An Installation of Dorian Gray

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An Installation of Dorian Gray

Deciphering the visual metaphor is a task that leaves most of us wondering what worth there is in art or the artist. We often only encounter art against sterile white walls in imposing, if not pretentious, circumstances. Rarely do we meet a work of art inside the head of the artist.

Almost two years ago, I met Michelle Handelman in her Brooklyn studio as she was decorating wigs, making sketches and plotting a large-scale, multi-channeled, multi-media art installation, “Dorian.” Michelle’s installation is an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray. On the surface, Wilde’s story is a tale of corruption, detailing the decadence that follows indulgence and, ultimately, the futility of beauty. For queers, it's hard not to read the under-lying self-loathing homophobic sub text of the closeted life Wilde lead in Victorian England. It was as if beauty was his metaphor for love, a virtue he turned to vice.

img_3614Michelle Handelman pictured above.

Handelman’s two-year odyssey creating "Dorian" culminated this past Sunday at her opening in New York.img_3560

Having followed her progress along the way, I was still stunned by the glorious and frightening imagery rotating across three huge projection screens in the gallery.


Michelle’s interpretation, or perhaps her obsession, with the sublime beauty of the grotesque turns Wilde’s story of an effete narcissist into a visceral aesthetic apocalypse — the end of the New Gilded Age.

The character’s who populate “Dorian” come from the burlesque and drag scene of New York City. Sequinette, who plays Dorian, was named Miss LEZ 2008. Co-creator of the infamous LTTR dyke arts collective, K8 Hardy plays the character Sbyl, and drag performer Armen Ra portrays Lord Henry.
Not only may art imitate life, but it becomes the means to understand it.

“Dorian” runs through May 31. Participant Inc., 253 E Houston St. NYC.

Comments [4]

t hammidi's picture

I am moved to read this and

I am moved to read this and glad you put up photos of Michelle's opening. I haven't seen her work since one of her video's many, many years ago. Thumbs up for queer art.

Zara Thustra's picture

awesome! i'm so going!

awesome! i'm so going!

minniesota's picture

Grace, this sounds

Grace, this sounds fascinating. Nice photo of the artist too.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

lucia_2008's picture

After reading this I want to

After reading this I want to attend the show. is good!!!