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Cozy and confrontational

Arts & Entertainment

Cozy and confrontational

Montreal photographer JJ Levine's latest show reflects the diversity of his social circle
Over the past decade, Montreal-based photographer JJ Levine has been gaining international recognition for the brazen and bold quality of his images. His most recent collection of works, titled simply Queer Portraits, features a number of people from his immediate circle of friends and lovers, all of them “queer in their own way.”
“I want my images to be aesthetically appealing, but I also want them to be confrontational,” Levine says. The photographer points out that his subjects are often looking into the camera, as if to directly address their audience. “People have asked me, ‘Why are your models never smiling?’ I want that sense of confrontation in the images. I like the idea that the people I’m photographing are part of a resistance to assimilation, to mainstream ideas of gayness or beauty.”
Levine, who studied in the fine arts program at Concordia University, cites such other gender-busting photographers as Rineke Dijkstra, Catherine Opie and Mark Morrisroe as major influences. Levine’s work feels celebratory, but there are also darker emotions that run through the stills. One senses the strength of each subject, but that is matched by the feeling of pain or loss – evoking the heaviness that can come with being an outsider. “I do try to send a message in my photos,” Levine says. “Not all of the people in my photos identify as trans, but they are all still in some way gender-nonconformists.”
Before gaining a reputation as a photographer, Levine was making a name for himself as a hairdresser in Montreal’s Village. As he was cutting hair several years ago, an older man came in to inquire about getting a haircut from Levine. “He said, ‘Can I get a haircut here or is this just for lesbian haircuts?’ We all thought this was pretty hilarious,” Levine says. “So I posted a sign on the window of the bike shop I work in that said simply ‘Lesbian Haircuts,’ and that ended up attracting a lot of attention.”
After a flurry of stories on the hairdresser who was offering lesbian haircuts in the Village, Levine says he found business picking up. Thus, Levine is now a celebrity artist photographer and a hair stylist all in one. “The lesbian haircut thing led to some confusion, though, because I’m trans, not lesbian, but it didn’t bother me.”
Queer Portraits
Runs till Mon, Nov 5
Rats 9 Gallery
372 St Catherine St W, Suite 530
Levine will be at the vernissage for the exhibit Fri, Oct. 19, 6-11pm 
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It's not bad
I've seen other, ''queer'' art/photography and most of it is shit, some of it has been written about by Xtra. But this I don't mind...as much... This work at least has an aesthetic and has value based on it's aesthetic alone. Now don't get me wrong the artist and the, ''symbolism'' are dripping with pretensious hippsterism i.e. ''mainstream ideas of gayness" but I've seen worse.
Wow Joe,
well done. The problem with abstract art these days however is that people really have no clue what it is, as a result we are bombarded with "abstract" art with no abstraction principles beyond the narcissistic (self-feelings, self-expression, I feel blue today, let me throw some blue on canvas, there I'm done, now I'll post it to twitter, aren't I clever? I'm an artist) same with conceptual art, people painting "conceptual" art all over the place without any concept. It's obscene. There is no respect for the gut wrenching work it takes to create art and instead we are presented with snap/click and spit immediacy to satisfy the artist themselves rather than us, the rest of humanity and the viewers. It's as el Topo Gigio says, social work in a smock and worse it's Art Therapy. It's f'n revolting and does a great disservice especially to the great Gay artists past and present. It's hopeless. And don't get me started on free-verse "poetry".
getting under your skin, Jimmybone
Jimmyboob, you have not one shred of humour in your entire being. An ass does not grasp the stench of its own shit thus you pretend to elevate something which is worthy only of derision and contemp. And this crap snapshot of boring nobodies still stinks no matter how Queered the subjects may think themselves. Have a nice queered life, Jimsonweed.
el Topo Gigio:
Sadly it looks like both this art and my comments are lost on you. I do commend your use of big words like transnormative and cisphobic, both of which you seem to fall a bit short of actually grasping.

I'd say it's about time to wrap up this little tempertantrum of yours. There's always one on every comment board. your hypocrisy has become tiresome.

