WOLFPACK! Photographs by Walt Cessna
Book / Calendar Launch & Photography Exhibit
Friday Feb 17th @
... SPLATTERPOOL Art Space
138 Bayard St. Bklyn NY http;//www.splatterpool.com
Take L train to Graham
WOLFPACK! Limited Edition 200 pg full color soft cover 8 X 10 photography book art directed by Frank Gargiulo & WOLFPACK! 2012 Calendar art directed by George William Widmer. 140 dudes. 1 Lady Rizo. DJ Sheba Legend. Bad Boy of burlesque Chad Ferro. I will be showing 200 5 X 7 portraits. 10 first edition copies of book & calendar signed with choice of 1 print from show. A very special 30 X 46 hand painted print collaboration with Scooter LaForge / CESSNA HEARTS LAFORGE.
Early Viewing 5-8pm. DJ/Performance/Show 8-11pm
WOLFPACK! Exhibit & Gallery will be open on Saturday February 18th & Sunday February 19th.
WOLFPACK! logo by Frank Gargiulo
WALT CESSNA / WOLFPACK! by PAUL DARLING
A heady mix of the erotic, the sublime and the seemingly everyday, Walt’s new work, WOLFPACK!, sees him share the most intimate of moments with an eclectic array of model subjects and translate these experiences into photographs that both shock and seduce the senses. Like a shorn and inked Pied Piper with a camera and a creative hard-on, Walt leads us through the pulsating roar of the city, the throb and hum of the candy neon-spilled streets, the clang of strangers shifting in stairwells and into the silent sanctuary of the lover’s bedroom where we’re aware that anything can happen. And it does.
Walt is a visual junkie; an aesthetic magpie who artfully plunders the realms of photo-journalism, fashion photography, pornography and conventional portraiture to serve, time and time again, image after image that feeds his desire to show us how he sees the world.
Shot over 2 years, WOLFPACK! is Walt’s second book of photography. The first, FUKT 2 START WIT, also the name of his first solo New York show, was published to great acclaim in 2010, noted by the public and critics alike for its collection of unique and visually innovative portraits. With WOLFPACK! he continues to explore the themes of reflection, eroticism, isolation, alternative ideas of machismo, queer culture and beauty through portraits that inspire awe, introspection and lust in equal measure.
Born in Flushing, Queens, Walt embarked on his notorious career in fashion at the crazy tender age of 13 (Mozart may have been composing at 5 years old, but he wasn’t dealing with the complexities of fabric and form), and went on to become a fashion editor, writer, stylist, magazine publisher, designer, agent and of course, a photographer. Throughout his fashion career, many who swam in Walt’s pond went on to become very big fish indeed, due in no small part to his gift for aesthetics.
It is this education - at the heart of the fashion world, running around with the clubutantes of the 90’s and beyond, discovering and styling the glitterati, pulling all-nighters to make deadlines and being at the forefront of what was new and hot and now – that has shaped Walt’s vision. He no longer needs to prove that he’s the kid who knows all there is to know about fashion and style….he is so beyond that it ain’t even funny. Style without substance is no longer enough for him – his work goes much deeper than that.
In fact it was in 2005, after a four year break from creating art and an ensuing orgy of hedonistic self-destruction San Francisco, that he once again decided to pick up a camera and yet realized that he no longer wanted to do fashion photography. He needed to move BEYOND fashion – to look at people not clothes, the intimate not the ostentatious, the inside not the outside.
Beginning with a series of self-portraits – something he continues to do to this day, feeling that he should “practice what he preaches” - Walt soon developed his singular aesthetic, playing with light and form to create erotically charged photographs that seem to peer into the very souls of their subjects.
Often describing himself as a social media launched artist, Walt built his audience through the website Facebook but when he fell foul of the site’s stringent censorship codes, he turned to the unfiltered and uncensored pleasures of the microblogging platform Tumblr, where today his photographs can be reblogged several hundred times a day. Tumblr allowed Walt to push his own boundaries creatively as well as expand his now global audience, who are not afraid to tell Walt exactly what they think of his work – something, by his own admission, he gets off on. With over 10,000 images of Walt’s out there for the world to see, he has never been more prolific. No mean feat for the kid who started at 13.
Looking through Walt’s blog can become an addictive process. His photo stream is like an organic entity, not simply his stream of visual consciousness, but a living, breathing account of his life – his thoughts, his art, his friends, his loves, losses, highs and lows. The photos seem to leap, fully-formed from his brain; his thoughts and ideas come to life almost in real time. Often paired with sections of his writings – a book of Walt’s short stories is also about to be published – the two media can bounce off and complement each other. Walt’s pictures tell stories and his stories paint pictures. Looking through Walt’s photograph collections you become very aware that they are like a visual puzzle; mini, non-animated movies that come to life in the stories they appear to be telling.
The models in his portraits are carefully selected by Walt. These men and women, these boy-girls and girl-boys, the rugged studs, vamps, girls-next-door and effete androgynes are all characters in Walt’s world that he wants us to see through his eyes. Some are friends, some have been lovers, some are strangers. With each shoot often bringing an entirely new person into his world, Walt peels away the multi-fold layers of what makes each subject the individual they are and presents each of them with a visceral, intense intimacy.
