In Trophy Wives, A nude bust of an extremely attractive woman, mounted like taxidermy, hangs from the wall. Animal horns come out of her head. Some of the busts have exaggerated breasts, checks and lips. They have expensive earrings and necklaces. Next to the bust is a photo of the rich older ‘sugar daddy’ that bagged her, poised like a big game hunter. Below them is a taxonomy label with details about both of them.
Now that 2017 is officially over, I think we can all agree that it was by far the most surreal - "What the Fuck?" - kind of year yet. Let's recap : A D-list, reality star and failed business man-child won the presidency; promising to make America great again with such eloquence as he publicly insulted his opponent by calling her a "Nasty Woman," and ripping the media apart dubbing every outlet except FOX, "Fake News" and how can we forget how he single handedly brought back the exiled saying of "Merry Christmas." As a new scandal hit the headlines at almost every second of every day, the shakedown of the patriarchy quickly started imploding. Hollywood Creep of the Year, Harvey Weinstein, last name is used as verb when describing sexual assault - I'll leave it at that. So while half of the world was either under water, on fire and unwanted penis' seemed to falling from the sky - women took these natural disasters and began (both metaphorically and literally,) global movements like #MeToo & #TimesUp beginning with an unforgettable turnout at the Women's March, which took place in almost every city around the globe. 2017 might have felt like we were living in The Upside Down and it might have given us "Grab Her by the Pussy" but it also it also gave us "This Pussy Grabs Back" along with a megaphone and a universal platform.
As you sit here and read this you're probably wondering why I'm going on a minor political rant on a site dedicated to interviewing artist's and what the hell does this have to do with our Artist in Conversation, Harry Chandler? Well, in times of disenchantment, disbelief and disgrace artists become activists and activists become artists - and there is no better way than to express what is happening in the world around us than to physically create conversational, observational art. So who better than a former film producer and Internet executive to lend his voice with a complex, multi-media, multi-layered, multi-series, De-Constructing Desire.De-Constucting Desire explores the male-female relationships and our struggle to understand the dark side of attraction and desire in a post-feminist world. Chandler references his past experiences combining sculpture, interactive installation, film, audio and photography using humor to shock, inform and provoke conversation around the shifting landscape of sexual interaction. De-Constructing Desire solo exhibition now is open to the public and will be celebrated at the official after party of the LA Art Show hosted by Renee Warren, founder and gallery director of Ren Gallery. Ren Gallery is located at 743 Santee St. Unit B in Downtown, Los Angeles.
"I was introduced to Harry Chandler through an artist I represent, Rob Grad, who brought him to an opening at REN Gallery last year. I guess you could call it serendipitous as I was already looking to bring in more work to the REN Gallery that mirrored the current climate, especially as it pertained to the #metoo/#timesup movements. As a woman working in a male dominated industry, I find it my responsibility to do my part to add to the conversation with work that has a strong voice and point of view, as challenging as the subject matter may be for some. Creating conversation is one of the primary reasons I got into curating. So when I had the opportunity to view Harry’s work for the first time, I knew it was an instant fit." - Renee Warren
REN Gallery will be featured in the LA Art Show’s (Thursday, January 11- Sunday January 14th) DesignLA area with a 20 foot circular installation showcasing LA’s top contemporary artists, each of whom painted a modern design chair titled The Kandinsky Chairs. The Kandinsky Chair is created by designer Alejandro Saavedra. Each chair has been hand-painted by downtown LA artists Clairfoster Browne, JW Pippen, Nicholas Tredway, and Louis Cannizzaro to reflect the various contemporary stylings of the downtown LA art scene.
In The Temptation of Sugar Dating (which happens to be Warren's and my personal favorite.) Chandler has re-created Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve painting, composed of collaged images from sugar dating profile photos. He has also incorporated a digital monitor feed above Adam and Eve, that continually change, offering quotes from the sugar dater’s pages.
Chandler’s work, is not only his execution, the relevant topics and his undeniable humor that touches on our culture, it's his fearlessness to make an example of Donald Trump, as sort of, the unchosen face to this long standing and on-going national problem within our society.
“From our current President to over 1 million college coeds, our society, using Internet dating sites, have exploded an age-old relationship paradigm of older, wealthy men partnering with younger, attractive females. The rise of Sugar Daddies hooking up with Sugar Babies ignites issues of economic slavery, sexual capital, and a rethinking of the feminist empowerment trends. This artwork uses actual internet photos and dating profile words from prominent sugar daddy sites superimposed on the famous Durer Adam and Eve engraving from 1504 and on embedded video screens to comment on this relationship trend.”
Chandler’s observations are not only relative; they are also serve as an expose on the underbelly of the sexual connection where the paradigms of emotional relationship have been appropriated by male entitlement, violence, and complex economic negotiations by both sexes. Using life-sized mannequins, silicone breast forms, video, and photography, he reflects on the constructs of desire untethered by an authentic romantic connection.
