Entering the exhibition, The Beauty of Men: Celebrating Tenderness, vibrant rust colored leaves leapt off one composition while lavender petals popped subtly in juxtaposition to a soft, wintery palette on another. Both works depicted a scene of tenderness between men.
The Beauty of Men is a new media art exhibition that transforms pornographic images into lush contemplations reimagined through the admiring eye of Queer PostPhotography artist John Waiblinger.
Although the exhibition just concluded its monthlong premiere at Long Beach’s Hellada Gallery, the impact of Waiblinger’s images have left a wake that continues to elicit responses both intellectual and sensual. The artist purposely helped generate this buzz with a closing reception that included a discussion of the exhibit and a talk by Gregory Mattson, an adjunct anthropology professor who teaches at East Los Angeles College and Los Angeles Southwest College. But the resonance of the show also comes naturally, from a convergence of its theme, its approach and its genre.
New media art is created with new media technologies. Its resulting cultural objects and social events can be seen in opposition to those deriving from old visual arts. Waiblinger considers his work in The Beauty of Men to be PostPhotography, or making a new photograph specific to his internal point of view.
Using found images from “the internet’s vast store of gay pornography” ― each man in the compositions is a sex worker ― Waiblinger combines them with his own photographs to articulate a relationship with those men. He places these figures in the midst of wildflowers and flora, combining sensuality and nature. The results are intriguing, teasing out long gazes from the viewer leaving much to absorb ― joy, beauty, tenderness. Waiblinger is adept at creating seamlessness between the figures and the natural world they dwell in. Blooms drape genitalia and show as much life as the figures themselves. Bursts of color pop like an applique in Waiblinger’s, Gently-I-Hold-You or La-Petit-Mort and soft dreamlike blossoms, leaves and even wheat are as much the subjects as the men.