Kiss and Tell

curated by Kate Menconeri

January 20 – March 18, 2007

Tell me a story about a kiss.

Tell me where you were and what the weather was like. Tell me what was said (what was not said). Tell me what you could not even tell your best friend. Tell me the story as it sits in your memory: the story of the guy you kissed on a rooftop who disappeared to Mexico and the backseat where you and your girlfriend had sex in high school. Tell me the story and take me to where it happened. Drive me there, and I will take a photograph. – Sara Macel

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Kiss & Tell features work by 8 artists from the US and abroad who find their subject matter in personal connections and use photography to explore intimacy. From the electric sensation of a favorite shared kiss, to intimate portraits of a photographer’s muse, to images that challenge our perceptions about sexual identity within intimate partnerships, the artists in Kiss & Tell present a visual dialogue exploring private realms that are as complex and layered as the intricacy of intimacy itself.

The title is inspired by the work of Sara Macel. To create Kiss & Tell, Macel gathered stories from strangers and friends about their favorite kiss. A visual narrative of borrowed memories and place, Macel’s project suggests both the veiled privacy we share with intimates, as well as the provocative act, in photographing, of bringing this personal realm into the public sphere. Sara’s work opens the dialogue in Kiss & Tell, asking the viewer to go to that place – be it physical or felt memory – of the feeling you experience in a sublime kiss. The absence of figures in her imagery invites our own personal associations and experiences, while simultaneously reminding us of the limits. Unless we are part of that connection, lips locked, how deeply can we ever really understand what exists between two people?

Artists, Todd Jordan, Elinor Carucci, and Kyung Duk Kim, attempt to broaden and visualize that dynamic and private world by sharing personal moments between themselves and their lovers. In sleep, in the midst of a fight, or in times of play, these artists use the camera to explore the boundaries and boundlessness of their private connections.

Working within the long tradition of the artist and muse, Todd Jordan’s sensitive and observant portraits of Myriam shadow the footsteps of iconic greats and the work Alfred Stieglitz made of Georgia O’Keefe, Harry Callahan of Eleanor, Emmet Gowin of Edith, and Nicholas Nixon of Bebe. With candor, trust, and curiosity, Jordan’s pictures study someone with whom he is very close, and the resulting images reveal a generous spirit and physically and emotionally open connection. Todd’s images showing Myriam both in everyday settings of serious contemplation and playful intimacy, express a desire to understand a whole person rather than single parts we may choose to love. While the photographs present Jordan’s own view, Myriam’s willingness to reveal herself is equally essential. In exposing each other through this collaborative visual exploration, they deepen that which already lives between them.

Elinor Carucci also finds subject matter in her own life, but looks not at the romance of close partnership, but rather the reality of the struggles we can experience. Created during a time of crisis within their marriage, her diaristic narratives are drawn with deep reds and blues. Picturing fragments of their most intimate and vulnerable daily exchanges – naked taking a bath, tending toenails, sitting together exposed but separated by a gulf of space… we see the couple often just out of reach from one another, a tension or fear palpitates between their bodies. With titles like Guilt, Will it Feel the Same, Love in Spite, and Cherries I Ate by Myself, the work becomes both a visual and conceptual metaphor for the opposing challenges couples may face in seeking both autonomy and fulfilling connection. In taking a step back to photograph their lives, Carucci finds the space to observe and better understand the emotional terrain between the lovers. In turn bringing them closer to reconnecting.

There are also the many elusive personal places that exist between two confidantes – places behind closed doors that remain invisible and untouchable to those outside the circle. Kyung Duk Kim’s delicate photographs of herself and her husband reflected in the fleeting light of a lamp above their bed suggest a visual metaphor for intimacy itself. The fragility, vulnerability, and transcendent nature of those connections as well as the boundaries of public versus private are brought to light, quite literally in Kyung’s circular portraits. Within our everyday lives, where we rest our head, lie the complex and often inaccessible emotional bonds that unite two lovers. No one outside that circle, in Kyung’s case, metaphorically that light, can fully see nor understand the inner workings within the marriage. As the frame expands beyond the two, that which is shared between husband and wife becomes abstract, unreadable, and fades.

