The stink of sex

Panhwa Art Studio presents:
“Room Service”
A FLAT presentation by Felicity Hogan featuring the digital C prints of Laura Carton

This is not your grandparents’ art. Nor will you find it displayed behind your guidance counselor’s desk, or mounted on the wall of the local dentist. And with titles like “www.youngandtight.com” and “www.sizeking.com,” one might be inclined to hope (even pray) that Grandma would not possess such a work.

At first glance, Laura Carton’s image details – digital photographs drawn from Internet images – seem to be composed of simple interior and exterior spaces, often accompanied by some sort of arbitrary prop (such as a lone golf ball or discarded hat). However, a step closer reveals a feature or two inside of the space that may be slightly out of the ordinary: an oddly weighted hammock (aptly titled “www.heavyhangers.

com”) attached to two palm trees on a pristine beach, or a slight, suggestive reflection confined to the space of a small bathroom television in the bottom left of another print.

It is the titles that reveal the true nature of Laura Carton’s digital photos, as her work delves into the anomalous world of pornography and its coupling with the Internet. Thus, names such as “www.roughrider.com,” as leather-blanketed horse, and those mentioned above are not out of the ordinary in a gallery displaying her works. Sifting through porn sites online, the artist downloads images and then proceeds to remove any form that suggests a sexual act has taken place within the space via digital manipulation.

But really, how hard is it to go into a digital program and systematically remove the prime focus of a shot? Well, the process is actually somewhat of an art. To do each print requires getting inside the image at hand and matching colors, textures and light. In short, it is like creating a photorealist painting, a skill similar to those held by “in painters” (who restore missing chunks of old masters for museums and private collectors).

Through this obsession-like gesture of erasure, Carton is in the trade of manufacturing her uncanny domestic interiors – neatened parlors, shag rugged boudoirs, hotel interiors. What is left for your viewing pleasure is an anonymous location with maybe a hint or two that the sexual act took place in the said frame at that particular time, and the piece is named after the lewd act that may or may not have taken place there.

Ansel Adams they are not. These ‘anti-portraits’ bring the short-lived nature of sexuality to the front position and produce haunting compositions where once-present participants become ghosts. Carton’s digital erasures address sexuality, essentialism, class and even gender, to a certain extent. These clich?d scenes may invite viewers to insert their own version of what may have played out – illicit or not – in each photograph, but there is only so much that can be learned from an endless succession of empty motel rooms and chance locations.

Do the portraits take viewers’ breath away with their sublime impact? Not particularly. It is the idea of these newly constructed narratives, along with the chance to critique underlying assumptions, that is the real eye-catcher; and it is Laura Carton’s “out there” concept that ensnares viewers. Is her work art? Sure it is. Can it be considered good art? Why not? Is there a base, a grander idea to project her visions off of? Absolutely. We should just be mad that as viewers that we didn’t think of it first.

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