The photography of Joel Peter Witkin has been described as challenging.
The images often include severed limbs, physical deformities, corpses, and people that occupy the outer edges of mainstream human existence. The resulting photographs are simultaneously beautiful and grotesque.
“Some people think of me as some sort of crazy monster,” says Witkin. “That’s not the case at all.”
Witkin says his art is an expression of his own personal experiences that hopefully resonate with the viewer.
“Basically that’s what my work is about: It’s about splendor and misery, and what people live for.”
Witkin’s work is never static and it’s evolved over time. His images reveal the shifting interests in his life and an exploration of modern social issues and humor.
However, his early work, informed by his childhood and the religious conflict that lead to a broken home, is what initially got him noticed.
“I had this association with people that are, and were, damaged. I saw no problem there –they were just different in their own wonderful way.”
Tucson's Etherton Gallery is presenting Witkin’s work as part of group exhibition titled "Surface Tension."
“What we’re showing is how his work has moved from his early work - which was a lot edgier, a lot darker, and more controversial - into work that is much more allegorical and metaphorical, and beautiful, just flat out beautiful,” says gallery owner Terry Etherton.