Inaugural Artist-in-Residence | Michael Elsden

SIDE GALLERY: 4.10.09 – 5.20.09

While a borrowed term, Pogonophora has the literal meaning ‘beard bearer’ which encapsulates the notion that men carry or hold a beard rather than being defined by it. In these images, RayKo’s first Artist-in-Residence, Michael Elsden, was looking for a feeling of the reflective, classical, even ‘monastic’ quality seen in renaissance period portrait painting. Working with a large format camera in the studio also became key to this vision as the slow, deliberate process helped promote an intimacy with the subjects and their expression.

Inspired by the work of Karl Blossfeldt, this series titled Men as Botanicals, seeks to depict the male body as an organic plant-like form, twisting and furling, but isolated on a white field like a scientific specimen. As with nature, each of the models provide differing interpretations as their body shapes, decoration and gestures suggest delicate individuality.

Elsden’s recent direction finds him making portraits of men; more specifically, men with hairy faces. His goal isn’t so much to catalogue facial hair, but instead it is to uncover some of what it is to be male, where the beard or moustache is used as a neutral labeling device for identifying and connecting the male of the species. Using the studio during Rayko’s three-month Artist-in-Residence program has allowed Elsden to continue and progress his visual thinking on this subject, pursuing two very different ideas. In both series he sought to make portraits that eschew sociotypical projections of ‘masculinity’ such as ‘courage’, ‘bravery’, and ‘assertiveness’, and instead reflect sensitivity, tenderness, and vulnerability. This exhibition is the culmination of this exploration and Elsden’s ideas. Not only will the artist be at the opening, but so will some of his subjects!