The Sailorman Suite explores the ways in which repetitive bodily action and doubling participates in the materialization of one’s identity. In Self Portrait as a Man in a Sailor Costume, the character is playing with, or rather, ‘trying on’ the manufactured codes of masculinity. The Unit (One Second Man) is made up of 24 free-standing glass cells, made to resemble the cells of an animated film, where bodies and characters are built and defined by their sequential forms. In The Sailorman Suite (Let Us Now Praise Sailormen), faces of identical sailor portraits are marked by repetitive scenes of cartoon violence and cyborgs limbs. The glass bodies in Formation are inscribed by spinach as repeated, muculent stand-ins for a transcendental steroid and for the male body itself. In Strong to the Finish (La Petite Mort)aluminum cans, cloth arm prosthetics and plastic model battleships hang as sad theatre props to what one could describe as an unconvincing performance.
The image of Popeye is a prominent motif inThe Sailorman Suite, most notably his hugely disproportionate and tattooed forearms. It is through this character’s image that I have begun to investigate issues concerning the male body and masculinity. In a way, Popeye, as a sailor, as a hero, and as a dedicated outsider, is an ideal host body upon which this investigation can be inscribed.
The exhibition has a light-hearted spirit, a backbone of humour and laughter, yet there is an underlying tension of bodies here, a disconcerting movement between a comic pleasure and a desire to belong. Displayed in various artistic mediums (photography, sculpture, drawing, printmaking) are the bodies of distraught sailors, cartoon apparitions, and flaccid, tattooed actors. These bodies all face the simultaneous (and contradictory) transgressive possibilities of their un-fixed forms as well as the desire for a kind of bodily and societal completion.