Tanya Chalkin

It should be mentioned that your authors are both moving to new apartments. While discussing interior decorations (Helen Keller leading The Who’s Tommy), Dean mentioned that he entertained the notion of hanging this poster on his wall.

Any heterosexual male will recognize this poster; you’ve seen it in your dreams. And like a dream, it’s for you unattainable. It is the ideal form of sexual expression made flesh.

It’s two girls kissing.

Two gorgeous girls kissing. In cotton underwear. In black and white. In bed.

And at the bottom, a prominent mention of the title and author: Kiss, by Tanya Chalkin

Normally the mention of this piece’s title would cause Dean to break out in an impression of Tom Jones covering the Prince song. Now he just stares at a blank spot on his wall.

Tanya Chalkin has put some potent mojo into her photograph, but Dean gives it further credit, claiming to have found the piece for sale on a site for art prints. Framed and everything! No offense, but this work seems less likely to hang next to Ansel Adams and more likely to hang next to John Belushi as depicted in Animal House. If same-sex kissing is art, my hard drive has gigabytes for the Guggenheim.

I didn’t believe in Chalkin’s work, and furthermore, I didn’t believe in “Tanya Chalkin” herself. “She” was probably a man. A child of the frat houses and dorm rooms these posters now wallpaper.

A Google search did little to disprove my theory. A search for “Tanya Chalkin” calls forth a flurry of links soliciting the purchase of Kiss, and almost nothing else. A few merchandisers were lesbian-oriented, but I can’t imagine any woman who could stand the poster’s overindulgence in lipstick-lesbianism long enough to keep it on her wall. Most sites seemed to file Kiss under “Dorm Posters,” which made perfect sense. And apparently Dean isn’t the only person to have the idea of having Kiss framed on his wall.

Only one link out of hundreds existed that did not promote the selling of this poster. A link to a photographic magazine called Private. The work credited to Chalkin in this “London Underground” themed issue consists of two photos, both showing parts of a woman’s body (legs and crotch in the first, upper torso in the second) along with a television set broadcasting the Underground’s logo. This is a piss-poor retread of Nam Jun Paik’s work that has as much to do with the Underground as Kevin Kline’s imagined political movement in A Fish Called Wanda. Still it seems to suggest that there could be a real Tanya Chalkin, not the Fred Durst-goateed poser of my conjuring. This is hardly more comfortable: instead of a sleaze selling hundreds of thousands of posters motivated by the thought of girl-on-girl action, Chalkin is a woman selling hundreds of thousands of posters motivated by her artistic muse. We are being asked to take Kiss seriously.

I’m wrapping this up with a challenge to Ms. Chalkin: reveal yourself! Where can I see your work? Is that your real name? Have your posters made you money? Has your art suffered because of it?

And are you hot?

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