UNC-Chapel Hill student J Gray Swartzel’s arresting thesis show recalls Cindy Sherman. Swartzel’s frank, gender-bending photographic portraits of himself and his family crash through traditional gazes and poses with complex psychodynamics.
See the artist’s turn as Manet’s prostitute from “Olympia,” attended by his mother—who appears in another image dressed in his father’s war uniform. The role-play makes for a warped homage. In another mode, Swartzel’s thrown-back head opens his neck and the underside of his chin into a scarred, living landscape. The initial conceptual violence of these images gradually gives way to a desperate lyricism that, though you might not catch all the words, expresses the familial and social hungers that power identity. The show is up at the Carrack, 111 W. Parrish St., Durham, through Saturday, April 26.