Steven Arnold, a multidisciplinary artist, was sometimes referred to by his friends and artistic contemporaries as a “queer mystic.” The mythological costuming and exuberant theatricality of his tableaux photographs share the spirit of the ecosexual rituals performed by Beth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle. In Transmitigating Inspiration
, a figure embodying both feminine and masculine traits emerges from a cave-like structure as if born out of a cosmic universe. Caves, which can reference the vagina, also often symbolize portals between worlds and are a frequent motif in Arnold’s work. In his early twenties, he and a group of artist friends took up residence in caves on the island Formentera, off the coast of Spain, where they took LSD daily and explored the surrounding landscape—perhaps influencing his later work. This photograph demonstrates Arnold’s prophetic vision of nonbinary gender and sexual identities that expanded far beyond those that existed in the mainstream in the 1970s and 1980s.
–Caroline Coxe ’20
From the exhibition: Lover EarthArt and Ecosexuality (May 30 – August 23, 2020)