“This is the first gender-variant generation in history to be supported,” says Lindsay Morris, a Sag Harbor photographer whose “You Are You” exhibit opens Saturday at the Parrish Art Museum as part of its “Perspectives” series.
“I don’t think the public was ready for this show until just recently.”
Morris’ photographs, published in a book of the same title and seen in galleries from Europe to California, depict 5- to 12-year-old boys presenting themselves as girls.
“We had to go through the gay marriage and transgender issues,” Morris says, citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Caitlyn Jenner identifying herself as a woman. “What I’d like to happen is to change how the public feels about these kids.”
Morris’ project began in 2007 when she became involved with a weekend summer camp for gender-nonconforming children, their parents and siblings. The camp was organized by parents facing opposition to their sons’ presenting themselves as feminine in school. “I was introduced through a loved one,” says Morris, 49. “It’s important for me that people know it’s a personal project.”
Participants sign releases allowing Morris to exhibit and publish the photos. No names or family details are disclosed. Camps have been held at locations in New England, the Midwest and Washington, D.C. The photographs are mostly of boys. “People don’t give a second thought to girls who are tomboys,” Morris explains. But there are shots — a boy in a dress gathering flowers with other girls, for instance — that include sisters of gender-nonconforming boys. We also see a preteen boy with close-cropped hair in a strapless gown, another in a defiant stance, wearing a shoulder-baring sundress.
There are 32 images in the Parrish show. “I like the way the larger images confront the viewer,” Morris says. “They’re very impactful — literally larger than life. These kids are our teachers.”
The “Perspectives” project was launched last year by museum director Terrie Sultan as “a way for us to be more spontaneous,” she says, noting that it takes years to plan major exhibitions. There was some urgency to “Brian Gaman: Vanishing Point.” Gaman, who lived in Melville, died in 2014 at 65. “Brian was an enigmatic artist,” Sultan says, “very quiet in his minimalist style, but he produced incredible work. We felt that attention must be paid,” she says, borrowing a line from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”
In “Vanishing Point,” Gaman’s large-scale works on paper suggests a physical form that appears to evaporate into the mist. “These are monumental pieces,” Sultan says, “both quiet and powerful, immersed in a fog where reality almost disappears.”
‘SELF AS . . .’
In Connie Fox’s “Perspectives” show, the East Hampton artist carries out her novel idea for creating self-portraits. Describing herself as a “full-service artist for over 60 years,” Fox, 90, positioned herself at a drawing table with a mirror in front of her and art-book images to one side. Max Beckmann, a 20th-century German Expressionist, painted self-portraits throughout his life. “Beckmann felt that art was a quest for self-identity,” says Alicia Longwell, who curated “Self As . . .” Aside from the 13 Beckmann images Fox drew from, she made 10 drawings from eight photographs of French writer Colette, who won the 1948 Nobel Prize for literature. From these sources, Fox created 23 drawings, “both as an homage to the truthfulness of the German painter,” says Longwell, “and in her own quest for self-understanding. . . . I think it is this selfsame recognition that Connie brought out in her works based on the great French writer’s persona.”
WHAT “Parrish Perspectives” series, “Lindsay Morris: You Are You,” “Brian Gaman: Vanishing Point,” “Connie Fox: Self As . . .”
WHEN | WHERE Opens Saturday. Through April 24, Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill. Museum hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Mondays, until 8 p.m. Fridays
ADMISSION $10; seniors $8, students free; 631-283-2118, parrishart.org