Aesthetic Intimacies: Reflections on Elle Perez’s Devotions at the BMA

A 7 days afterwards, I took my second go to by itself. Sitting down in the gallery, I felt the need to jealously guard the area, to end the weighty footsteps and jangling keys of the museum guard, to tranquil the giggles and art criticism of a few teenaged youthful individuals, to redirect the  fairly weighty visitors I did not know would be present on a Wednesday afternoon. With Peréz’s Devotions, I skilled the palpable believe in exuding by the visuals and the intentionality of the artist’s apply of intimacy with their subjects, the visible commitments to sensuality and texture– of human (e.g, “Wildling Shadowboxing,” 2020), animal (e.g., “animal,” 2019), and earth (e.g., “Stone Memory,” 2020) alike–in both the image and the subjects. I discovered myself energized, protective, and awed as prior to, but this was not the intimacy.

Sitting there, I selected to resist my drive to be seen or moved, to visualize groundbreaking futures for our individuals prompted by this artwork. From these types of a posture and even with harmless intent, art gets utilitarian. In this framing, for instance, artwork is useful–in evoking joy, believed, social change, or a  standard of beauty–then it is knowledgeable as “good.” If it is not profitable in achieving  this or other metrics, it is “bad,” worthless. To look for prescribed outcomes is to position an inordinate obligation on the perform. It gets to be a indicates to some close relatively than a great in alone that is to say, art for art’s sake. But, in the open encounter— one this sort of as I identified when I quieted my expectations and drive to be recognized via the art—was an  exchange, a reciprocity that honored both my turning into and that of Devotions.

The place there is aesthetic intimacy, the transform that innately accompanies any encounter  is secondary the come upon by the posture of an personal is foremost. As with all encounters of just one get together with one more, alter is inevitable. The kind and degree of adjust could range, and to seek to quantify change is to overlook its magic. The art (through  my experiential lens) improved, no for a longer period needing to provide any reason but to be a good  in itself. It was sufficient. And I, also, am adjusted, open to whatsoever may perhaps unfold (even these lots of months afterwards and in the future) from our unencumbered encounter.

Aesthetic intimacy shifts us from positions of shopper-consumable into the relational  reciprocity that can shift the way we understand artwork and subsequently artists. How we engage artwork, then, is a issue of justice, of vulnerability, and eventually our willingness to perceive and to be perceived just as we are.


Elle Pérez’s Devotions is on show at the Baltimore Museum of Art by way of March 19, 2023.


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