Chandler's take on the male-female relationship is an observational look on how both genders utilize sex as power to get what they want. As one powerful man tumbles from his pedestal due to unwanted sexual behavior there are websites being utilized by young women who want to offer themselves as objects, arm candy to wealthy men in exchange for money, travel, and tuition. Creative, manipulative, desperate, hopeful and, at times, toxic, the masculine is laid bare. The feminine is shown to be both a victim and an equal sparring partner, struggling to fully command her own body and power. In today’s post-modern feminist world (just like in life) all of us are the yin to our yang. We are own shadow and our own light in love, sex, lust, ego, desire to fill what we have been taught we need. And with that - our artist in conversation... Harry Chandler.
How much of the male counterpart is based on observation & how much are based on moments of your own experiences that you’ve caught yourself in?
For this series on attraction and desire, I consciously wanted to mine my own personal depths more than with my previous series, which were more visually oriented. So I started with my own male experiences with women. Working with attractive actresses and models led me to create Magnetic Sirens and Moth Fires. I have a friend who for years has used a sugar-dating site to find virtually all his dates. He is in in 60’s and only has dated women younger than 30. I was both fascinated and a bit repelled to learn about this economic-based dating niche. So that led me to create Temptation of Sugar Dating. I have also known some guys who have who married or dated trophy wives, and I used some of them to create the fictional hunters that I posed for in Trophy Wives.
What about the psychology behind sugar dating peaked your interest?
What peaked my recent curiosity was how this phenomena has vastly accelerated in the internet age, so that reportedly over a million American college girls are registered on the sugar daddy dating sites in order to trade their looks and bodies for remunerations from older men. It interests me how this growth seemingly goes against the economic independence gained by the so called 2nd wave of feminism revolution that begin in the 70’s. This regression from the principals of freedom and independence espoused the feminist leaders is a bit unsettling. After all the gains that women have made, it is surprising that so many still opt to sublimate their intelligence and id and independence to instead use their looks and bodies to achieve shortcuts to their life goals.
Watching my friend, the sugar daddy, and meeting some of his sugar babies, I have learned how these relationships are both refreshingly honest about their purposes and mutual obligations, and yet sad how often they are devoid of romance, courting and love. For both partners, the temptation to partake obviously draws in a lot of participants. Older men get the thrill of dating young, attractive women, who ordinarily would never give them a second look. And the women are showered with attention, gifts and sometimes cash, beyond their existing economic realities. So referencing Adam and Eve’s original temptation seemed an appropriate metaphor upon which to base this sugar dating conversation.
Why did you choose to express it in several series and using several mediums?
The eternal dance of the sexes has been portrayed in every media beginning with cave paintings. For me, in this contemporary conversation, I wanted to use media that was also itself contemporary. I also wanted to try to invent some new takes on this subject matter, so I used things like sculptures covered with magnets or imbedded with video screens, or portraits taken in extreme slow motion video.
How many sugar daddy/baby couples did you go through?
In creating my Temptation of Sugar Dating work, I went on multiple sugar daddy dating sites and sorted through several thousand individuals to find the photos and profiles that I eventually used.
What did you find the most interesting? Shocking? Sad? Funny?
In selecting the quotes, I was drawn to the actual dating profiles that seemed the most forthright, humorous or intriguing. For example, I liked women who wrote exactly what they wanted: “I'm searching for someone to take me out to fine dinners, trips to the ballet or opera, spoil me with monetary gifts and take me shopping, as I have a penchant for shoes and handbags.” Or gave some real attitude: “Don’t treat me like a hoe and I won’t treat you like a trick!!!”
And for the men, I was drawn to those quotes that were purporting to be so honest: “My interest in this lifestyle began with an overwhelming feeling of being underappreciated at home” or “I prefer to essentially buy my way out of the 'drama' that exists in normal dating.” I was also humored by how both sexes often tried to lure in their potential mates with promises of exaggerated lavishing by the men or sexual treats by the women.
Chandler selected quotes from sugar babies and daddys from both men and women and incorporated it into these works :
Select Sugar Baby quotes:
I'm looking for an allowance based arrangement where we meet 1-2 times a week. What we do is up to you!!
I miss being able to get my nails done or go out for sushi when I please.
Select Sugar Daddy quotes:
I prefer to essentially buy my way out of the 'drama' that exists in normal dating.
I will be flying you to an exclusive etiquette course in London so that you can accompany me to my many high profile functions.
I am from old money and my lineage dates back to some of the richest and most brilliant people ever to live. I love to brag and feel it is important to share this with you so you will understand what kind of relationship I am looking for.
What is your interpretation of economic slavery? Sexual capital? Postmodern feminism?
