The Male Gaze


The Male Gaze
Gallery 355 from April to July 2010
Alec Soth
American, born 1969


Alec Soth
Sunshine, Memphis, Tennessee, 2000
Chromogenic print
The Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison Fund 2007.109.7

“In the seven years I worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, I probably saw Gustave Caillebotte’s Nude on a Couch hundreds of times. But I rarely spent serious time with the painting. To do so almost seemed naughty. In this day and age, it is saying a lot that a painting can have such an effect. Some might attribute this to the painting’s prominent pubic hair or the way the model touches her nipple. But for me the supercharge comes from the air of immediacy. The shoes and clothes look like they were quickly removed. And you can almost see the crease in the model’s belly where her belt once was. This enormous painting feels like it was made in a matter of moments. The effect is almost photographic.

“In spring of 2000, I made a quick road trip from Minneapolis down along the Mississippi River. This trip served as the building blocks for a project that I would later title Sleeping by the Mississippi. But at the time, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was just following my curiosity. While driving down Elvis Presley Boulevard, I saw a motel that clearly looked like a brothel. Away from home and totally anonymous, I decided to have a look. I drove up to the hotel and a woman came out to my car. She said her name was Sunshine. I asked if I could take her picture.

“This is not an obviously erotic picture. But as with Caillebotte’s Nude on the Couch, there is something about the image that feels naughty. For me, it is the detail. The focus of the camera moves from the subject’s sandal, up her leg, over her fingers then lands on her eyes. The most stunning detail is her fingernails. If you look closely, you’ll see she’s painted figures (dancing? Having sex?) on her nails. This kind of detail has a similar effect to the crease we see along Caillebotte’s model’s waist. It makes the body present, almost alive.”

-Alec Soth

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Interloper – or Illuminator? You Tell Us.

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