HAMTRAMCK Mich. — Many women will happily tell you — if only you looked them in the eye instead of the chest — there is something deeply alienating about being reduced to one’s body parts. It’s an experience that is becoming increasingly relatable across gender lines; as women and gay men grow in visibility and purchase power as a consumer base, men become objects as well, their sex appeal leveraged in the media and advertising. Perhaps the most dramatic microcosm of this phenomenon is the world of m4m dating, where the female, as subject or object, is entirely absent. Artist Kasper Ray O’Brien grapples with the experience of the Grindr scene in a solo show, Show Me Love at Hatch Art — a body of work in the most literal sense, as most of the pieces are dismembered body parts modeled off of himself.
These plaster casts, created through a preliminary and highly masochistic process of silicon body molding without the benefit of Vaseline, are integrated with a series of generic domestic objects (IKEA bathroom bench, body pillow, shower bar), as well as apparel items that are signifiers within gay culture (Calvin Klein thong, leather moto jacket, black unitard, Timberland boots), and bits of glam, like embedded glitter, a bisected disco ball, and clusters of natural crystals that seem to grow from a neck or chest concavity.
Despite a busy assortment of materials, O’Brien’s individual works are restrained and sparse. The body parts stand alone, suggesting narratives, implying action … the very elements used to elicit right-swipes on Grindr. O’Brien characterizes this work as not only an exploration of the male-on-male gaze, but the self-on-self gaze — which stands to reason, since the work is literally based off his own body — but is also quick to emphasize that he sees the work as a universal statement arrived at by personal means.