Photographer Wayne Bund explores childhood fantasies in MIMESIS

Originally published May 17, 2012 in PQ Monthly.

Anthony Szabo
Anthony Szabo explores his childhood fantasy of being Sebastian from “The Never-Ending Story” for MIMESIS. Photos by Wayne Bund.
By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

Like his Radical Faerie namesake Pan, artist Wayne Bund functions as a sort of playful piper, leading lost boys and girls into magic and mischief. In his new show, MIMESIS, Bund grabs a cohort of Gen X and Y queers by the hand, revisiting their childhood fantasies through photographs taken in constructed sets.

“I realized my work wants to argue [for] fantasy taking over notions of truth,” says the 31-year-old Pacific Northwest College of Art alumnus and faculty member. “MIMESIS is really about mimicking reality … mimicking what exists in life versus what lives in the realms of imagination.”

Bund has photographed each of his 10 subjects in two settings, a bedroom scene that stands in for reality and a childhood fantasy set. He initially opened the show April 21 with just the bedroom photos; the fully installed process-based show opens May 19 at Place PDX.

MIMESIS, funded in part by the Regional Arts and Culture Council, is a departure from Bund’s past work, which has largely consisted of self-portrait photography and performance by his drag alter ego Feyonce.

“My work around fantasy was all around self-portraiture. I was getting tired of taking pictures of myself,” Bund says. “One of the limitations for this project is to apply techniques of self portraiture to other people.”

In focusing the camera outward, Bund is searching for parallels to his own childhood escape into fantasy in the lives of his peers. He posits that queer and genderqueer children have to look beyond reality to find role models that resonate.

Bund recalls growing up on a farm in Boring, Ore., surrounded by family but lacking in queer role models, aside from an uncle who died of AIDS when he was 10.

“There weren’t queer role models, or they were villains. I turned to fantasy because of this.” Bund wondered, “Would I find that in others within my queer community?”

Though the current manifestation of MIMESIS is limited to young adults, Bund says he’d like to extend the age range in the future to explore the particular ways different generations interact with fantasy.

“Today [queer youth] have Kirk from ‘Glee,’ ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race.’ I remember seeing ‘Will and Grace,’ ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ become part of [the] mainstream as I was leaving adolescence,” Bund says. “What is [growing up queer] like in a world of ‘It Gets Better?’”

Bund’s fascination with fantasy grew out of the necessity of a childhood removed from urban amenities and before the proliferation of video games. Make-believe was the activity de jour for Bund and the siblings and cousins that formed his early social circle.

“I grew up on amazing 80-acre farm in Boring on the Sandy River. I had my grandparents next door, my cousins across the street, three siblings. … We’d all play together,” Bund says. “We kind of created our own fantasy world as a group.”

Sometimes that world starred pop culture characters such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Bund played Donatello) and was inspired by movies such as “Legend” and “Labyrinth.” Eventually, that impulse to role-play turned internal with video games.

These early cultural influences initially had a more direct impact on his career goals. Inspired in part by Captain Planet, and his Earth-defending youth squad, Bund dreamed of becoming an environmental biologist. That, or a designer for Nintendo Power magazine. In an odd twist of fate, his sister grew up wanting to be an artist and is now a marine biologist.

“I didn’t come to the practice of visual art making until I was 23 or 24,” Bund says.

When he was younger, Bund’s primary artistic outlets were theatre, photojournalism, and writing. But he found that the process of auditioning for plays didn’t appeal to him and he took a detour toward the visual arts. His work still tends to have a performative aspect.

Another common thread through Bund’s work is a dialogue about queerness and gay identity.

“‘The Hours’ made me really want to be a writer. Since then, I’ve always been concerned with queer identity in my work,” Bund says. “[I want to] speak beyond a queer audience. Queers are my base audience of course, but I don’t want to preach to the choir.”

The full installation of MIMESIS opens May 19 at Place PDX, 700 SW 5th Ave on the third floor of the Atrium Building at Pioneer Place. Gallery hours are Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m.

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