May 19th, 2012
Naomi Fisher (b. 1976 in Miami, FL)
Assy Flora Suite of 3, Pink Hibiscus, Royal Poincettia, Orchid Tree, 1999, cibachrome print
Sparkly Shirt, 2000, C-Print
Untitled (White Dress), 1997, Cibachrome print
Untitled (Green Pants), 1998, Cibachrome print
Untitled (Hole in Ground), 2000, Cibachrome print
Booty Bouquet, 1998, Cibachrome print
Photos above courtesy of: The Rubell Family Collection (Miami, FL), The Moore Space, and Leo Koenig, Inc.
I’m a big fan of Naomi Fisher’s work in general, but I especially love her 90s sex-subtropical work, five pieces of which are featured here. These pieces are lurid, cheeky, menacing and alive with dark provocative joy. They’re ripe with overlapping themes & suggestions: the human human body as subtropical flora (bringing to mind the ancient trope of male/female genitalia as resembling or bringing to mind petals, flowers, mushrooms, sap, nectar, seed, etc.); human intercourse with said flora (useful to remind ourselves that flora are essentially genitalia); humans taken sexually & against their will by said flora; flora growing up and through humans; humans presenting themselves for dehumanized sexual consideration just as the genitalia that are flora offer themselves up to pollinating insects; humans interacting with the density & fecundity of the subtropics in flirty romp, in perilous ritual, in wary tread, in engulfed paralysis. The master theme that emerges for me is the conflation or cohabiting of the human sex drive (coupled always with shame and tension) with the unselfconscious reproductive mechanisms of nature, and the danger & total liberation of that resulting relationship.
Some personal context: Having grown up in subtropical florida, I’m used to its flowers trees & leaves, birds & bugs & shells and all things between being presented in the friendly visual language of a tourist economy. Billboards, tv spots, magazines, restaurant menus, schoolbooks: everywhere I looked I saw nature presented as safely lush & delightful & anthropomorphized: we’re talking laughing dolphins and winking toucans & endless washes of unnaturally-hued key lime green & sunkist orange. Or some ferns and fronds and bougainvillea and cabbage palms as backdrop for svelte models in magazine ads hawking jewelry or silken garments or something, always sweet & trimmed & charming & tamed. But that’s nothing to do with the southwest Florida nature I knew and loved (and held in awe) as a boy: nature for me was visceral, threatening, overwhelmingly fertile, annelid-wriggling, spider-crab gnarled & barnacled, horseshoecrab-alien & skittering. It was unstoppably teeming & heedless of humankind’s efforts to corral & contain it. Damp, rank, decaying, hiding stuff under leaves and within masses of over-vined thickets, mysterious & powerful. Fisher’s photos here tap right into this spirit for me, and it feels only right that their human subjects (“accessories” might be a better term) should appear variously or sometimes simultaneously as violently ravished playthings; dehumanized trunks and rumps existing only to present themselves for use (just like flowers; notice the floral print on the panties in “Assy Flora”); folks caught in some midnight ritual of reconnecting with the raw vitality of nature; lost bewildered captives in their mangrove-root cages & among throngs of phallic, flared lilies & birds of paradise & swordlike heliconia.
My favorite piece of the five above is “Sparkly Shirt”. Those yellow pollen-looking smears on her legs, the unnatural pose as if she’s in the midst of being taken by flowers or ready to offer herself to them, the print of her shirt as if she’s an acolyte trying to appease some subtropical spirit. Her hair hangs across her features, further dehumanizing her — clear shots of faces seem almost impossible to find in Fisher’s subtropical photos of this period — and linking her to the non-human otherness surrounding her. The lighting is glared and tabloidish; the whole staging has this forbidden and not-meant-to-be-seen energy, making us feel like we’ve stumbled unwanted into this exciting interzone where humans and nature thrash and try to mix into one another in ceremony, ecstasy, pain, longing.
For more work in this vein by Fisher, please go here.
For more about Fisher, please go here.