Recording masculinity and gay identity in the Twin Cities

Artist Christopher Selleck’s exhibit “This is a Record” will open this Saturday at the Soo Visual Arts Center.

Christopher Selleck a university graduate poses for a portrait in his exhibit,

Tony Saunders

Christopher Selleck a university graduate poses for a portrait in his exhibit, “This is a Record,” at the Soo Visual Arts Center on Saturday, Sept. 15. The exhibit displays masculinity through Selleck’s life growing up in the 1980’s/90’s as a closeted gay man.

Maddy Folstein

The Soo Visual Arts Center in Lyn-Lake has opened both of its back gallery spaces to one artist for the first time ever — University of Minnesota alumnus Christopher Selleck’s exhibit, “This is a Record,” will fill the space with a range of visual art.

“We just felt like it was right to give him a big space to experiment and push himself,” said Carolyn Payne, executive director of the Soo Visual Arts Center. 

“This is a Record” opens this Saturday, with a reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Selleck’s work frequently explores the intersection of masculinity and identity. 

“The majority of my work is about masculinity, but there’s always this secondary read of me being a gay man — this other investigation of feeling much more outside of traditional masculinity, which I think in society is still viewed as white [and] heterosexual,” Selleck said.

One half of the gallery includes mostly Selleck’s photography, which examines a lack of a gay representation in culture and television. 

The other half of the exhibit consists of installations evoking the history of cruising and the now-shuttered back rooms of gay bars and bathhouses in the Twin Cities.

One space features photogravures — a form of printmaking and etching — of men’s bathroom stalls in once-popular cruising locations on the University’s West Bank.

“There would be, a lot of times, messages left on the stalls that were like, ‘I’ll be here at this time,’ and they’re sort of cryptic and weird, and it feels very antiquated,” Selleck said. “But it’s still a method that obviously exists. … My focus was sort of documenting some of this residual graffiti that would still be left there.”

Selleck also views these rooms as a transformative space, much like the darkrooms he works in.

“It will be lit with these safe lights, which sort of reference my history with photography, … In a darkroom, you’d take negatives and make a photograph,” Selleck said. “Or, in a coupling sense, two men would meet in here and become a couple or have an encounter that would be transforming two single people.”

Selleck’s range and risk-taking make his work an exciting choice for the gallery.

“I’ve been familiar with his work for several years now. … I have been consistently impressed with the risks he takes with his work,” Payne said. “Besides just always pushing himself with subject matter … he’s always using different media and trying different types of visual art, which I think is great.”

The title, “This is a Record,” takes on several meanings within the exhibit — from the George Michael record in the exhibit’s entry to Selleck’s ability to record lost spaces, connections and experiences in the Twin Cities. 

“The space is a record of the ways that men needed to use to engage, like the graffiti on the bathroom walls that is still there,” Selleck said. “Whether it was jokingly put up or authentically somebody trying to connect with someone, [that] is also a record … in the same way that these images serve as a record of that engagement as a human being.”

What: “This is a Record”

When: Sept. 22 through Oct. 27

Where: Soo Visual Arts Center, 2909 Bryant Ave. S. Suite 101, Minneapolis