Miss Kitty Litter/Stephen, Brian, & Courtney by Chad Houle
Chad Houle's series, Homodomestic, focuses on gay couples and families in their homes, creating examples of an aesthetic Houle never knew while growing up in Rhode Island. He writes,
As a gay man, I grew up without any real gay examples of a relationship. I never was able to make the connection between being gay and the ability to be in a strong, lasting love. Now, in a long term, committed-and fabulous-relationship, I look back not knowing who I was or how there were so few images of that life I so greatly yearned for. My work is a manner of creating a barrage of examples of gay normality in love and life to infuse the world with what I never saw at a critical point in my life.
His images have a posed formality and take place largely in well-styled, well-furnished, and evenly-lit homes with couples seated at the dinner table, in front of the TV, or in the bathroom brushing their teeth. The "normalcy" is often pronounced through these actions, which can be interpreted as things that normal--or ideal--couples and families have the chance to partake in together.
Several other photographers' work come to mind upon studying Houle's images, which also tug at elements of domesticity and homosexuality. Amy Elkins' Wallflower series posits men against floral wallpapers, a symbol of the domestic interior. The sexuality and male-ness of the men are called into question by the contrast of these "feminine" patterns against the men's bare chests and skin. Whether pale, tan, tattooed, hairless, freckled, or hairy, the men are bared against the backdrop, forced to open up to the camera.
David Hilliard's multi-panel work also examines gay couples at home, or in nature, doing everyday tasks like folding laundry or taking a swim with ambiguous interaction between the men. The two subjects often face the same direction as one another and the viewer is aware of them not making eye contact with each other. Their body language enigmatic and it seems as though their relationship is an open question, both to them and those looking in on the moment.
Lastly, Molly Landreth's Embodiment: A Portrait of Queer Life in America also makes a journey through the queer community, identifying the who and the where of what comprises this community. Her images capture a young generation of lesbian, gay, and transgender individuals and couples, often at home caught in a formal embrace, some partially undressed and looking as though they are trying to find comfort in their own skin.
All of these works evoke questions of normality in relationships, both gay and straight. What a relationship "looks" like has many heterosexual references in everday culture, popular culture, and in art, whereas the aesthetic of the gay relationship is still very much being defined and in flux. All of these artists offer some insight here, and suggest that homosexual home-life and relationships are equally, if not more complicated than heterosexual relationships.