Allegra McLeod

 

Sublime Mutations, a photographic retrospective of Del LaGrace Volcano

 

work produced over the course of the last ten years, visually remaps the

political and theoretical cutting edge of the queer avantgarde. Throughout

this beautiful and moving collection, LaGrace Volcano returns to the

materiality of the body in order to trouble the conventional in a forceful

challenge to both biological essentialism and theories of transgression.

   LaGrace Volcano’s work represents a timely and much needed intervention

in a number of ongoing debates within queer academic, artistic, and activist

communities. Answering the call not only to examine various manifestations

of lesbian masculinity but also to complicate readings of femininity, in

‚The Feminine Principle’ LaGrace Volcano exposes the contours of queer

femininities. His photographic mediation on the feminine documents a history

of queer femininity through portraits of Susie Bright and Kate Bornstein, as

well as the ‚Femme Next Door’.  In ‚Lesbian Boyz and Other Inverts,’ LaGrace

Volcano subsequently turns to demonstrate the myriad ways in which

masculinity can in fact be subversive, as he celebrates the bodies of butch

dykes, transsexual boys and other gender queers.  Then, in a series of

images and interviews LaGrace Volcano titles ‚Ars Poetica’, he returns to

the feminist pornography debates and to unanswered questions raised by the

lesbian sex wars of the 1980’s in order to complicate feminist concerns with

erotica, obscenity, and perhaps most importantly with the transgressive

pleasures of pornography itself. Finally, LaGrace Volcano focuses on the

transmogrified body as he explodes heteronormative and essentialist

interpretations of the physical self with images of hermaphrodykes, trans

men and what he calls ‚transgenital landscapes.’  These photographs of

gender variant bodies simultaneously underscore both the social construction

and lived embodiment of trans masculinity.

   In his introduction to Sublime Mutations, transgender theorist Jay

Prosser remarks that through LaGrace Volcano’s work ‚we see the changing

shape of our bodies and our communities reflected’ (11).  Importantly

however, we also glimpse the changes promised by our was of seeing, the

mutations we read as well as those that are visited upon our bodies.

LaGrace Volcano skillfully demonstrates that sublime mutations are always

already the transformations that viewers project on the physical world, and

especially on the body.

   LaGrace Volcano’s most recent photographs examine the ways in which

inter-gendered and intersexed subjectivity allow us to envisage the body

anew.  Yet his work implodes binary imaginings not only by emphasizing the

differences of transgendered or intersexed bodies, but by queering the

normal body as well.  Crucially though, the bodies he photographs are not

objects held at a distance but rather are celebrated, as Lagrace Volcano

aptly puts, as ‚sites of mutation, loss, and longing.’  Documentation of the

loss of his friend, writer Kathy Acker to cancer, and the transformation of

his lover Simo Maronati’s abled body into a disabled one, expands the

category of queerness to include bodies that are not necessarily

homosexually marked but are nevertheless queerly positioned in relation to

the normative.  In the end, he always innovatively complicates the

relationship between subject and object as LaGrace Volcano makes visible the

ways in which he himself is deeply implicated in the project of chronicling

the meanings of queer bodies and communities, both as a transgendered

intersexed person and as an artist and activist.