At a nondescript corner of an outskirt of Koreatown, a thousand people filter through the opening of Pop Tart Gallery, the latest fount of glamour in L.A.
They are drawn in by the exhibit “Your Face Here.” For a modest fee, celebrity portraitist Austin Young photographs people for the exhibition, curated by buoyant impresario Lenora Claire. You may remember Claire from that shudder frozen in your mind when you first heard about her exhibition of erotica based on senior-citizen sitcom The Golden Girls.
Young's work has assumed a decidedly street-level bent lately. His work with L.A. conceptualists Fallen Fruit at LACMA attracted a single-day record crowd to the museum.
In attendance tonight are Karen Black, Perez Hilton, Margaret Cho and Lady Gaga's makeup artist Billy B. Judging by the various boobs crushing into my back and elbows caressing my sides, the show is a big success.
Frenzied makeup artists and stylists tend to the subjects before they are photographed. Claire says they “are just normal people who haven't had a professional photo taken since their yearbook photo. They're trusting that Austin will capture their beauty, vulnerability, sexuality, and tell whatever story it is they are unable to communicate themselves.”
Trust is indeed the word tonight, more so than glamour. At check-in, a daunting psychic obstacle course awaits the models: a sheet of paper on which they'll list things they like — and don't like — about themselves. This inventory is the springboard by which Young alchemizes their image.
As he prepares to photograph each subject, his gaze darts from the page to the person, and back from the person to the page. Then he snaps away.
The result is another portrait for this evolving exhibit, which can be seen through March 5.