent internal conflict. They are literally "two-faced," as a singular self-portrait would not convey the full truth of his experience and identity, which encompasses elements of traditional notions of both male and female.

Nicholas and Sheila Pye relentlessly blur the borders between their lives and their art as they tackle the highly charged yet poetic issues that arise from their own relationship and its dissolution. But theirs is not a self-absorbed biographical fascination, but instead the relationship depicted in their bodies of work becomes emblematic of all things that can go wrong in a mutually dependent and suffocating relationship. The Pyes' artistic output spans photography, film, performance, video, and installation while acknowledging the profound influences of surrealism in film, narrative conventions in painting, 19th- and early-20th-century portraiture, and conceptual approaches to subject matter. While no longer married, the Pyes continue to work together.