Todd Gray, "Shaman Series 4/16/05 11:04:19,"  2005. Archival pigment print, 18 x 12 in.

Todd Gray, Shaman Series 4/16/05 11:04:19, 2005. Archival pigment print, 18 x 12 in.

The power of this image, for me, is in the discomfort of encountering a grotesque figure. Like looking at the Elephant Man, I am repulsed and fascinated by the image. I am embarrassed by my fascination, but I can’t take my eyes off the image. The additional layer of strangeness comes from the fact that the man behind the white foam is my husband, transformed into an unknown creature.

The photograph also makes me think about what it means to be a “cultured” man. Shaving cream, ordinarily used to remove unruly facial hair, is used here to sculpt beastly features. It is a portrait as an inner landscape, an expression of the hidden angst and perhaps the desire to be free from cultural decorum. Is the white foam a stand-in for the white dominant culture encasing the “colored” body? Is the foam suffocating the subject? Or is it disfiguring and misrepresenting the figure? Is it protecting the figure, or is the figure hiding behind it?

Kyungmi Shin, Artist

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