Forrest Bess’s Visionary Paintings Return to New York


In January 1955, the painter Forrest Bess got good and drunk and used a razor blade to cut a hole into the underside of his penis. He proceeded to make an incision into his urethra, becoming what he described as a “pseudo-hermaphrodite.” He believed—based on a philosophy that combined Aboriginal rituals, alchemy, Jungian psychology, the medical experiments of the doctor Eugene Steinach and Bess’s own haunting visions—that the hole he’d created where the base of his penis connected with his scrotum was the key to immortality and creative vigor. Bess, according to his letters and papers, considered the male unconscious to be female, a notion that he used to make sense of what he saw as his own conflicting personae—“typical ambitious Texan” (male) and “artistic, sensitive, introspective” (female). Reductive a reading of gender as that might be, he thought that if he could combine these two personalities, he would be freed of all anxiety and tension—hence the razor blade. Read More


Masquerading and High Society at Cindy Sherman’s MoMA Retrospective

6 Photos

Untitled, 2004.

Even the sign outside of the Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective of Cindy Sherman is chameleonic. It’s a projection of the artist’s name, but the font of the text changes incessantly—first CINDY, then SHERMAN. Ms. Sherman is not the subject of her photographs, though she is the main feature in a majority of her work. She is, however, constantly shifting roles, her face contorted or covered in make-up and prosthetics, always playing some character who is never supposed to be Cindy Sherman. Read More