Sharon Amestoy Sharon Amestoy

Skin! The Human Fabric
Various Artists
Blackfish Gallery,
420 NW 9th Ave, 224-2634
Through Oct 29

Curves. Mounds. Soft flesh. Ripples. Veins. Hard muscle. Viewing aspects of the human form can cause a frenzy of supreme sensuality and raw sexuality. It is from this precipice that Skin! The Human Fabric offers an indulgence of photographed male and female bodies, ranging between the svelte, the tattooed, the young, the old, the sagging, and the extremely obese.

A mixed bag of photographers have been corralled to display their versions of the nude--a visual escapade running close to the source. The catalogue of bare bodies renders the exhibition immediately attractive. There are some exquisite prints that would make the grandfathers of modern photography, Man Ray and Edward Weston, shiver in their boots. Rod Cartasegna's "Wet Torso/ Female" is a selenium-toned beaute capturing a cropped image of a female torso. The figure fills the frame in a landscape of curvaceous peeks and shadowed valleys. Water droplets form on the bare skin and glisten like chiseled gems. Without a doubt, Cartasegna's technical and formal aptitude creates dead-on, gorgeous imagery.

Yet his work, as well as a bulk of the other prints only hover in the domain of quality products of the darkroom. After the climax of great printing and scintillating subject matter wanes, what is the viewer left with? After the 30th photograph of a lovely body, it all becomes a bit boorish and the viewer realizes they have fallen prey to another easy hook. Thankfully there are a few images in the show that create thought-provoking, lasting impressions, and go beyond the scope of the model and overriding theme.

Underneath a horrible presentation device of black curtains lie scenes of horror and wonder captured by Dean Kotula. Kotula's small series of images are derived from the operating room, where unknown individuals undergo sexual reassignment surgery. "Liposuctioning of Breast Tissue" is an uncomfortable glimpse of a long metal rod piercing the patient's skin and moving stealthily underneath the skin to the breast area. "Radial Forearm Phalloplasty" captures four surgeons as they busily remove skin, nerves, and veins from the patient's forearm, then construct and attach a penis. The images are direct, personal, and shocking. Kotula, who is a transsexual himself, has bravely unveiled intimate portraits of persons attempting to reconcile their identities. He not only champions their struggle and his own with this work, he also provokes the viewer to consider the societal morays enclosing the issues of gender identity.