Friday, March 11, 2011

Young Forever- Ryan McGinley

I'm hiding out in Ryan McGinley's crazed photographs right now. The people and places in the pictures are part of this frenzied, naked world where right and wrong don't exist and every day is warm and open and love is free. When I'm 85 and try to remember what it was like to be young, this is what I'll think of. The pictures are hazy, and full of half-truths, but they're part of a never-ending summer we all want to believe was ours at some point.

His latest series is titled, appropriately, "Somewhere Place." One of my favorite shots is a boy and a girl (man and a woman? yes and no.) looking up into an endless yellow sky, searching for spaceships or superheroes or butterflies or rainclouds. The sky is an eggshell about to crack and pour honey into upturned mouths, eager and innocent like birds in a nest, waiting for Mother. They're all elbows and spines and peach-colored skin that somehow matches the upstairs dome they're praying to. They're Adam and Eve in a godless world where the garden has no gates. Fruit is for eating, bodies were made to go bare. The light is golden, and never goes out.

McGinley does a lot of portraits as well, but I like his summerland pictures better. The people in his portraits are all too beautiful, or rather nobody is un-beautiful. Their expressions aren't perfect, and sometimes they're caught off-guard, but they've got egos. I feel like McGinley could have gotten all of his subjects from the model roster of an Urban Outfitters catalogue. Which is fine. But the pictures I like are the ones where beauty is only incidental, because the moment is about to pass, and it's absolutely essential that we remember the sound of the crickets and the feeling of mud between our toes.

I love the nakedness in his pictures. These bodies are grown, but somehow they're living in the memory of what it was like to be three years old, barely-formed, running around all starkers and not thinking twice about it. When his "naked, feral kids" suddenly put on clothing, the strange sense of the world he photographs falls apart, and all you can do is puzzle about where cotton and seams and made-up colors came from.

Clock-faces and cities and responsibility and closed doors seep back into your brain like salt water, staining everything crusty-white.

These pictures make me want an adventure.....

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