S.F. Artist Uses Pornographic Magazines to Make Protest Art

SAN FRANCISCO—A San Francisco artist named Truong Tran, who uses "handed down, discarded and long-forgotten objects – ping-pong balls, cut-out dolls, paint chips, porn, lab beakers, plastic frames” to make his art, currently has a show at the Telegraph Hill Gallery that uses pornographic magazines turned into butterflies to not only create a series of art pieces, but to also make a statement in protest about another artist's use of live insects in an art piece over 20 years ago.

According to The Independent, "Tran used 9,000 hand-crafted butterflies in protest against the same number of live insects used for [Damien] Hirst's famous 1991 installation, 'In and Out of Love.'"

In the earlier exhibit, Hirst glued "butterfly pupae to big white canvasses, where they grew and hatched. He provided food and sugar water and allowed them to mate before eventually dying, their bodies disposed of by gallery staff."

For Tran, who was born in 1969 in Saigon, Vietnam, the current show is his "attempt to 'counter what [he] considers obscene – the killing of these butterflies – with [his] own artistic gesture that to many is also deemed obscene.'"

The full title of the S.F. exhibit is, Or I Know You Are But What Am I Or The Fleecing of Americana Or 9000 Butterflies For Damien Hirst Or I’d Rather Do This And Call It Art Or What You’ve Heard Is True Or And Away We Go Or The Miseducation Of Gnourt Nart Or It’s Complicated Or I Meant to Say Please Pass The Sugar.

But Tran has more than one thing to say through his butterfly porn art, telling "local magazine The Bold Italic that his representation of white male bodies only was intentional as he believes the identity of 'people of color' is fragmented enough in his society."

He added, “I refuse to further contribute to that sense of fragmentation," and further commented, “My work is charged with unresolved issues that clearly define one’s consciousness. I don’t have any solutions, but in exhibiting these images I hope to show what they are doing to our psyche and consciousness. To me, that’s where the real art lies.”

Or I Meant To Say Please Pass The Sugar runs through this Friday.

Image: "Summer Bliss" by Truang Tran.