William Ulrich

William Ulrich
Ulrich – L’Hotel Voyeur 4
 L’Hotel Voyeur: An InstallationMy last twenty years have been spent mostly as a painter in a variety of media. I have experimented with mixed media pieces using salvaged materials and even sculpture. My studio is constructed of salvaged doors and beautiful old things that I have saved from an uncertain fate. My aesthetic is not complete without vintage materials showing age and patina. This project is conceptual in that it deals with salvage as a metaphor, the piecing together of our hidden past and finding it in unlikely places.This is a proposal for an installation called L’Hotel Voyeur. I am personally fond of Joseph Cornell and his poetic boxes; the name L’Hotel Voyeur is an homage to him. I am presenting this as a work in progress that will be complete by the deadline. The pieces are modular so they could be hung in two rows of three at eye level. Three of the boxes are complete; I would like to complete three more for a total of six. The boxes range in size from 11.5” x 11.5” to 13”x13” and would take up about 30” x 46” (allowing 5” in between) of wall space. I’m including some sample background images for the unfinished boxes.

My studio mate came to me with a box of black and white dick photos, taken with a Hasseblad of guys getting a massage from her younger days. She wanted to know if I could do anything with them. Manna from heaven.

The background images are of vintage men from around 1900 to the early 1960’s. I have been a volunteer for the GLBT Historical Society and Museum and had access to some images from the archive. The photos used are from a collection that was found at a thrift store and donated to the museum. The other photos of affectionate men are from my personal collection found at flea markets and antique stores. Prior to the 1960’s, being gay was mostly played out in private spaces. The Tay Bush Raid of 1961 comes to mind, when cops raided a cafe in San Francisco for being a gay hangout. I wanted to create beautiful private spaces for these photos to live in. Like rooms in a hotel – each one is a private space with an intimate portrait.

The boxes are made from plain wooden boards and encased with vintage moulding from salvage. Upon approaching the box you see a vintage photo with clothed people that has vertical lines going through it. When you interact with the box and look to the left or right, the penis that was concealed is now revealed. The image of the penis is cut up and you have to position yourself in the right place to make sense of the image, putting it back together.

The issue of compartmentalizing gay identity remains a modern issue, with a broad general acceptance of female nudity as the norm, the image of the gay male is often shrouded in exoticism or banned from social media sites like Facebook for indecency. This project attempts to create a personal and human container to experience male sexuality in a way that is both realistic and erotic, humanizing the subject while acknowledging their sexual identity. It is a window into the past that remains relevant to the challenges faced by the modern gay man.