NEW YORK BASED PHOTOGRAPHER CONFRONTS HIS FEARS
The Colorado Photographic Arts Center has been devoted to cultivating the recognition of photography in all of its modes and perceptions through curating exhibitions, educating the public, and community outreach programs.
On Feb. 6, CPAC inaugurated its new location in Denver’s own RiNo Art District. Along with the celebration of CPAC’s new space, they also hosted the opening reception of Maybe, an exhibition of the most recent work of England-born, New York-based artist Phil Toledano.
Toledano’s work is renowned in publications and galleries around the world. The larger installment of CPAC housed his work and accommodated an overflow of individuals supporting the center as well as the artist.
Maybe is a series of portraits created and captured over the course of three years, depicting the artist in prosthetics and makeup in order to transform himself into different people. The inspiration behind the work came from the artist’s desire to cope with his own personal tragedies.
“I’ve lived a very lucky and privileged life, and when you live a lucky life you will always assume your life will continue to be lucky,” Toledano said. “So when my mother died very suddenly and I found myself taking care of my father who had dementia, it was a shock to me; it wasn’t how I had envisioned my life going.”
Toledano said his newest show was produced from an obsession with his own future due to these unforeseen tragedies. “Rather than obsessing about it, I decided ‘I am going to confront my fear directly,’” Toledano said.
Toledano’s series of photographs is in anticipation of all of the worst possible things that could happen to him. Toledano’s photographs portray him in diverse phases of his perceived lifetime—in ways that don’t make the audience eager to age, but address the enigma of the future with humor and ingenuity.
From seeing a fortune teller, to being hypnotized, to getting a DNA test, Toledano said he began to look at his own fears and became different versions of himself.
“Whenever I look at the work, I am so happy that it is done because I hated doing it,” Toledano said. “The curious thing that happened at the end of the three years was that I felt lighter, just as though I weighed less, metaphysically.
Toledano went to great lengths to discern the direction of his project and accumulate his photographs. He began a process to predict how likely he was to develop certain ailments, and how they might impact him. In each photograph, Toledano depicts the person he may become, from an old lonesome man having dinner with his dog, to a man with an outrageous amount of plastic surgery, to the guy at nightclubs who is definitely too old to be there. Toledano explores his obsession with his own future in a way that captivates his audience.
“I don’t fear the future the way I used to,” Toledano said. “I don’t obsess about it the way I used to, so I guess whatever I did to myself did the trick. It would have been cheaper and easier to see a shrink.”
Toledano’s work in Maybe takes on the morbidity and enigmatic nature of life, while portraying the impact of life’s events on an individual.
“I think my agenda was to heal myself,” Toledano said. “The last five or six years have been a dialogue with myself to try and make sense of the things that have happened to me, so that’s what this work is—it’s a way of trying to burn away the fear within me.”
Above: Phil Toledano transforms himself using makeup and prosthetics for his art
photo: Sarai Nissan • CU Denver Sentry