Paul Mpagi Sepuya
Eric, at Wayne’s writing desk, January 25 (2012)
ERIC’S STUBBLE (excerpt).
By Wayne Koestenbaum
January 6, 2012
For PAUL MPAGI SEPUYA
Originally published in STUDIO WORK (2012), currently in My 1980’s & Other Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum.
I live with Eric. No, I live with a photograph of Eric, taken by Paul Mpagi Sepuya, whose work is easy to love and difficult to theorize. I bought Eric’s image at Envoy Gallery in 2007 because I felt sexual desire for what the photograph seemed to represent. Eric has conspicuous stubble; his gray-green eyes refute the stubble or establish a dialectical relation with it. Eric’s eyebrows are thick, dark; his hairstyle — bangs? — recalls a Roman or Sicilian wall painting. His skin tone is pale, call it olive. His stubble is verdigris. Compared to the stubble, the skin retreats into pallor, hunger, vagueness. Eric is the type of guy I tend to classify as “Levantine,” which means, in my anachronistic imagination, a crypto-Jewish amalgam of Egyptian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, and a few other tinctures. We shouldn’t classify guys; typology is a cruel exercise. Paul’s photographs refuse to classify the men he captures. And yet the ghost of categorization (August Sander and his ilk) hovers over any photograph that isolates its human object.