Hot Stuff

Gallery Eleven Hot Stuff opening Wed., July 11 

Press release

The ever-resplendent Ellen Carey sets the mood this summer with Hot Stuff, a show featuring works from local area artists whom she regards as red hot. Carey curates works that range conceptually and stylistically from documentation to abstraction, painting to film, and domestic to erotic. The Hot Stuff artists share little in common except for location, verve, and brio. Thus, the spunky upstart West End space, Gallery Eleven, is a fitting venue for such an eclectic selection of artists. Gallery Eleven's exhibition program is known for its improvisational attitude and for their emphasis on the local creative community.

Middletown-based photographer Ben Lifson's new series "The Rage Of Caliban In Which Are Depicted Scenes from the Global Virtual Vernacular Theater of Eroticism and Sex" documents the world of live webcam sex shows produced from private homes around the globe and viewed publicly on the Internet. This group of color digital photographs presents brashly erotic subject matter that delicately and poetically addresses human desire, beauty, and truth. Lifson states: "My pictures' characters have absorbed this public erotic imagery created by professionals and try to re-create it in their homes. We see their sincere efforts to embody and enact this imagery. Yet in the difference between what they imagine and what they actually perform we see at once their longings for transcendence and their limited but sweet humanity." Lifson explores these unmistakably contemporary contradictions with his signature literary sensibility, referring to Shakespeare's savage Caliban ("The Tempest") as a metaphorical figure for all of the players in this global Internet phenomenon. Lifson has held two National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants and one Guggenheim Fellowship in photography. His prints are in the collection of the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY and of the Minneapolis Art Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Hartford-based artist Sam McKinniss' paintings of his friends and love interests are meant to inspire lust, desire, and heartbreak. McKinniss writes, "For the same reasons why sad songs are the best pop songs, unrequited love is the best love because it incites the most intensely felt emotion. A portrait inspires this kind of one-sided desire, the kind that hurts so badly even though you can't get enough of it." McKinniss mixes a highly refined pop sensibility with his classically trained hand to achieve the kind of facility revered throughout Western art history. His mark is recognized as containing a subtle blend of fashion, sincerity, as well as self-effacing absurdity and humor. He recently had a solo show at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford and his works are in several private collections internationally.

Filmmaker Lauren Cook will exhibit two recently completed short films in the gallery. One film, For Ilse, shows footage filmed at a high school graduation being protested by an anti-gay church group in Iowa City in 2004. Ilse Bendorf, a lesbian, was being awarded the Matthew Shepard Scholarship during that graduation ceremony. Cook's films have been shown at numerous film festivals internationally including the Cannes Film Festival, and the Black Maria Film and Video Festival, and the San Francisco Art Institute International Film Festival. She teaches film in the cinema department at the University of Hartford.

Painter Kerry St. Laurent uses the natural landscape, maps, and her personal experience to create beautifully detailed organic abstractions. There is an ephemeral spirituality present within her mixed media paintings that relates to her religious upbringing and her search to connect the past with the present landscape. "My current work deals with the connection between information and nature by focusing specifically on recent visits to national parks in the United States and Canada," says St. Laurent. "My paintings are meant to communicate the intimate yet fleeting quality of my experiences and invite the viewer to come closer." St. Laurent, a recent MFA graduate from the Hartford Art School, has shown in exhibitions at the Yosemite National Park Museum Gallery and with Paesaggio Fine Art in West Hartford.

Ethan Boisvert's abstract paintings draw their inspiration and subject matter from everyday detritus and a color palette that references a child's basic set of crayons. Boisvert views his practice as that of a poet. He collects and arranges the mundane objects around him, such as bubble wrap, box tops, and house paint into viscerally appealing abstract collages that are both painterly and sculptural. Boisvert is influenced by collage innovators of the 20th century such as Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg, and others. He has been showing locally since 2002, the same year he received a BFA from the Hartford Art School.

This is Carey's first curated show in Hartford, where she teaches photography at the Hartford Art School. Carey has curated numerous shows in New York City where she lived from 1979-1994 and titled the Femme Brut(e) group exhibition of women artists at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut. She has had over 35 solo shows, most notably Matrix #153 at the Wadsworth Atheneum in 2004, and several hundred group shows nationally and internationally.