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As a child, I often sat in church waiting for the statues to smile, knowing then I’d be transformed and given a future. My alabaster saints came back to me recently when I met with David, whom I have known for twenty years. Kissing his pale cheek, I tasted the powder he used to obscure his Kaposi’s scars. Transfixed by his dusted blemishes, we reminisced in the graveyard of memories of all those gone before. Yet, we also began to speak of a future - something that would not have been possible until recently. David’s reconstructed viral highway and multiplying t-cells had infused hope after a decade of despair and resignation. As we parted, he winked and said, “Looks like I’ll survive another year... who know?”

I carry these images of marble icons and hopeful friends with me as I enter the world of photographer Chuck Smith. His work reclaims a joyous sensuality that had been absent during the carnage of the last decades. Now, as we begin to imagine life beyond AIDS, artists are once again turning to celebration. Chuck Smith is among them in his affirmation of beauty. The luminosity of his figures offers a transcendent and innocent future.

Light Embodied presents us with dream-like images of unabashed gay male sensibility caressed in light, shadow, and motion. Smith’s impressions of classical sculpture, fleeting heroic gesture, and compositional objets trouves are a living meditation of his social and moral motivations, photographic techniques and passions, and his personal and spiritual growth. Intimate, emotional, and poetic, Smith’s incandescent figures invite us to journey with them, not as voyeurs, but with erotic empathy for all the complexity and sublimity of sexual expression. In them, I encounter my saints and they are indeed smiling.

John R. Killacky

Executive Director

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

San Francisco

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