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Untitled (Oak Bluffs) from the series The Watering Hole

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

Untitled (Oak Bluffs) from the series The Watering Hole

Artist: Lyle Ashton Harris (Born in the Bronx, New York, 1965)
Culture: American
Date: 1996
Medium: Duraflex photograph
Dimensions:
48 x 44 inches (121.9 x 111.8 cm)
State: 2
Edition: 6
Classification: Photograph
Credit Line: Gift of Blake Byrne, T'57
Label Text:Untitled (Oak Bluffs) is one of the most abstract and illusive works in Lyle Ashton Harris’s The Watering Hole series, a collection of macabre photo-collages and photographs in which the artist meditates on what he identifies as “self-portraiture, collage, and the personal and the political.” The series is also a consideration of the erotic representation of black men in advertising, pornography, and homoeroticism, as well as psychological and physical violence toward black men in American culture. Harris explains that the theme of “the watering hole” relates simultaneously to “a place of rejuvenation,” “a site of violence,” and a position that is “Dahmer-esque.” His last reference is to Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer, child molester, and sex offender who, between 1978 and 1991, raped, murdered, and dismembered seventeen men and boys. Convicted in 1992, Dahmer was beaten to death in 1994 by fellow inmates, who refused to live with the predator who had also cannibalized some of his victims. In this photograph, Harris depicts the lights on the “Love Tester,” a carnival game at Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest carousel in the United States, installed in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. Only one line of five bulbs is lit, the one registering the “hotness” factor of the player. Given the artist’s identification of the series with sex and violence, the lighted bulbs assume an ominous meaning. KS
Object number: 2017.4.10