Archival Pigment Print
Signed sticker on vero
The first in an open edition
Donated by the artist
Provvidenza belongs to J Houston’s series Tuck and Roll, in which they explore queer community in the Midwest, pulling aspects of queer nightlife and culture into the daylight of domestic and private settings. Brimming with tenderness, this series imagines the potential of a queer utopia, within the familiar landscape Houston grew up in. Houston holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University, and has recently been an artist in residence at Otis College of Art and Design, The Growlery, and the Vermont Studio Center. Their work has been shown at the Houston Center for Photography, Turner Contemporary, Miller Institute of Contemporary Art, Siena Heights University, and the New York Photo Festival.
When I look at J Houston’s portrait Provvidenza, I’m reminded of Edward Weston’s 1936 nudes of Charis Wilson rolling down a sand dune. In many ways the pictures are about the same thing: the radiance of the sun reflecting back from a radiant body. The poses recall neoclassical painters like J.L. David and their Greek and Roman influences, expressive though not to the point of exaggeration. Figure, sunlight, and a transported subject, eyes closed. As viewers we are invited through the image to experience the light and the heat, to imagine the feeling of sand or grass against skin, and how a body falls to rest.
But in so many ways, Houston’s glowing portrait, part of a series that “builds a queer community situated in the Midwest, examining what a utopia could look like” departs from Weston’s. Both Houston’s and Weston’s studies take us out of the everyday, but Weston’s nudes use Wilson’s body as a means to describe a neo-classical ideal. Wilson’s appendectomy scar, for example, was concealed in the service of a more perfect picture of a more perfect subject. By contrast, Houston welcomes us to bask in Provvidenza’s individuality, and all of the particularities of their body’s markings and physicality. Where Weston’s 1936 nudes distill Wilson to a pure archetype, Houston invites us into the close space of life created between photographer and subject. - Leo Hsu, Silver Eye Center for Photography Board Member, Instructor of Photography at Carnegie Mellon University
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