For Symbiosis, photographer Rik Garrett fuses the bodies of two lovers into one, obscuring the barriers between them with flesh-colored paint. The resultant mass of skin, muscle, and bone is a manifestation of both the divine and the corporeal, capturing the moment of climax wherein the boundaries of the mortal self collapse. Inspired by his own falling in love, Garrett compares his work to alchemy, hoping to create a Philosopher’s Stone of sorts, a portal into the immortal. Instead of turning metal to gold, he transforms his printed photographs into something rare and precious with thick strokes of paint.
When printed, each photograph measures only 3.25 x 4.25 inches; small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the images invite tactile impulses. We must stand close to the artworks, engage with them intimately. Garrett’s obscuring of sexual organs paradoxically serves to heighten the erotic pulse; mangled together, the couples look like writhing beasts, urgently reaching for the apex of mutual pleasure.
In marrying the painting and photographic mediums, Symbiosis presents an uncanny portrait of human closeness and passion. Where the photograph is instantaneous, created and vanished with a click of the shutter, the subsequent painting is more meditative and gradual. In this way, Garrett’s work mirrors sex itself, capturing both the quickened, elusive moment of climax and the dreamy, introspective veil of memory that follows.