Having an artist in the family can be a handful. But for the St-Laurent family, it’s double trouble. And then some, because Jason and Stefan are also gay, twins and have a transgressive approach to their work.
They even started acting out as kids. According to Jason, the boys put on variety acts “for more than a decade” for their family.
“We used to do cabaret shows in our grandparents basements,” Jason says.
As they grew up, they fed that energy into their performance, conceptual, and ex-perimental art projects. Now that they’re experimental provocateurs, Jason says the family is supportive, although they may not know about, for instance, all that jizz.
One of Stefan’s projects is two dozen portraits of cum shots. Bodies have been cropped out of the photos, leaving the cum decontextualized other than in titling: the first names of the semi-anonymous out-of-frame subjects. He calls a photo of an ex-boyfriend’s cum — caught mid-air in front of a black backdrop — an “homage” and “intimate.”
“Nothing surprises them any more,” laughs Jason.
Additionally, a video self-portrait will see Jason cummed on 500 times.
“The exhibit takes the idea of portraiture to its limit. It’s really a subversion of the portrait,” Jason says.
Both art school graduates, the Moncton-born Ottawa men are exhibiting together for the first time. Portrait Gallery, an exhibit of video, photography, and mixed media pieces, runs until Oct. 5 at La Petite Mort.
As well, the Portrait Gallery exhibition will debut a collaborative project — a startling installation for the window of the Lowertown gallery. Their only other collaboration was “Competition” (2005), staged for a New York exhibit of works on the theme of cloning and twins. For that project, the brothers hired professional makeup artists to transform them into two different looking people over the course of the evening.
While a lot of the show is homoerotic or at least deals with sexual themes, some standout pieces do not. For instance, Jason’s “Che, Vladimir and Mao” is a video series of ants eating sugar portraits of Mao, Lenin and Che Guevara. Behind its none-too-subtle political message is a reminder that “portraiture in art historically has been for the rich and powerful,” says Jason.
Like all brothers, they argue, but Stefan points out that its rare to receive criticism from friends about works in progress.
“It’s helpful to have someone who is brutally honest,” he says.
And because they are twins with similar life experiences — both artists, both living in Ottawa — the two are able to express themselves in a kind of shorthand with each other, when other collaborators would need to spell it out.
“We’re pretty in tune with each other,” says Stefan.
As an added bonus, some of the work is still “at an experimental stage,” according to Stefan. Some pieces are more polished than others, giving audiences a rare peek into creation-as-process. It’s also exciting for the twins.
“We took this opportunity to make prototypes of work that we’ve been discussing for years,” Stefan said.