On March 12, 2015, Texas Tech’s SRO Gallery premiered Sexuality Sandwiches, a show assembling 8 works by photographer David Martin. For me, the title recalled Allen Ginsberg’s book, Reality Sandwiches, whose name is embedded in the poem On Burroughs’ Work: “a naked lunch is natural to us, we eat reality sandwiches.” Of his eponymous text, Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs said, “naked lunch [is] a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.” There is a notion here of transparency, visibility, disclosure, or revelation.
Sexuality Sandwiches is a series of large-scale portraits of sandwiches. Each sandwich is about the width of my shoulders; each is singular, and acutely beautiful. Coolly folded meats with violet rinds, viscid soft cheeses, and dazzling tomatoes and greens are bracketed by pocked rye or lithe baguette. All are situated in some utterly pristine white no-space. The high-impact beauty and fetishization of the food-object is redolent of commercial food photography, but this evocation is hampered by the blankness of environment and stark lateral view. In their emphatic spatial framing, physical immensity, and satiety of color, the sandwiches seem to wield a kind of self-possession and self-importance. They are powerful, sexy, and nimbly dosed with humor.
Each sandwich is the favorite of a living person, and is paired with text that inventories its ingredients as well as the personal attributes of its “sponsor.” The list begins with the person’s sexual orientation, followed by nationality, gender, faith, occupation, and age.
Regularly in dialogue promoting “tolerance” (a term of dubious tone, as is), we speak in generalizations, in hopes of corroborating our commensurate value as people: “everybody does it,” “we all ___ [sleep, eat, think, feel, love],” “we’re all human.” While these precepts-cum-platitudes do hold water, they do not advocate for difference. They rather imply that in spite of our difference, we are nevertheless all human, and our sameness is our value and our platform for empathy.
Meanwhile, Sexuality Sandwiches seems to exalt difference and commonality at once. The images possess careful specificity, but together are mantled by the ubiquity of desire and appetite. All are composed the same way, but each sandwich is unique, and radiant in its idiosyncrasy. If we endorse the analogy, the sandwich may stand as the straw man of its consumer, or of individual sexual orientation. Or, the sandwich may stand for nothing.
Sometimes a sandwich is just a sandwich, Dr. Freud.
Sexuality Sandwiches will be on display through April 12th, 2015. Come hungry, leave happy.
This article was originally published in The Bowerbird and is used by kind permission.