Is Queer Art a category or is the queer artist simply an artist?
In the book Queer British Art — Alex Farquharson, Director — Tate Britain said, “In the past few decades LGBTQIA artists have made a prominent contribution to the development of contemporary art, as major collections of contemporary art attest.”
Is it important that Queer Art is a category we feed and encourage or is the queer artist simply an artist? Queer art as displayed in the Tate Britain has found itself an accepted niche, but has also become part of the establishment. I have a need to see more than what has now become establishment art. I want to see challenging, contemporary art that does not have to conform to a niche beyond description of shape, e.g. Landscape or Portrait.
Recently, I caught up with the international photographic artist, Stany de Huy, whose work is being currently exhibited in Brussels in the Saint-Gilles Academy of Fine Arts. The exhibition is a mixed show of no title but Stany wanted to entitle his contribution “A Gay Moment In Time.”
I’m particularly interested by the link between image and time, from the ephemeral side, very short time to longer temporarily. The image as an impression of a moment in the past that will not happen again or an image that gives just an impression of long and indefinite time.
Stany de Huy has an eye for the story in a photograph and, through his sense of time, is able to offer considerable depth to his photographs. I was curious – how does he see himself – as an LGBTQIA artist or other? I questioned him on whether his art was mainstream or queer art, his eloquent response was:
I identify myself more as ‘gay.’ As part of the title suggests it, I wanted to show homosexuality in my images, I wanted ‘gay’ images, Reason by principle, the image is essence of desire, gay as far as I’m concerned, and this desire wants to show gay male handsomeness through these images. But these images can be provocative too.
We agreed that his images are first, however, portraits and that is the niche in which they should sit. He adores making portraits. He says that his portraits are subconsciously influenced by paintings and the tradition of the painter or sculptor with the artist’s model. I have always seen the image as being stolen from the model but he disagrees with me on this point. His models actually collaborate with him. They listen to him and in agreement, they pose as requested in the knowledge that the final image will be the vision the artist has of them and this will be beautiful. Of course ultimately beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the artist here is not the only voice in the portrait’s creation.
They want the vision you have of themselves.
He is also interested in using clothes and accessories that have a ‘gay’ fetish reference like coloured handkerchiefs or flowers and jewelry. He is the one, however, who chooses what the models wear. I am assuming he is a most persuasive artist as he always gets what he wants in the final frame.
He wants it to cross niche boundaries and I believe he does. His greatest challenge after all is not how to fit a niche but how to create his version of reality through photographic media. This is, after all, only his second time to exhibit with the Academy — there is much we have yet to see from Stany.
Curious, I asked after his influences and his answers included Hervé Guibert, a French photographer and writer who died of AIDS, Wolfgang Tillmans (Turner Prize winner), of course, the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe and the contemporary Mexican photographer Manuel Moncayo. It doesn’t take long to see the thread of the poetic image filled with allusion, metaphor and style creating its own shape and story in his own work.
Here are some striking ‘gay’ moments in time from the current exhibition from both his camera and his pen:
THE AMERICAN FANTASY
This image comes from my first photo session for this work. The model is a friend of mine who has also worked with other artists. We took pictures around the car and the lathes were chosen according to the car, all that plastic jacket and leather gloves. It ’s the image of a seducer resting under a ray of sunshine. We were lucky that morning. The light was particularly beautiful.
SELF PORTRAIT IN THE LIFT
With social networks, the practice of self portrait has developed a lot. As the model I am a specialist in self portraits. This particular model always takes his own in elevators. The challenge is usually due to the poor lighting. Posing for this ‘self portrait,’ I asked the model to pose as if he was in front of a mirror. The current way to do a self portrait is to hide your eyes by your smartphone. I wanted to capture both this activity and the meaning behind it.
THE HEAD OF MEDUSA
I replaced snakes with flowers that can be seen as a phallic symbol. If you look in the eyes (but you are not allowed to look at them or… you know the story) you will see that the model has rolled his eyes to the back. This short action makes his head move slightly. The fuzzy tattoo on the right arm is related to the face that should not be looked at.
THE ONE WHO CRUISES IN THE NIGHT
I was just coming back from Marrakech where I spent Christmas Eve with a friend and I wanted to use the ‘Selham’ cape I bought there. I asked the model to wear it on an empty street at night in a beautiful city in France (Shh!). It was my fantasy. I wanted to make a strange and mysterious image.
THE DREAMER OF LIGHT
When I sometimes do a photo session, I don’t know where I’m gonna take the pictures and I have to adapt very quickly to my environment. This picture was taken in a lobby. I have always found this type of place interesting. At this particular moment, the light was beautiful and it’s always interesting to take a picture when the light comes from the ceiling. It falls perfectly on the face. I wanted to take a picture with this necklace that I bought in New York five years ago and the model had a beautiful blue Prussian tunic.
At 46, Stany is not a new kid on the block but reliably, his photographic portraits are genuine in expression and original in story. Is he a gay artist or an artist who is gay? Which description is important to stress? To my mind, art is about the story and in that, Stany de Huy’s work, in whatever niche it finds itself, is always well worth viewing and enjoying.
Stany de Huy can be found on instagram as @stanymire.