“The wedgie is the work”
In the middle of Gayletter, there are a series of “wedgie portraits”. Created by the artist Benjamin Fredrickson, the portraits are surreal: the wedgies are extreme, sometimes actually atomic (remember atomic wedgies? They’re when your pants are pulled up over your own head); pants are hooked over elbows, and banisters, or fastened to the ceiling. Explaining the thinking behind the work, Fredrickson said that, “for this project the body is used as a prop in order to make the wedgie shine. The wedgie is the work.”
Gayletter started out as a newsletter in 2009, providing a highly selective guide to New York gay culture. A printed magazine since 2014, Gayletter has evolved into a kind of art book. Fredrickson exemplifies Gayletter’s aesthetic in the sense that his photographs make the human body erotic, but also unfamiliar. Bodies on these pages are often contorted. The most striking feature in the issue is a 12-page spread devoted to the work of Greer Lankton, an artist known for creating sewn dolls that were often modelled on friends and celebrities. The dolls pictured — Iggy Pop, Jackie Kennedy and Candy Darling — are constructed out of tights, umbrella hinges, and glass eyes from the taxidermist’s; their skins marked with stitchings and reconstructions. Gayletter has chosen to print Lankton’s iconic artist statement from her final show in 1996, at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh: “… By the way I’m an artist and Andy Warhol was the dullest person I’ve ever met in my life. But he’s got a museum so what do I know. Hans Bellmer is my favourite artist. Love always, Greer”.
The issue was made during lockdown and is Gayletter’s biggest ever, because, as editors Abi Benitez and Tom Jackson put it in their opening letter, “necessity is the mother of invention”. Shoots are photographed via Zoom, or are self-portraits, giving the whole magazine an intimate feeling. Janelle Monae is the cover star, and she has photographed herself naked, sipping orange juice next to her lover in an unmade bed.