Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Depictions of nudity have a long history, going back in painting for many centuries, and in photography to its beginnings as well. The reception of such works, which often could also be considered fine art, always depended on the circumstances and perceived artistic intent. If the context was a religious one, nudity and punitive acts toward naked humans were worthy of display (check what fine things the monsters are doing to the humans assigned to hell in the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch).
Photographs, having long been presumed closer to reality and therefore perhaps even more likely to stimulate prurient interest, have not fared so well, even as late as the 20th century and beyond. William Mortensen’s instruction booklets on photographing nudes were confiscated by the US postal authorities in the 1950s, even after pubic areas had been meticulously retouched, and in our time several major social media sites require censorship bars or other disguises across female breasts and over pubic areas of all kinds.
So here comes SameSource, combining paintings and photographs in a very appealing and provocative manner. His approach is intellectually and artistically on point, and we are pleased that he values our intelligence and appeals to our emotions in a visually appealing manner at the same time. First, SameSource carefully researched and photographed paintings incorporating nudes at various museums and in private collections. He then reinterpreted them for our time, using models of a wide spectrum, and recombined the newly created images with the paintings of former times, arriving at a new challenge for the viewer. This photobook presents 23 such compositions, each accompanied by a one-page description of the rationale and process, as well as a smaller image of the original art. We are grateful for those essays, because they help us understand the historical background as well as the intent for each created composition.
The reinterpreted works range from the 15th to the 21st centuries, with an emphasis on the 19th, which is the source for 11 new images. Many well-known painters are included, among them Raphael, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Velazquez, Goya, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, and Glackens. Others are new discoveries. Reinterpreting art for our time means having an excellent sense of contemporary developments, and we certainly find that here. Sexual role reversal, fetishism, inclusion of LGBTQ concerns are subjects that enhance the newly created works and hit the tenor of our time. The apple as a source of enticement, inherited from the biblical narrative, is featured effectively in several images. It should also be noted that SameSource involves the models and their motivation in a number of places, as this adds an immediacy and reality to the new interpretations based on art from long ago. It is especially touching to see the courageous model Tarah showing her beauty, having overcome cancer and amputation, as well as others that show their bodies in a tasteful manner, proud of their appearance and at ease with themselves.
The images are beautifully printed on heavy matte paper; this book is sure to become a collector’s item. As enlargements on gallery walls these images really shine; they will be on display at Fabrik Projects Gallery, 2636 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, from June 29 to July 27, 2019. The opening reception will be on Saturday, June 29, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Photographer: SameSource (born in Kansas City, Missouri; resides in Los Angeles, California)
Publisher: Self-published; © 2019
Essays: Foreword by Sarah Koenig Wagner; introduction and analyses by SameSource
Hardback with illustrated dust jacket; 54 pages, paginated, with 48 color images; 12 x 12 inches