Tony Whitfield: (Self) Portraits: Two Meditations on the Queer Body at LGBT Center Paris-ÎdF

Tony Whitfield, Associate Professor of Art and Design Studies at Parsons ADHT, recently exhibited his work at the LGBT Center Paris-ÎdF in a show titled, Tony Whitfield: (Self) Portraits: Two Meditations on the Queer Body.

For Whitfield, all portraiture is collaboration and, ultimately, self-portraiture. Beginning with the nude, he presents works from two ongoing series that explore two critical understandings of himself as a mature, multi-dimensional queer being.

The first focuses on race and desire, delving into his experience as a queer black American whose sexual relations are frequently interracial. In these works, Whitfield employs historically complex conventions of whiteface and blackface masking as means of exposing essential understandings of race and desire in an intimate encounter. For these photos each of his subjects were asked to be collaborators, applying masking color to their faces and genitals and then inhabiting their understanding of that color for a photo-session with Whitfield and his iPhone 6S.

In the second series, Whitfield worked with a group of participants at the Stretch Festival held in Village Berlin in the summer of 2016. As an activity integrated into a series of workshops exploring the experience of physicality, spirituality, eros and masculinity for cisgender and trans men, each photo-session became a reflection of the subject and the photographer’s commitment to a deeper understanding of the role of intimacy and vulnerability in queer communities. For Whitfield these work are also manifestations of his ongoing investigation of the notion of the body as our primary queer home. Each of these sessions was a low-tech encounter, shot on an iPhone 6S.
In association with the exhibition, Whitfield led Toward a Queer Home Manifesto, a workshop that explores the notion of “the queer home.” The workshop focused on Paris as a chosen home for queer people and invited participants to think about what home has been to them and what it could be based on their experiences, current realities and desires. Participants included new transplants, ex-patriots, refugees, and others who recently chose Paris as their new home.

Born in Philadelphia, Whitfield has been dividing his time between Paris and New York for the last four years. His practice engages his vision and skills as an artist, designer, researcher, project director and administrator in Whitfield CoLabs to create works and contexts that present and interpret aspects of urban experience to illuminate social change, particularly in the lives of underrepresented populations. Through collaborations with artists, designers, technologists and organizations, Whitfield CoLabs’s works are conceived, developed and presented in goal-oriented, and sometimes multiple, environments. Employing transmedia storytelling strategies, audiences for and participants in Whitfield CoLabs’ works range from the art world to general populations in public spaces to workshop members to product consumers to participants in social media.

Currently, Whitfield is developing This Dancerie a cycle of works exploring Paris as the site of a queer century lived in public in a multi-event, multi-site, multi-media project that explores the ways in which gay men have created public expressions of desire despite prohibitions against the manifestation of those aspects of their live.

Tony Whitfield’s has shown internationally in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums including the New York’s Museum of Art and Design, Leslie Lohman Museum of Lesbian and Gay Art, and the Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano in Lima, Peru. Whitfield has also written about art, new media, film, performance and design and been Director of Printed Matter, Inc., Associate Director of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Senior Policy Analyst for Cultural Affairs for the Manhattan Borough President. An Associate Professor of Art and Design Practice he has also served as Associate Dean for Civic Engagement at Parsons School of Design.

This exhibition was made possible in part by a grant from The New School/Parsons School of Design.

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