Artist explores sexual anthropology at Roman Fine Art

Alexandria Lira




F#ckboy, one of the tragic terminologies that has arisen from today’s dating culture of “nude photos” and dating apps. Eloquently defined, and cleaned up, a f#ckboy is a male suitor who plays with a woman’s heart, pulling on her emotional strings, with the sole intention of sleeping with her or getting erotic keepsakes.

Brooklyn-based artist Alexandria Lira flips the script in her exhibit “F#ckboys,” on view at Roman Fine Art in East Hampton through May 13. Her series of male nude portraits captures men at their, seemingly, most vulnerable. Controversial in concept, Lira likens her work to a social anthropologist. Using the common dating app Tinder, she explored a tribe of men, carefully approached them, and then captured the moment before fleeing the scene.

Lira’s unique work boldly dives into the heart of hookups. It’s set to make even the most lecherous blush.

How did you come up with the idea for your exhibit?

I’ve always had a passion for being behind the camera and capturing something intriguing. Photojournalism was always so fascinating to me, as well as art. When adding those two components together, I knew I was onto something not only aesthetically cool but conceptually interesting.

What is your age and the age range of your subjects?

I’m 29, and most of my subjects range from their late 20s to their early 30s. I felt that this age group, with their comfortability with meeting one another digitally, would be open to doing something like this.

Undoubtedly, your venture could be perceived as dangerous for a woman. Were you nervous at all?

I was nervous, but strangely very excited at the same time. I knew I was capturing something no one has ever touched.

Why Tinder?

I specifically chose Tinder as it is the app that is known notoriously to be used mostly for “quick hook-ups” and disappointment.

Does your profile immediately state your intentions?

I only state that I am working on an art project. The initial request is brought up after I scout them or they find me, and that is when the process of building this relationship begins. At times, it’s like pulling teeth, and other times it’s as easy as them asking me to shoot them right off the bat.

Did you have a pick-up line of sorts?

My pick-up line was “It’s all about men’s empowerment,” or “I want to paint you like a majestic master from the Renaissance period.”

How did the men respond?

Most of these guys were very taken but bashful and confused by the notion of being photographed naked. Some were motivated by their egos, others were freaked out. Some immediately thought they would lose their jobs. They assumed their bosses would find illicit nude photos of them all over the internet.

The smarter half mostly just refused because they knew that it really wasn’t about their empowerment. They easily figured out the story behind the work just by hearing the title “F#ckboys.”

You make a point in saying that you do not sleep with your subjects. Do you convey that message to them point blank?

I do not give them any hint that I will sleep with them or not. I keep it very elusive and mysterious, and that is part of my way to get them to be photographed.

How many of them eventually tried to sleep with you?

Of course, there were about seven out of 11 that hinted the idea after the shoot. It’s only natural they’re going to give it their best shot, now that they’re totally naked, laying on their bed while I’m standing right over them.

What clothing did you wear?

I like to wear simple street clothes as it looks like I’m just going out to get a cup of coffee down the street at my local bodega. I like a hint of make-up and a spritz of perfume to add in a dash of sexy.

What was the conversation like?

At first, I can tell that the subjects are very nervous. Usually it is very clear that this is their first time doing something so strange and “out there.” I do my best to relax them by talking to them about their day and what they do, how they like living in New York City. Slowly, they begin to relax and suddenly I’m photographing them naked. When I’m done I say, “Okay, all set. You can get changed now. Thanks so much for your time and participation.”

I make it quick enough for me to walk out of there no later than 15 minutes after I arrive, but concise enough to be able to capture exactly what I need. During the process I feel like an addict that just needs that one quick fix for the day. The rest is all magic.

Would you call the experience erotic?

It was certainly erotic. I mean, you’re in a room with a complete stranger who is totally naked in their room. At times I felt attracted and almost enticed to be romantic with the subject, and it was quite difficult to walk away from, but part of the challenge was not to sleep with them or catch any feelings, as it would defeat the whole reason behind my work.

What’s the artistic process like after you’ve taken your photographs?

I go straight to my studio where I look over all of my negatives and I begin to edit down the best shots, finding the best one that really captivates the way they are looking at me, capturing their body language and pose correctly. Everything is un-staged and captured as-is when I arrive. I then have the image blown up large-scale, printed on canvas.

After the image is printed, I bring it to my studio and begin my painting process. I choose only to paint each subject with sometimes tight and sometimes very loose bright and playful brushstrokes. I don’t care about my technique, I am mostly focused about telling you a story and leaving the audience in a state of shock, uncertainty, and bewilderment.

You take a memento from each scene. Do the subjects know you’re taking these trinkets?

I do not tell any of the subjects I’m taking anything from them, and I do this to display my state of not giving a f#ck in my process. I treat the process as a study in anthropologically, observing the subject’s background or personality, and I chose a simple silly object such as a hair brush, a watch, or a toothbrush to distinctively display each character in a humorous tone.

Will there be another in the future?

I am currently working a sequel right now to this work. It’s only going to get more interesting from here.

Roman Fine Art is located at 66 Park Place in East Hampton. Visit www.romanfineart.com.

nicole@indyeastend.com