I can’t speak to postmodern feminism except to say that we live in a world where women still do not have economic, workplace, and political or social equality. Wherever there is a gross power inequity, inadequate living conditions, and/or a threat or real or implied violence where individuals are unable to live freely there is a potential for economic slavery. Obviously there are enslaved people around the world who still suffer greatly.
To a much lesser degree, in our privileged society, you could still argue that gross financial inequity between men and women causes all kinds of trouble. Women can feel cut off from power and wealth except to trade on their sexuality. Men can use wealth to circumvent traditional relationships in order to gain access to sex. And in doing so, replaces human connection with power dynamics and economic exchange.
Trophy Wives exposes that kind of mentality. Wealth is traded for beauty in a perverse and extreme way. The hunters own their “prize.” The Trophy wife, knowingly or not, has made a bargain to enhance and trade on her beauty to her own detriment.
On the flipside, the Magnetic Sirens are the hunters, attracting their prey so that they can repel them or destroy them.
What is fascinating about internet niche sites like sugar daddy dating sites is that they lay bare the economic equation: money and experience in exchange for the sexual capital of youth and beauty. In this open market trade, both parties are equally powerful or at least volitional.
The question is can the sugar relationship remain volitional? How does that bargain develop over time? Or is there always a moment of destruction?
My guess is that until women achieve true economic equality and independence, a kind of destructive dance of sexual economics will continue. For the women who date much older wealthy men, in reality they are trapped in a sort of economic slavery, where the freedoms afforded wives in normal relationships are withheld. For instance, although the trophy women are materially very well treated, they are not free and can suffer emotional if not physical abuse. In my Trophy Wife works, their husbands ultimately have chosen to shoot their wives and mount them on the wall rather than letting them escape.
The trophy wives and the sugar babies use their looks to trade for a lifestyle that they couldn’t earn otherwise, which is in effect establishes that their power comes from their sexual capital, their sexual attractiveness to the rich older men, rather than their own work skills.
There’s an existential and religions iconography used (Adam & eve) with selected quotes from the sites, why did you choose certain quotes?
See above for why I chose the quotes. In dealing with the contemporary interplay of the sexes, it is often useful to recall works from the past that helped create the iconographic portrayals of man and woman together. I choose the icons of Adam & Eve for Temptation of Sugar Dating and referenced the renaissance wedding portraits in Desert Lovers.
Not to get too political but since you reference Trump a few times in your artist statement and you work is highlighting economical reasoning for dating, do you think with the tax cuts this administration is implementing that new wave modern feminist will be forced to rethink dating for economic stability or comfort?
No one should date someone solely for economic stability or comfort. Of course, unraveling a struggling individual’s emotional life is more difficult than a self-help platitude. Ultimately, we all have to encourage financial freedom empowerment for women so they never have to sacrifice dignity or safety for stability.
What is your outlook on sex work?
Most of the modern American sex work that I have observed seems relatively harmless. Yet, below the surface, many of the female sex workers in particular, while maintaining more control over their work via the Internet than generations of male pimps allowed, have nevertheless abrogated a deeper part of their sexuality and femininity to the powerful lure of easy money. And this form of enslavement would appear to still create many casualties.
Your work is poignant, relevant throughout with an element of humor inserted to almost every piece - an ode to the absurdity if you will - can you elaborate on why you wanted to create several conversational series?
Sexual attraction is strange and absurd. Why we love, who we love, the oddities of lust and fantasy, the deeply human biological instincts around mating…all of these questions interest me.And like many things, these topics are being impacted by technology, which is creating relationship markets, new methods of communication and an abundance of sexual options.
I decided to tackle the conversations around sexual desire in this series not from some weighty or personally scarred perspective that would demand an unwavering seriousness. Rather, the interplay of the sexes fascinates me and humors me. It is so primal and complex that it has defied definite conclusions by generations of researchers and analysis. So I wanted these works to be open ended in their messages that can both bring an initial smile to their viewers, then later as one spends time with the pieces, evoke contemplation on a deeper level.
The magnet sirens have a 3 Grace’s feel except these women were more of seductress or Succubus made from various materials:
Magnetic Sirens take as their gestation the legend of the Greek Sirens, who seduced the sailors in the Odyssey. These three life-size naked female sculptures, covered in magnets, have motion-activated voices that both pull in their admirers with praises and then bitch at them, demanding more. The tiny segment of highly attractive women have, in my personal experience, been trained by the rest of our reactions to them, to use their beauty to both draw us in with their looks and charm. And like real life Succubae to also seduce us with their sexuality. Men, and other women, are often left shipwrecked by these rare creatures.
Do you think sex has lost its power?