Joe: I do agree that anyone can pick up a point and shoot camera, post it to instagram and have a million "likes" within the hour. this, does not make a photographer. the particular way you speak of the craft of painting, can be likened to analog medium format cameras. Levine doesn't shoot digitally, but crafts each image as a painter would using a different medium. you are obviously allowed to have your feelings about the value of documentary, this is arguable, but that was merely my comment and maybe not necessarily what Levine's purpose is.
the jig is up queer art your 15 min is over
The new queer gender artists are nothing more than Social Work in a Smock and their proponents are enablers who believe that queer gender anything is "transgressive", "non-heteronormative", poopie on Mommy's carpet cool. And so these mollycoddled nimrods present pics of their own farts and call it queer gender and the provincial hip-or-dies go bananas. A pathetic game that tells the world nothing about anything other than one spoiled brat nursery school ME ME ME's getting gold stars for being "bad". Note also how Jim sneers at "gay" art that is a cast of penis -- the terror and hatred of the penis, indeed true phallophobia on the part of the genderqueer is transnormative and cisphobic or some such bullshit.
Naive Folk-Art or Documentary Photography —NOT ART
As portraiture goes, this “Trans” photographer did capture individual personalities in their own setting. In effect, this work is mere documentation —not really art. To reproduce something that already exists —is the lowest form of art. That is why, when photography was invented, painters decided to no longer reproduce what they saw in nature and create what was not visible, or hidden in plain sight —such as light or emotion. Painters began to paint “light.” Their secondary focus became qualities and textures of paint —more than the subject they were painting. To create something that does not exists requires more imagination and technique than does documentation. To create something that is not immediately recognizable as an object, or not recognizable at all, yet satisfying, is more engaging than something we recognize understand and become bored by in the blink of an eye. Anyone can pick up a point-and-click camera camera nowadays. Automatic functions can reproduce what they were pointing at. Newer cameras even have “artistic” filters. But it is the engineers who created the cameras who should get the “artistic” credit, if the photographer did not go beyond the limits of the camera. Abstraction is the highest form of art. As yesteryear's painters veered away from documenting reality because the camera can do that better, today's photographers should have the same conversations as those painters did. Are photographers relegated to reproducing reality? NO! They are not! Photographers can photograph light, shade shadow, reflection —not objects/people— no matter what their subject. Photographers can create satisfying abstractions —if they have true creativity. In the olden days, “collage” became a technique of abstraction. Today, digital collage can create even greater wonders. Why does XTRA not promote abstract artists instead of these “Naive” “Folksy” Artists? To me “Naive” means stupid or retarded —as the work above shows.
el Topo Gigio
I told ya so...she (Jim) even called the "photographer" and hairdresser a genius. A genius el Topo Gigio! It's hopeless.
el Topo Gigio:
I wonder if you missed the lack of all caps and exclamation marks in my comment? If there was going to be a pointed finger of hysterical mouthbreathing clenched anus response here, unfortunately I do believe it would be at you. as mildly entertaining as your readiness to throw empty insults around is, it's clear that when your cries for attention are answered your inability to say anything meaningful is boring.

Thanks for taking the time to reply though.
Jimmybob, your veins are poppin'
Jimmy. Jimbo. Calm down. No one died. Your hysterical mouthbreathing clenched anus response to MY post was MY point. How dare you diss transqueergenderreality, harrumph! What a cliche, kneejerk, infantile and child psychological response to my statement that such trans queer art is out of date, boring, useless and not "art". Get your gun out, Jimmydean, and start hunting "phobes" -- that is the point of this queered rubbish.
el Topo Gigio:
your flippant use of insults and transphobic comments seem to be a direct indication of your inability to engage with this art. while you long for your classic homosexual male art, the rest of us are looking for something a bit more complex than the cast of a penis. aside from Levine's engagement of gender and sexuality, his work has been recognized and praised for it's classic style of portraiture. portraits of queers in their space. these photos portray the truth of peoples lives and the documentation of a community. the fact that this makes you angry is actually interesting. Levine's art succeeds in every way it attempts to. I have no doubt that he will also be praised for you getting your knickers in a knot. so congrats JJ. your photos are beautiful and are doing their job.
el Topo Gigio, I'm sure taking up space on a comment board with angry insults makes you feel good, but your comments can't touch this fast moving young photographers genius.


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