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Off the clock: Artist queers ‘Clockwork Orange’ images

Gone fishing: Artist Martha Burgess will discuss her work “Queer as a Clockwork Peachfish” at the Trestle Gallery in Sunset Park on Sept. 8.
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They are lovely pictures for you and your droogs.

The surprises start as you soon as you enter the multi-media exhibit “Queer as a Clockwork Peachfish,” now showing at the Trestle Gallery in Sunset Park. The name of the show and the artist appears on a crumpled sheet of paper, pasted up with measuring tape still hanging at its side. It seems like a work still in progress, but the haphazard look is all part of the design, says the multi-talented artist behind the show.

“It’s all about the process. Everything is very much unfinished. It’s about the moment we’re in,” said Martha Burgess.

“Queer as a Clockwork Peachfish” is a bit like a treasure hunt, an emotional and conceptual labyrinth for the viewer to navigate. It includes a series of pictures based on the movie “A Clockwork Orange,” as well as some female nudes, prints of poems, a recreation of Emily Dickinson’s bedroom wallpaper, bondage toys, and the titular mash-up of a peach and a fish, drawn in camera-invisible “non-photo blue.”

Burgess said that she was inspired by a series of comic strip–like drawings featured in “A Clockwork Orange,” shown to the ultraviolent main character during his rehabilitation. She recreated the drawings on a set, replacing the crudely drawn figures with human models, forming cardboard word balloons, and photographing the results. But something was off about the images, she felt — they were filled with straight people.

“I happened to put straight actors in the scenes, and it just didn’t work,” she said. “Then I read that Anthony Burgess [author of the book that the film is based on] got the title from a British saying — ‘queer as a clockwork orange.’ And he was also bisexual, so I was like ‘Oh, they have to be queer!’ ”

She contacted some prominent figures in New York City’s queer community, including poet Eileen Myles, dancer Jennifer Monson, and singer Justin Vivian Bond, and the images came together.

Other surprises will keep coming when Burgess hosts two upcoming evenings at the gallery, where visitors might be asked to don blue lipstick at the door, or might find a woman smoking a cigarette while sitting on a crate like one owned by Emily Dickinson’s secret lesbian lover. Burgess said that these surprises are a vital part of her art.

“I need to have a performative element in my work,” she said. “There’s something about the circumstances of theater, where nothing is ever the same twice. It awakens me to the present tense. I want to viewer to step in and engage.”

“Queer as a Clockwork Peachfish” at Trestle Gallery (850 Third Ave., Suite 411, at 30th Street in Sunset Park, www.trestlegallery.org). Artist’s reception Sept. 8 at 7 pm. Artist talk Sept. 12 at 7 pm. Show on view Mon, Wed–Thu, 12:30–6:30 pm, through Sept. 19.

Posted 12:00 am, September 7, 2017
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