Some of Pau Pescador’s photographs—on view through next Saturday at Tyler Park Presents on Sunset Boulevard—are so visceral, so conspicuous, so odd and frightening, and yet they are also so radiant, playful, juicy, raw, somehow both biting and tender that even a writer who’s only supposed to be writing about clay can’t resist the chance to ascribe adjectives to this small but powerful exhibition. Ostensibly about Pescador’s experience of home in relation to her gender transition, with all its incongruities, expectations, perils, and outfit changes, When the Home Becomes Body struck me as a profound encapsulation of female identity in a changing body, bearing it with jarring honesty, vulnerability, and the vanity all women must confront, lest it be thrust upon us.
Comprised of two distinct series that take nearly opposite photographic approaches, Pescador’s show is filled with images of bare legs, breasts, hairless chests, long fingers with long red synthetic fingernails, polkadots, masks, wigs, bits of food, blobs of curly brown hair, bedsheets, and so much else—feminine tropes of appearance and sexuality swirled into a messy still life of everyday objects. The exhibition’s namesake series, When the home becomes body, is produced by photographing various domestic spaces staged with an abundance of objects, and then projecting the images back into those spaces, now vacant. In When the home becomes body (4) (2023), we seem to be sneaking a look into a jumbled kitchen, only to realize it’s a facsimile of a kitchen, projected onto a tiled kitchen wall. The visual gymnastics are destabilizing—and though I eventually understood that I was looking at a photograph of a stove projected above that same stove, with a real-life hand and swoop of hair disrupting the edge of the projection’s frame, I so related to the ghostly repetition of expectations; the mess, either psychological or literal, that is always there to clean or organize or defend: the kitchen as the oppressive pinnacle of female exceptionalism.
What I love and cherish about this show is that it induces a kind of two-way mirror, where I see Pescador and her experience of gender transition (among other things) but I am also permitted, invited, to see my own. Even though postpartum is only a period of six weeks, it’s also a perpetual state. Some women, or vagina-having people, reach hormonal stasis, while others feel drained of estrogen. Some postpartum bodies return to their pre-inhabited shape, while others have stomachs that resemble literal piles of dough. Some pubic areas can be made smooth and inviting, while others are coarse and beard-like. I could go on. When the home becomes body reminds me that all people, or nearly all people, are either forcing their body to change or forcing it to stay the same. Rarely is it a place of peace or equilibrium.
Pescador’s Home is where the c*nt is (1) (2023) and Home is where the c*nt is (3) (2023) really relish in this in-betweenness of perpetual change; the alienation one can feel at the sight of their own body. Home is where the c*nt is (3) is a point-of-view shot of Pescador lying back on her bed. Her arm is outstretched almost as if to say don’t; her breasts fall to the side, the skin of her sternum smooth with just a hint of stubble. Behind a grimacing Hulk mask, her eyes follow you, brown curly hair spilling out the sides. The story goes that Dr. Robert Bruce Banner became the Hulk under duress, his physical powers consummate with his level of anger—which was always high. Sky high. The vision of the vulnerable, naked woman on her back, masked by the enraged Hulk with the glimmering white teeth and electric green skin—it so perfectly encapsulates the pain of change, the peril of authenticity, the danger of acknowledgement.
It’s possible I’ve gotten this a bit wrong—made it more about my own subjectivity than the artist’s. But I can’t help but rejoice in the fact that through Pescador’s work, I’ve looked into the face of the Hulk and seen my own. There is, of course, so much more to trans experience than the vulnerability embedded in When the Home Becomes Body that spoke to me most. Pescador’s work manages to be dead serious but also irreverent, what with penis-aprons and leaf brooches covering scrotums, a la the Fig Leaf for David. Pescador has given new life, depth, and darkness to the semiotics of domesticity so much of Art has put aside as passé; and she’s given us an opportunity, happily, to see ourselves—even as we grimace.
When the home becomes body is on view at Tyler Park Presents from September 16-October 28, 2023.
Georgia is a writer, critic, and educator based in Los Angeles. She is currently a visiting lecturer at the Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Chapman University in Orange, CA.
Click here to read her recent review of Color/Form: Color Theory and the Art of Ceramics at the Diana Berger Art Gallery.
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You can also read Georgia’s writing on What About Clay?, a new writing project organized in collaboration with A-B Projects.
As always, thank you to Sarah for editing this text!
The featured image at the top of this post is Home is where the c*nt is (3) (2023);
Digital c-print, framed: 16 x 12.75 x 1.25 inches
Images courtesy of Tyler Park Presents