Wednesday, February 24, 2010
“It’s so crowded down there! You won’t be able to move,” my friend warned me. I like living dangerously, but I wasn’t sure about asphyxiation. I’d jaunted downtown to the tumultuous Live Fast shop at 57 Clinton Street for photographer Walt Cessna’s first New York solo show. He’s shown photos of pretty, vacant-eyed twinks at the dearly departed Rapture Café and from a punk squat house at the In Cock We Trust show at Rise Gallery in Berlin, among others. The store was jam-packed and, since it was a balmy Friday night, guests were spilling out onto the sidewalk, smoking, gossiping and arguing. Try State magazine, the racy gay art and photography rag, was hosting the event and editor Robert Greco was talking up Cessna. “I love the way Walt takes even the most masculine man and shows his feminine side,” he said. But Cessna himself is one macho dude, showing up that night in his trademark jaunty newsboy cap, tattooed arms and neatly trimmed beard.
Was the title of his book of photos, FUKT 2 START WIT, autobiographical? Dunno, but he was hit by a car several months ago, leaving him with a hint of a limp. “I’m a survivor,” he told me. He’s certainly had a life of ups and downs—beginning in Flushing, Queens, forging a fashion and journalism career in the big city. Ever a barometer of creativity, Cessna’s been sued twice by the big boys: once by American Airlines for designing dresses cut from stolen blankets for his own Dom Casual clothing line, and another time by Louis Vuitton over a cover on CSNA, his short-lived art journal, a picture of a bare-breasted model wearing a bondage mask recycled from an old Vuitton bag. Good ideas never die:The image has been purchased by the Chicago Fetish Museum. Will Vuitton beg to buy from them? It wouldn’t surprise me.
Mr. Devil-May-Care’s rakish edge is part of his charm and no doubt why a mob was assembled.When I finally did make it downstairs, I was squirming my way through the bodies. Performance artist John Kelly posed for me with his arm reaching the low ceiling. Arrayed wall-to-wall were 70 digital images with familiar faces from the clubs, galleries and shows, like Max Steele, Linda James, Dominic Cloutier, Darlinda Just Darlinda, Paul Alexander, Muffinhead and Peaches Velour.
“I need a gallery, honey,” the Cessna said with a smile of satisfaction.