Katie Murray’s “All The Queens Men” at the Barbara Walters

Last Tuesday, guest photography professor Katie Murray’s show, All the Queens Men, opened at Hiembold’s Barbara Walters Gallery. The works in this longstanding series vary greatly in content, setting, and atmosphere, taken over the course of the last decade in the wake of 9/11. In still, filmic scenes, the photos portray male subjects and their surrounds through captured moments of transit, quiet landscapes, and intimate portraits. Commenting on this series, art historian Maria Antonella Pelizzari has described the works as striving “to connect its subjects to a place they have lost, like wounded characters within a country that has experienced its own rupture.” Such notions of nostalgia, lineage, and nationalism are at play among the works in different references and suggestions throughout.

 

Taking men as their named subject, the works clearly engage dialogues of gender and masculinity. Murray’s men are not so easy to understand, neither affirming nor denying stereotypes outright; the men can be pensive, contented, shifty or sexy, but often seem in some way wounded or disjointed, as well. Though the men are often pictured alone, their roles in families, friendships and relationships are suggested as central to their lives. Also apparent are the different ages of the pictured men – a wily inclination for adventure in a boy’s smile is contrasted against more guarded, inscrutable expressions of reflection in Murray’s older subjects.

Just as important as the subjects themselves are their backgrounds: neighborhoods and domestic scenes throughout the New York borough of Queens. The settings can vary from generic to cloyingly homey; both “Anywhere, USA” and so identifiably specific to the families, owners, and inhabitants. These existences are further echoed through a milieu of class signifiers: Catholic school, fading tattoos, “wife-beater” tanks, or upholstered rocker-recliners. Such mundane details act as suggestive clues for the viewer, piecing together a narrative to overlay on the stoic images: is it a story of class-anxiety or of contented suburban life? Do the men feel regret, pride, or some indecipherable mix of the two? Murray tries to be neither intrusive nor distanced, capturing vulnerability but never violating trust for the men and places she takes as her subjects.

Audrey Irving is a junior student, Seattle native, and Virgo (Scorpio rising). She studies Art and Visual Culture, works at a contemporary art gallery in Brooklyn, and is majorly obsessed with pugs.

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