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Art Exhibitions

Us, We & Them
New Work by Keena Gonzalez

 

Art Exhibition 

   

“Us, We & Them” is a photographic exhibition that confronts the darker side of life’s experience. Drug addiction, psychosis, a man in drag; the images dance between performance and documentation and illustrate Johnny’s story which spans the course of over 25 years.

Opening Reception
Friday, April 1st
6-8pm 

 

Artist Statement

It was a typical Southern California sun shiny day and there was nothing seemingly extraordinary about my afternoon. This boy, looking a bit like Boy George, came up to my register at the record store attempting to buy a book about Boy George. He handed me the item and try as I might I couldn’t find a price tag. I haughtily thought to myself “well if the book buyer didn’t tag the book too bad for them” so I sold it at the cheaper Canadian MSRP. Looking back all these years later we laugh when we recall our first exchange and in hindsight we now realize the significance of that moment.

A few weeks post the encounter that same made up face turned up as a new employee. His name? Johnny. A few weeks after that I was photographing him in a nearby park and over 25 years later we’re still collaborating. During the course of our friendship Johnny has dealt with bullying, drug addition, psychosis, HIV infection, a co-dependent relationship with this mother (who shares in the addiction affliction) and a willingness to document it all.

Our collaboration started with us creating staged performative images based on his experiences as a teenage sex worker who solicited himself on Hollywood Boulevard while dressed in drag. On days he didn’t feel like being photographed he dressed me up and photographed me. We enjoyed the fact that it was difficult to tell us apart especially when people confused me for him in the photographs.

As time progressed and after I’d left L.A. for NYC the images became more documentary. When I would travel home during the holidays we would attempt to meet. Sometimes successfully - other times not. As such, you’ll notice through this body of work the passage of time, the struggle, the love and the survival.

 

Bio

Keena Gonzalez, who was born and raised just outside of Hollywood, moved to New York City in 2000 to pursue her work as a photographer. In 2008 she earned her BFA from the School of Visual Arts where she graduated with honors and twice received the Special Photography Award Scholarship. During her tenure at SVA Keena was mentored by Anohni (formerly referred to as Antony Hegarty who is part of the experimental musical group Antony and the Johnsons) and in 2007 she worked as a part time assistant in the studio of renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.

More recently Keena’s become involved with the artist collective known as Openings where, for four years, she served on the governing body. During this time she acted as co-curator of the Openings' sponsored nondenominational group exhibitions held inside the historic church of St Paul The Apostle - one of the oldest living churches in Manhattan. 

In addition to curating, and being three times awarded a scholarship to attend the Lake George artist residency, she has continued to have her photographs shown in and around New York City.

keenagonzalez.com
@ifoundkeena

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