Sunday, March 1, 2009
Two Cowboys, from Eyes of Salamanca, 2006
copyright Juliana Beasley
My art crush on Juliana Beasley began when I discovered Doug Rickard's features of her work on AMERCANSUBURBX - "Last Stop: Rockaway Park" and "Eyes of Salamanca". Doug's passionate and poetic interpretation of the people and the pain in her Rockaway series brought to mind Hubert Selby Jr.'s Last Exit to Brooklyn ... the mother who gets hooked on speed trying to shed weight to fit into a red dress to wear for her television debut while her junkie son spirals down with his girlfriend into their own hell of addiction.
It also brought to mind one of my earlier art crushes and now close friend, Emily Carter, whose memoir, Glory Goes and Gets Some, shares a similar honesty, boldness, vulnerability, compassion and fascination with the farthest reaches.
Then I read Juliana's own words in her interview with Nymphoto and I was riveted - picturing this kid in Philly catching fire flies in jelly jars and digging graves with sticks at the side of her house who grows up to find inspiration in a woman who collects a specialty brand of dolls at fairs and a man who teaches his dog to count to ten with his paws.
I think by now I've learned the hard way from internet dating and art crush disappoints and the like - don't come on too strong, too stalkerish. Keep it short and sweet. So I sent Juliana just a few words ... and she wrote back!
We have since become virtual pen pals - keeping tabs on one another's ups and downs and unraveling all kinds of subjects like mothers and relationships and road trips and past demons and present fantasies. I am such a devoted fan at this point, I even offered to come over dressed as River Phoenix to clean her messy apartment in Jersey City. But as we both spend much of our lives glued to our computer screens, who knows if it will ever happen ...
Juliana is coming to New York City this week for two big photo events. She will be showing Polaroids from her secret stash depicting her early days as photographer/stripper in a group exhibition at Michael Mazzeo Gallery opening March 4th. Her larger body of work about stripper culture, Lapdancer, is available in book form here: Lapdancer.
Selected photographs from her most recent project, "The Eyes of Salamanca," will also be exhibited later this week with the Group Station Independent Projects at the Bridge Art Fair. These strange and remarkable images examine a Mennonite community in the Yucaton Peninsula whose religious faith and relationship to the land could not contrast more starkly the stripper scene she previously explored. The sun-burnt faces, bright blue skies, looming white clouds are altogether of another time and place. And thanks to the support of a New Jersey Arts Council Grant, Juliana will return to Mexico in April 2009 to spend a month continuing to photograph and to write about the Mennonite community.
More information about these upcoming events, along with some incredible writing, can be found on her blog: Juliana's Lovely Land of Neurosis