I was asked by the Curators at the Leslie Lohman Gallery in SOHO to participate in their upcoming exhibition: Imaginary Portraits, Gay Lovers in History, which opens tomorrow (on my birthday) November 18, 2008 from 6-8pm. While I assumed there would be a healthy amount of artwork depicting lovers from Ancient Greece, the Romans, and even Asian lovers throughout history, I was challenged with coming up with something compelling that was distinctly Africentric. A quick search on the Internet yielded fascinating information about the Azande Warriors, a tribe of North Central Africa.
I was awe-struck when I learned that Homosexual marriage was an Azande traditional practice! According to extensive research and fieldwork by the British Anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard, the Azande date back to the early 1600's in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unmarried Azande warriors routinely took on boy-wives, who would be between the ages of twelve and twenty. They would purchase these boys in exchange for spears, and their bond would be publicly acknowledged. The boys did not cook, but would fetch cooked food, and would perform other services for their husbands. In return, the husbands gave the boy-wives pretty ornaments, and he and the boy addressed one another as "my love" and my "lover". Interestingly enough, the Azande expressed disgust at the mention of anal penetration, so sex was had in between the boy's thighs.
Who knew?? I certainly didn’t!
I set out to find my models for the shoot that would accurately depict a portrait of the man/boy-wife relationship of an ancient Azande Warrior. One of the models K9obi), I had already known, but I put a call out on Craigslist looking for the young boy-wife "character", and got quite a few responses before settling on Jhaye. Both Kobi and Jhaye were the perfect match to how I had envisioned the African features of the models and the overall "look" and mood of the image. The shoot took place in a non-descript section of Central Park on a chilly September day, as we quickly approached the submission deadline. The models were troopers for posing wearing only loincloths in the wind and chilly weather, all for the sake of art! Thanks you guys!!!
Below are some out-takes that represent the evolution of the shoot and show the direction I was going in. The last image is the final exhibition portrait. The only adjustment I had to make was to enhance the sepia tone to give the feeling of an aged photo. Enjoy the photos (click to enlarge any) and hope to see you at the opening! The exhibition runs from November 18th thru December 20th.
Note: There will also be paintings, drawings, installations and other art including photography, reflecting this theme, by various artists at this group exhibition.
Imaginary Portraits, Gay Lovers in History
The Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation
26 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10013
(Between Grand & Canal)
Hours: 12 Noon - 6pm, Tue - Sat
Closed: Sun & Mon & all major holidays
Phone: 212-431-2609 Fax: 212-431-2666
The Final Exhibition Portrait. The right facial expressions, pose, composition and mood all conspire to make this my pick for the show.
Note: In the final print hanging in the gallery, I removed the nipple ring to maintain historical accuracy. The Azande Warriors didn't have nipple piercings.