25 November 2011

Danny Gutherie Succeeds

Top: The Proposition (2009); Middle: Adam & Cain (2010);
Bottom:
The Appraisal (2007). All three images © Danny Guthrie.

A faculty member in photography at Michigan State University, Danny Gutherie, evidently is being swept up in a ruckus about the propriety or otherwise of his work - which includes images like those I've lifted above. Here is part of a statement about the work from Gutherie's web page:
My interests in making these pictures are both political and personal. Certainly subject matter such as this is politically charged. In the last couple of decades many female artists have investigated the personal landscape of their sexuality, as a means to seize control of their own representation within a culture milieu whose imaging of women has a long track record of idealization and exploitation. Taking my cue from this work, through direct and indirect references to classical painting and photography, my intent is to acknowledge these various traditions and debates, twisting and blurring the codes of classical aesthetics, contemporary rhetorically motivated art, and even erotica. In particular, I want the viewer to know I am investigating a history and practice of representation where the roles of viewer and viewed, seducer and object of seduction, are examined and perturbed. In short, I hope to move beyond simplistic notions of viewer and victim, exploring the possibility of a complicated exchange of power that informs the way these pictures come about.
This is not work - despite Gutherie's view that it is "edgy" - I find especially interesting or provocative. That said, I don't see why anyone ought to be getting their knickers in a knot about impropriety. According to news reports, these are not students from Gutherie's classes, they have input in the decision as to whether the images are displayed, and the University seems to be on top of the process by which models are solicited and treated. In particular, there apparently have been no complaints from the people who actually appear in the photographrs. A Google search generates a slew of news reports (the confluence of wire services and some slow news days): The headlines all assert that Gutherie's photographs ". . . stir debate," ". . . prompt questions," ". . . draw attention," ". . . stir up controversy," or some such theme. Guthrie, it seems, has been successful. That, I suspect, says less about the work than about the moral anxieties and aesthetic norms of those who are complaining about it.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Stan B. said...

OK,OK- so he works out...

26 November, 2011 13:32  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Stan ~ My exact observation! Susan was more than happy to note the contrast.

26 November, 2011 15:20  

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