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Review: Exhibit by gay artists focuses on humanity, vulnerability

“Untitled” by Logan Bellew is a portrait of a man at the wheel that exudes an intimacy with the viewer as it explores the love/hate paradox created by Eros.

“Untitled” by Logan Bellew is a portrait of a man at the wheel that exudes an intimacy with the viewer as it explores the love/hate paradox created by Eros.

There are transformative people in our midst who create far more than they consume.

The founder of the SCA Contemporary gallery, Sheri Crider, has built a brilliantly conceived art space within the old Sanitary Tortilla Factory building that is now one of the premier alternative contemporary galleries in New Mexico. It sports 13,000 square feet of floor space.

Crider is an artist, craftsperson, general contractor and businesswoman who describes her skill set as being able to survive in a “Mad Max” world.

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The building has been deconstructed, reconfigured and beautifully appointed with industrial chic fixtures, furniture and cabinetry that provide local and national artists with studio and gallery space, along with a soon-to-be-opened fabrication shop.

The gallery section currently features “Queering the Lens: Looking at the World” a photography and mixed-media installation curated by Crider and Jessamyn Lovell that runs through Aug. 28.

Although the show featuring Ashley Autumn, Logan Bellew, Michael Apolo Gomez, JC Gonzo, Sam Atakra Haozous, Nick Simko, Aaron McIntosh and Kristyn Russell was conceived many months ago and opened on June 17, the recent mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 50 dead and many more wounded adds an unforeseen poignancy to the exhibition.

Despite the hatred, fear and ignorance aimed at the LGBT community as tragically chronicled in Florida and too many other places, these gay artists are only trying to reveal their humanity and share their sensitivity and vulnerability with viewers.

From a materials and techniques standpoint, the show is a mixture of art presentation methods ranging from traditional framed and matted images to pushpin hangings of photographs and fragments.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist Autumn majored in photojournalism at the University of Florida and continued studies at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul.

The selections in this exhibit are taken from a five-year project exploring the concept of vulnerability. The show images titled “Excerpts From in Between” are part of an overarching series titled “It’s My First Rodeo” revealing the artist’s travels and travails in new territories both within her and strange places in the outside world.

Gomez is a BFA candidate in studio art at the University of New Mexico and has won several grants and awards. His interiors titled “Austin,” “Logen” and “Deion” are portraits of young men within an architectural context. The subtle colors and sharp focus give these narrative images the feeling of well-executed paintings.

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Gonzo offers a wall full of pinned photos that exude the ambient fragility and beauty of butterflies as if these explorations of personhood were scientific specimens mounted for careful study.

His “Boy X” 27-piece series includes image fragments and a variety of photographic formats.

“Invasive” by Nick Simko and Aaron McIntosh is a fully realized and beautifully executed large-format inkjet print at the SCA Contemporary gallery.

“Invasive” by Nick Simko and Aaron McIntosh is a fully realized and beautifully executed large-format inkjet print at the SCA Contemporary gallery.

Simko and McIntosh collaborated to create “Invasive,” a large-format archival inkjet print.

The central image is a steep-sided vertical pile of leaves, faces, body parts and word fragments that tower into a puffy-clouded, crystal-blue sky. The contrasting bright green leaves with flesh-tone bits and pale lettering make this single effort one of the most realized works in the show.

Bellew uses environmental portrait photography to explore the philosophical implications of the paradox of erotica. He does this within the context of situational imagery of a single figure, at the wheel, standing in front of a damaged car or standing on a hilltop. His camera offers the viewer a sense of intimacy without resorting to bare skin or obvious erotic poses.

Haozous is the grandson of renowned sculptor Allen Houser, who brought American Indian artistry into the global mainstream of contemporary, or more exactly, modernist art.

Haozous’ “Modern Man,” “Restroom of the Damned” and “Kabuki Baby” depict people in masks. The implication of having to hide their true identity speaks volumes about the hateful politics and social misunderstanding surrounding sexual orientation.

In “Kabuki Baby” the tastefully depicted nude woman also has black tape over the eye holes of her mask preventing her from even seeing who she is.

Russell travels the world looking for emblems of gay culture, while discovering that in many rural areas, bars, clubs and taverns that served the gay population have been shut down.

Her response is to document imagery with implications of gay pride if only in innocence. Russell has a healthy sense of humor and a good eye.

This show may seem scattered at first glance, but given some time the installation is edifying and even fun. While visiting the gallery, be sure to check out the gallery’s industrial-strength crystal chandelier and its heavy steampunk vibe. The front door is another work of industrial art, as is the modular seating area, made from discarded hollow-core doors.


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