Some subjects are photographed more than once. Walt has a prized inner circle of regulars that he shoots with, each time teasing out yet another facet of their personalities. In Walt’s hands, the elfin Jake Ryan, moves fluidly from MTV teen heart throb to East Village hipster to pay-per-view porn star to the sweet boy you fell in love with at summer camp. Nicholas Gorham, whose flawless face is often painted in both make-up and pools of hazy light can, in one shoot, veer from a noble Mata Hari to a raw Patti Smith to a sculpted Shalom Harlow to a vampy Theda Bara.
But perhaps it is in the portraits of Will, the strikingly handsome redhead whose Scandinavian features and angular body Walt has shot time and time again that seem the most personal of all his work. See Will in the azure blue of a cold swimming pool, his hair stuck to his face like a ship-wrecked sailor, see Will naked on a bed in front of a mirror, his hands clasped as if in prayer, see Will striking a L-Uomo Vogue pose on a litter strewn street propped against a graffiti covered post box looking at the camera as if to just dare the viewer to come closer, see Will kneel to paint Walt’s water colour portrait, walled up in a Los Angeles hotel room, his face set in a study of concentration.
And then there are the other artists – Walt’s close friends and brothers in arms – who champion each other and who collaborate, inspire, inform and feature each other in their work. Neo-pop outsider artist Scooter LaForge, performance artists Kyle Kupres & Alberto Cortes, photographers Devin Elijah, Natasha Gornik & Bejamin Fredrickson and performer and artist Nicholas Gorham all feature in Walt’s work and often he in theirs.
Close to the opening of their wildly successful 2011 gallery event Wolfpack!, - featuring the work of Walt, LaForge, Krys Fox & Cortes - Walt captures a photograph of Scooter presenting his balls with a smirk on his face as if challenging the art world to pucker up and make nice with its new daddy. In another shot, Alberto Cortes may be found on the floor of a bedroom on all fours wearing a jock strap, but, with the intensity of his dignified stare, he looks every inch the visionary artist that he is.
This is part of Walt’s artistry. He celebrates each of his subjects, elevating them from mere models - flesh puppets for him to manuever into poses – into works of high and erotic art. Armed with his camera he will turn the curve of a thigh, a whorl of cigarette smoke unfurling into the air or the dawn light rising over the landscape of a tattooed back with such clarity and unmistakeable intimacy that the viewer/voyeur feels as though they are right there in the room or on the street with Walt and his subject. It can feel a little like walking in on a pair of lovers and can almost make you stutter and blush and make to fumble for the door handle or hail a cab. And yet like all good stimulants, one simply craves more.
And online you can certainly find it. With Walt’s work being so heavily blogged and reblogged,, one can come across, no pun intended, many of Walt’s erotic photographs on a plethora of sites. Often mistaken for porn, his photographs are way hotter than that, stimulating the brain as well as other useful organs. In the studies of his “boys”, Walt creates an aesthetic that eroticises the male form in a way unseen before. His subjects are not the square-jawed, priapic muscle fantasies of Tom of Finland, nor the monochrome headless torsos that offer their fleshly delights on each box of Calvin Klein underwear nor the All American Caucasian sport boys of Abercrombie and Fitch. Walt’s boys are neither aggressively masculine, nor groomed, plucked and oiled monochrome images of classical gym-toned perfection. They are real human beings. They are boys you want to hang out with, smoke and drink with, fuck with and fall in love with. They can be delicate, painted and feminine and can also be men that redefine gay machismo, in a pure sense – not a swaggering, artificial idea of masculinity, but strong, vital men at ease with their sexuality and power.
Similar to his model regulars, the locations featured by Walt can become increasingly familiar and become more powerful in the course of his narratives precisely for that fact. Whether on the street, in the park, against storefronts, on stairwells or in hallways, one gets an idea of the anxiety, alienation, pressure and utter joy that living in a city like New York can bring. But it is when Walt moves indoors that the relationship between artist and subject really comes to the fore - the same relationship is there in all pictures but behind closed doors there are fewer distractions for the viewer – and both he and his subjects can embark on their visual affair. Those who follow his work know that Walt’s Spanish Harlem apartment regularly features in shoots and in doing so it almost becomes a character study in its own right. In fact, I’m sure I, like many others who have never even been to the apartment, know it so well that I could make my way around it in the dark without bumping into any of the furniture.
With WOLFPACK!, Walt presents a collection of work that opens a window onto a world that we may never have seen before. In being intimate yet explicit, playful yet deadly serious, stylish yet brimming with substance and by throwing off the shackles of held notions of sexual representation, masculinity and femininity, Walt’s arresting images are the very essence of the complicated and contradictory times we live in. That he does this with such skill, beauty and an overwhelming sensuality is a testament to the artist that he is.
In an interview Walt was once asked about his creative process and he said that it spoke for itself that “he’d get a boner when he knew he was taking a great image”. I like to think that he’s allowing us all, in one way or another, to do the same when we view WOLFPACK!….