Nayland Blake, Gnomen Correct, 2017. Pencil and paper, 12 × 9 in (30.5 × 22.9 cm). Courtesy the artist
Gnomen, a hybrid bear-bison that can change sex and gender, is the “fursona” of artist Nayland Blake. A fursona is an avatar in the furry community, where personal expression is bound up with nonhuman identities and fantasies. In the performance series Crossing Object (inside Gnomen) (2017–18), presented as a part of “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon,” Blake will inhabit a life-size suit of Gnomen and make themselves available for encounters with Museum visitors. With the title, Blake refers to W.D. Winnicott’s notion of the transitional object: a stuffed toy or blanket that children use to construct a sense of selfhood independent of their parents. Gnomen serves as an objectification of Blake’s hybrid identity, and their presence in the Museum’s café and Lobby will allow visitors to make their own performances of intimacy and distance, whether through taking selfies, cuddling, or adding ribbons and bows to Gnomen’s costume. In this, the piece echoes Blake’s earlier performances, in which the passivity of their costumed presence foregrounds the audience’s role in acts of sadism, exhibitionism, or nurturing. In these intimate situations, the close proximity to Gnomen will be tantalizing for some, and make for a remarkable, if somewhat confusing, spectacle for others.
Nayland Blake (b. 1960) is an interdisciplinary artist residing in New York. Blake’s work has been shown extensively, including recent solo exhibitions at the Garage at the David Ireland House, San Francisco (2017); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2015); Matthew Marks Gallery, New York (2013); and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2012), among others. Blake participated in the 1991 Whitney Biennial and the 1993 Venice Biennale, and was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012.