Similar to Todd, Elinor, and Kyung, Johnny Miller‘s homage to his parent’s love in his installation of found love letters written while his father was serving in Vietnam, transport us into the private correspondence between two sweethearts separated during wartime. The letters reveal the two sides within any intimate relationship – the desperately passionate love but also the banal and routine concerns of daily living. From dentist visits and money concerns to wildly romantic confessions of undying love, the letters are both humbly authentic and innocently dedicated to the idea of all consuming earth shattering love itself. While this couple has since parted ways, (making these letters perhaps more bittersweet), their sincere dedication and heartfelt vows of love for one another stands like a beacon of hope, trusting the power of love to sustain and carry us through dark hours.

Also examining ways in which love is expressed, Bharti Parmar’s cyanotype images of 19th century amatory lockets reveal a micro drama of symbols and reflect on cultural objects of the past about human expressions of love. Evoking secrecy, seduction, and echoing the closed doors of lovers that Kyung’s work reveals, Parmar’s images carry metaphorical titles that speak to romantic hopes that lovers will always remember us, cherish us, and be faithful for ever more. Grounded in historic rituals connecting enamored couples as they professed love or traveled apart, the work suggests that emotional communication can often be best expressed through symbol and action rather than words.

Finally calling into question our cultural and social assumptions about sexuality, gender, and identity, both Karen Brett and Kelli Connell create an alternative and often overlooked interpretation of intimacy.

Karen Brett’s tightly framed and tactile color prints from the series, The Myth of Sexual Loss, explore the ageing sexual body with integrity, sensuality, and sensitivity. They challenge ideology surrounding sexuality and the fear of the ageing body that exists within our society, allowing us to reconsider our own assumptions about personal intimacy and sexuality. These images contradict narrow ideas about the objectified sexual body. They are authentic, without inhibition, and celebrate the fired spark of physical sexual intimacy.

Kelli Connell’s digitally constructed images featuring a couple in which both models are the same person, question social constructs and the identity of self in relationships. Often re-enactments based upon her own experiences, Connell’s rich and familiar scenes of shared days of rest, tense quarrels, and heated afternoons of foreplay and lovemaking, allow one to consider one’s relationship with the self – perhaps one of the most profound if not constant relationships we are in, as well as the dual roles we play within an intimate relationship with another. Masculine and feminine, and interior and exterior roles shift. One may also question where the single self presides and where we dissolve into the identity of the couple. The interpretations of this work can be as diverse as the viewers who will see it.

What does it feel like to share your most personal, exposed, or private moments? How does it make you more vulnerable, open, or connected? What would it look like? In kissing and telling the diverse creative visions presented in this exhibit allow us to think upon our own affections and heartstrings with greater meaning, deeper expression, and compassionate understanding.

– Kate Menconeri, 2007

This exhibit was made possible in part with support from Holiday Inn of Kingston, Lucky Chocolates, Catskill Mountain Coffee, Chocolate Cheers, Woodstock Wines & Liquors, Polaroid, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the New York State Council for the Arts, a state agency.
Karen Brett

"Kiss and Tell", curated by Kate Menconeri, January 20 - March 18, 2007Karen Brett

"Kiss and Tell", curated by Kate Menconeri, January 20 - March 18, 2007Elinor Carucci

"Kiss and Tell", curated by Kate Menconeri, January 20 - March 18, 2007Kelli Connell

"Kiss and Tell", curated by Kate Menconeri, January 20 - March 18, 2007Todd Jordan

"Kiss and Tell", curated by Kate Menconeri, January 20 - March 18, 2007Kyung Duk Kim

"Kiss and Tell", curated by Kate Menconeri, January 20 - March 18, 2007Sara Macel

"Kiss and Tell", curated by Kate Menconeri, January 20 - March 18, 2007Johnny Miller

"Kiss and Tell", curated by Kate Menconeri, January 20 - March 18, 2007Bharti Parmar