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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy photo "Jerkbait" (2019) "Growing up, I fantasized about being assimilated into The Borg Collective from 'Star Trek.' Life as a cyborg drone was an appealing alternative to the oppressive labels of male or female," photographer Robert P Gordon muses. "The ['Jerkbait' series] honors the spirit of this childhood fantasy; by emulating artificial fishing lures, I am seeking to reject the binary as the framework for these sort of aesthetic examinations. In doing so, I think the work enters this uncomfortable space where we can start to complicate our understandings of gender and sexuality."

The new exhibition at Fenix Fayetteville explores gender, ambiguity and the relationship between feminine and masculine expression in the gallery's first two-person show. "Unbalancing / Jerkbait: Paired Exhibitions from Pat Hennon and Robert P Gordon" unites queer artists Hennon and Gordon with the aim of expanding the conversation surrounding gender and the queer perspective.

Hennon's large-scale oil paintings in her "Unbalancing" series empower the artist to find balance through confronting the internal dynamics of opposing gendered forces. Gordon's "Jerkbait" series sees the artist challenging established binaries through self-portrait photographs in an endeavor to come to terms with his own pursuit of authenticity -- and to share those discoveries with others.

FAQ

‘Unbalancing / Jerkbait: Paired Exhibitions from Pat Hennon and Robert P Gordon’

WHEN — On display through Oct. 31; Artist Talk at 6 p.m. Oct. 11

WHERE — Fenix Fayetteville, 16 W. Center St. in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — 200-7181, facebook.com/fenixfayettevilleart

Here, both artists answer a few questions for What's Up! ahead of their Artist Talk on Oct. 11.

Q. What can you tell me about your works included in the exhibition?

Gordon: The pieces in this exhibition are mainly color self-portrait photographs in custom-cut frames. In them, I have ornamented myself with fishing lures, artificial eyes, body paint and fish fillets. There are also appropriated images and sculptural elements emphasizing the focus on the body and reinforcing sexual undertones.

Hennon: This painting series focuses on the internal dynamics of feminine and masculine energies. These opposite forces create action. I try to paint action. I can only get to know myself by entering into my personal story. Finding my original artwork depends upon my progress in acknowledging my authenticity. To get there, I must be aware of the conversations between F/M within my personal story.

Q. What is the significance of your series' title?

Gordon: A jerkbait is a fishing lure that's meant to look like a minnow that you move through the water by quickly jerking the rod. I chose that name because of its relationship to the fishing, but also the similarity to the sort of childhood insults like jerk, jerk-off and queerbait*. The hard "k" and "t" suit the aggressive nature of the images, and I wanted to acknowledge the power of language but also reclaim these words for myself.

*The latter has evolved into a term referring to the practice of trying to have it both ways: Attracting a queer audience in fiction and entertainment by subtly suggesting queer content while never explicitly describing it so as not to upset anyone. In my life, it was used like gay or fag as an insult.

Hennon: By striving for my personal best and being willing to risk showing artistic images publicly that represent those risks, for me, creates vulnerability. This scares me. I call it unbalancing the feminine within. I call it empowerment for all.

Q. How do you hope having your work presented in the context of being paired with your peer's work will impact the viewer's connection with the exhibition's themes?

Gordon: I think that our work is authentic and powerful, but the issues that we are dealing with are hard to access for a lot of people. By offering two perspectives, we are hoping that the viewer has more chances to find an entry point and make a meaningful connection to the work.

Hennon: Rob and I see that our personal experiences are a part of our creative processes. That shows up in my work with the female figure. I'm not wanting to objectify her, but rather show her as an empowered androgynous human being. In Rob's and my presentation of F/M themes, I think the viewer will be able to see the connections between passion and vulnerability. There's a playfulness in our work.

Q. Why are your pieces and the exhibition an important addition to the conversation surrounding gender and creativity?

Gordon: In short, I believe we need to complicate the conversations around gender and sexuality. Within contemporary photography, the queer experience or body are predominantly described in relation to existing assumptions about gender. For example, a male is queered only by a feminine act or accessory. I believe that this sort of feminization (or masculinization) only serves to reinforce the binaries of straight-gay or male-female. Genderqueer is then only that which is not male and not female -- the space is only defined by what it is not, and not what it is. How, then, are we expected to navigate a space that is so loosely defined? I think this uncertainty is felt deeply, certainly by Pat and I, but by innumerable people.

As an artist I am seeking to define this space for myself, and share what I have learned with others.

Hennon: I think this exhibition's greatest offering is that it visually demonstrates personal power within suffering. The important thing about suffering, I learned, is how to hold what hurts without becoming a victim and then share what I hold creatively. Our society hurts individuals with different gender choices or ambiguities.

Q. Can you offer an idea of what you will discuss at the Artist Talk on Oct. 11?

Gordon: I will be discussing the development of the work and talking briefly about representation, and contextualizing the work within contemporary photography.

Hennon: I will talk about how the internal feminine and masculine dynamics are necessary for attempts to find balance. Balance seems like an illusion to me for, if ever attained, all action would stop. Historically there has been an imbalance between these two forces. My talk makes a point to say to the feminine aspect within, "Go ahead, be unbalancing." Let our feminine self be vulnerable but well contained internally. Men and women can share this value equally, no longer having to be warriors or Amazons all of the time. Creatively, I can become more fully human. I can cry, be scared and work hard to be my imagined best at the same time.

Courtesy photo "Unbalancing" (2019) "My desired result is to take more risks in painting," artist Pat Hennon says. "I am an emotional artist who wants to depict strong feelings in my work. I want to feel empowered."

NAN What's Up on 10/06/2019

Print Headline: Five Minutes, Five Questions Artists Pat Hennon and Robert P Gordon

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