Galleries

A Garden of Gay Male Desire (NSFW)

by Philip A Hartigan on January 2, 2013

Dutes Miller, "Low Hanging Fruit" (2012), silicon, string, glitter, hardware, 140 x 5 x 5 inches (click to enlarge) (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Dutes Miller, “Low Hanging Fruit” (2012), silicon, string, glitter, hardware, 140 x 5 x 5 inches (click to enlarge) (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

CHICAGO — Dutes Miller’s show at Western Exhibitions, one of Chicago’s premier avant-garde galleries, is called In the Garden. The main theme of the collages, paintings, and sculptures is an exploration of the male body as it manifests itself in gay desire, in its evident state of arousal, its protuberances, its emissions. The title conjures up ideas about the garden as an idyllic scene of repose, like the Garden of Eden; Miller’s garden, though, is definitely slanted towards the snake rather than the apple.

Two walls are hung with framed photos pulled from gay porn magazines, showing men of various bodily types, dimensions, and fetish preferences either in repose or engaged in vigorous workouts. Each photo is painted or drawn over to some degree, so that a dick seems to sprout long, cactus-like leaves, or a face is partially erased, or a whole body painted out. In a conversation, Miller told me that he wanted to draw attention to the way the body is presented in queer culture: the way that it is both completely laid bare and yet invisible to wider society. For example, full female nudity is fairly normal in art and popular media, yet an erect penis is absolutely forbidden on TV and in most films. His over-painting therefore works both to focus attention on certain areas of the body and to mask it, making it anonymous and metaphorical.

Dutes Miller

Dutes Miller’s paintings on magazine pages

Miller’s work is frank and confrontational, yet also strangely innocent, hovering constantly on an edge between disgust and lyricism. There is also a lot of humor in it, notably in the condom sculptures suspended from the ceiling, bulging with silicon and decorated with glitter, simultaneously obscene and compelling. And at the center of Miller’s garden is a lingam, one of the symbols of the Hindu deity Shiva, which in this artist’s version is a fountain, forever overflowing with a milky substance that turns out to be white chocolate, but which is a comic-reverential nod to the phallus as eternal symbol of procreation and fertility.

The artist with his TK

The artist with his “Lingam with Violet Outcropping” (2012), white chocolate fountain, custom pedestal, dyed cast wax, 50 x 15 x 15 inches

Dutes Miller: In the Garden runs at Western Exhibitions (835 W. Washington Boulevard, Chicago) through January 26.

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