ClampArt is pleased to announce “I Ask in Exchange,” an exhibition of photographs by artist Jen Davis.
Born of a desire and need for emotional and physical intimacy, Jen Davis decided to use her camera as a tool for approaching men during the two-year span of her project. She writes, “The camera transforms and empowers me to approach whomever I want, and for the duration of the shoot I become a flirtatious voyeur in close proximity to my subject.” Considering every frame as a record of a hypothetical relationship, Davis playfully imagines the photographs as proof of interaction and involvement—documentation of a real couple, however fleeting the fictional liaison. Davis is photographing a fantasy.
More than just a reversal of the male gaze, Davis is looking for a form of engagement from her subjects, rather than mere passivity. She continues, “I am interested in photographing men for the purpose of placing expectations of attraction, both physical and emotional, onto them during the act of photographing. . . I needed to be desired and looked at. Through my camera I could experience an intimacy that I yearned for and did not have.” Davis not only uses the camera to gaze at her male subjects, she invites them to look back. The camera aided in the construction of real relationships with men—however illusory and ephemeral they might ultimately seem. “I use the license that this machine gives me to solicit an intimate interaction, to ask for a return of my desire for the time I am taking the pictures.”
Davis’ work has been exhibited extensively both nationally and abroad. She is the recipient of a large number of distinguished awards, and her work is part of the permanent collections of many major museums including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Columbus Museum of Art; the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Milwaukee Art Museum; the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.