The Fussy Eye: Gays and Guns

Steven Miller's imperfect utopia.

In the group show Beyond the Western Lands, also featuring Brian Britigan, Adrain Chesser, and Jeffry Mitchell, the real standout is a series of photos by Steven Miller (no relation to me). Taken over in eastern Washington, they suggest the movie set for a gay Western/snuff film being jointly directed by John Waters, Andy Warhol, and John Ford. Sex and violence are everywhere implicit, seemingly the product of a hostile, unforgiving environment and tribal rites we don't understand. The large color scenes are like gang wars among gun-totin' redneck gays on crystal meth. Everyone's riled up. Their blood is up. Lust seems uncomfortably close to anger. Yet there are more static, posed images that recall 19th-century photography. The costumes mix the John Deere-trucker's-cap present with bygone frontier formality. The mood is by turns menacing and tender. In his statement, Miller cites the influence of William S. Burroughs and Jean Genet. These are ritualistic mini-dramas of the subconscious—an "imperfect Utopia," he calls it. Wild Boys is the name of the larger series of photos, which gain power from the open skies and landscape of harsh liberation. 

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