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Maison de la Culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal, Montréal, Québec

Nature Lover

Nature Lover, Katherine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects, Toronto, Ontario

Recent research that challenges theoretical paradigms like evolutionary theory, is providing evidence that animal sexuality is not always attached to heterosexual reproductive strategies. Homosexual behaviours are part of the range of sexual activities participated in by many species, sometimes simply for the purpose of pleasure. This becomes especially significant when we consider how references to a 'natural' inevitability or biological determinism are often dubiously applied to human sexuality, serving to inform social/legal/religious systems with rhetorical justification and legitimation.

Utilizing source imagery from textbooks and encyclopaedias comes from a desire to expose these representations for what they are: the familiar and taken-for-granted reproductions of what gets constituted as 'natural' and 'normal'. These photos are often 'posed' in order to best elucidate their educational or descriptive intent. Done for the sake of expediency, posing can also reveal views about proper conduct in photos of people, and notions of the 'natural' and the 'ideal' in images of nature. Posing also serves to illuminate Hollywood definitions of attraction and romance, as well as the constrictions of specific moral codes. Reproducing these images as paintings effectively imitates how their repetition and legitimization function in the everyday, by serving to transform them to the level of the symbolic. At the same time, painting lets me get in close enough to find what the subject photographed has left behind of itself, in spite of the pose.

This work utilizes posed images from three areas related to the cultural construction of sexuality; documentation of the natural world, lesbian and gay pornography, and romantic liaisons from old film stills. Recognizing desire as shaped by both cultural and natural forces, these paintings play with personal preferences and subvert social labeling by reflecting on our animal natures...

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