Joel-Peter Witkin

Drawing from historical themes in art, literature, religion, and photography, Joel-Peter Witkin constructs fantasies around fragments of contemporary life – creating elaborate stages, sometimes working on drawings, props and sets for weeks before bringing his subjects into the controlled, and often highly choreographed environments. Witkin’s subjects are from the dark side of the real world. Freaks, transsexuals, dwarfs, fetuses, cadavers and lavatory animals form the basis for Witkin’s work over the past two years – a period that has been extraordinarily productive for him. More complex and more embellished, his recent imagery also has more of a direct connection with circumstance than his earlier work. Scratching and drawing on the negatives, Witkin then prints through a tissue and selectively tones and bleaches the final prints producing elegant and seductive images of frightening subjects. This veiling of the image and layering of historical ideas, lures the viewer into the picture, only to be abruptly drawn back into the reality of the present. Witkin’s work raises questions and comments upon many issues of contemporary culture, while at the same time challenges our ideas about the nature of the medium of photography itself. These images will be exhibited along with recent 30” x 40” prints, sketches and drawings upon which the photographs are based. Several of the images were made during a residency in San Francisco this past winter.

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