Hardly. The power of sexual attraction between men and women, even when the women are fully empowered has not diminished. For males, at least, the desire we feel for females often defies logic, convention and restraint. It can be primal, biologic and….well magical.
Gender and relationship dynamic are on going themes in your work; why did you want to present both men and women equally in their shadow and light, culturally not only gender based?
There has been a lot of feminist art made by women artists since Judy Chicago and others launched in the 70’s and 80’s. These pieces of mine are not an answer to these works but more of parallel ripples in the pond. As a straight man, I am only able to create works that primarily represent a heterosexual male viewpoint. Yet rather than making works just about my own sexuality, I thought it more interesting to portray various versions male/female interactions. The gender politics and dialectics in my works seem more interesting when voices of both sexes are present.
What is your relationship to the mediums you’ve incorporated throughout these bodies of work? Film, paint, photography, writing, sculpture?
Having worked in my earlier career in film/TV and technology, I naturally find myself incorporating aspects of these media into my static sculptures, painting and photos. Each piece starts with the concept however, not a choice of media, then I pre-visualize various outcomes using a wide pallet before settling on a specific medium or combination of them.
What is your take on the day-to-day chaos on the current state of the world? Specifically with the #metoo movement?
The #metoo movement, apart from the Trump fiascos, has clearly been the biggest story of 2017. Having worked in Hollywood then publishing then tech, I have seen my share of toxic male behavior that has at times demeaned female co-workers. Few in Hollywood have been surprised to learn that Harvey Weinstein was an abusive harasser. The culture of the film industry almost champions the obnoxious behavior of top producers, directors, stars and executives. Power in any field can led to desensitized behavior. When certain men wield the power, female co-workers are too often subjected to their excesses. Fortunately, this year a number of female victims have finally been emboldened to come forward and out the most egregious harassers and abusers. Let’s now hope that this chorus of victims extends beyond the media-sexy professions into the many more ordinary professions so that waitresses, factory workers, nurses and farm workers can come forward in greater numbers to call out harassment and violence.
In parallel, this fall as a weekly outing of male misbehaviors made headlines, I have been finishing many of these Desire art works and have been constantly discussing the topic of harassment and revising pieces, fueled and challenged by these #metoo revelations.
Moth fires is a little more niche since it has to do with artist and model or muse, was this more prevalent in film business or the art world?
I used to be a producer and supervising executive in the film and TV business, which was always a collaborative process of creation, whereas when I make art, I work primarily alone, except to occasionally seek feedback or advice from friends or muses. In Moth Fires, I was interested in my internal reactions to working with attractive models. The model’s words came after I had already conceived, then photographed her and recorded my own thoughts, so she was not a muse but a co-participant in the work.
Deconstructing Desire interconnection of the existential questions of the human condition is captured succinctly in his visually stunning exhibit. The works are political, socio-econmical and rethinking feminist empowerment trends – a well rounded observational outlook on today's cultural climate. A humorous portrayal of gender stereotypes combining sculpture, photography, film and audio. It is an ode to an antiquated part of our culture, acknowledged by both sexes that has been dually accepted and is now crumbling. We are witnessing the patriarchy falling and a reconstruction in today's Mesopotamia. We have felt a collective disillusionment on a grand scale with the current state of our world and on a microscope with the way we interact on a day-to-day basis especially given that we are living in the age of Internet. Chandler’s work sums up what the collective whole has been feeling, it is nothing short than a thought provoking, innovative take at what has been accepted as normal for far too long.
De – Constructing Desire is currently on display at Ren Gallery from January 6, 2018 – March 4th, 2018
Official LA Art Show After Party hosted by Ren Gallery 743 Santee St. Unit B Los Angeles, CA 90014 on Saturday, Jan 13, 2018 7:30pm – 10:30pm. Experience three galleries within the Santee Village courtyard exhibiting works by Harry Chandler, Diego Cardoso,and limited edition prints by Modern Multiples live music by the Sophisticated Psychos and DJ D-GO & a full host bar. There will also have a pop up gallery featuring resident artists - Rob Grad, Aiseborne, Louis XXX and Emmeric Konrad. There will be a performance installation in the courtyard by Deja Ti and Ania Catherine (the feminine counterpart to the heterosexual male exhibit in Ren,) an open studio of artist Diego Cardosa. Full bar with Kombucha cocktails, French wine and Four point beer with food provided by Hot Hot Foods.
REN Gallery is Downtown LA’s leading contemporary gallery exhibiting pop, urban, and abstract art with a focus on LA based artists. The gallery is committed to building quality collections for our clientele from works by emerging and mid-career artists. Owner curator Renee Warren opened REN Gallery in Feb of 2015. Ren Gallery is located in downtown LA at 743 Santee St., Unit B, Los Angeles, CA 90014 in the interior courtyard of Santee Court Lofts. Press inquires please contact Renee Warren | email@example.com