Who hasn’t been a little needy on the internet? Now and then, we like to show off thotty pics to get others’ juices flowing. Artist Colin J. Radcliffe interrogates this part of digital culture through a queer lens, showing, in the upcoming show “Thirst Trap” at The Java Project (252 Java Street), the playfulness, tenderness, and absurdity of seeking validation online. Instead of being a selfish act, Colin posits that posting thirst traps may be a sensible, modern way for fostering connection, depicted in his colorful clay figurines. Check out the show, and this Q&A that dives into Colin’s process:
Greenpointers: What is your relationship to The Java Project and how did this solo show come about?
Colin J. Radcliffe: An amazing artist and friend of mine, Adam Liam Rose, connected me with Dakota Sica who runs The Java Project. Adam had a solo there in September of 2021, with these amazingly massive graphite drawings with so much depth that explored physical and psychological perceptions of safety and fallout. Dakota and I talked a bit about my work and schedule, and then he offered me a solo for this March, 2023.
Greenpointers: I love your play on the exhibition’s title; thirst trap can have a negative, needy connotation, but you spin it. What brought about that perspective?
I’d been thinking about how hookup culture appears more prevalent among younger generations, despite it being looked down upon—especially amongst older and more conservative people. It’s too reductive to dismiss hookup culture as shallow or needy, and I realized it’s not really about recklessness but is instead driven by caution. Hookup culture is the desire to really know someone before a commitment, and dating is as much about getting to know someone else as it is about getting to know yourself. So a thirst trap is an expression of hookup culture, it’s a tool in the pursuit of intimacy in an increasingly digital world.
Greenpointers: Can you discuss how queerness is woven into the piece?
My ceramic work is autobiographical, even diaristic at times, and because I’m a queer person making work about my life and experiences the work is inherently queer. Queerness is a bit difficult to define, both intellectually and visually, but some pieces are more direct and obvious while others are more subtle. The condom wrappers and phones with text often include references to queer culture, from images of interactions on gay dating apps like Grindr to the usage of LGBTQ+ slang. The sculptures of couples likely would read as queer or gay, while individual figures might not be so obvious.
Greenpointers: Is there a particular piece you are most proud of or want to highlight here to discuss?
The sculptures of couples that pair with a photograph feel really special to me. Maybe because I have a strong emotional connection to them, but there’s also something really alluring about providing that context to my work. All of my work comes directly from my experiences of dating and hookup culture, and many of the pieces are based off of photos I’ve taken of friends, lovers, and exes. There’s a lot of intimacy in the work that is especially visible with the couples that caress and embrace each other, both in sculpture and photo.
Greenpointers: Any hope for the future for this exhibition?
I like to keep an open mind, but I’m always hopeful to make new connections and discover new opportunities. Whether that be future group or solo exhibitions, inspiring new friends, or even gallery representation.
Greenpointers: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This is the first time I’m exhibiting intimate photographs alongside new ceramic sculptures. It adds another level of vulnerability to the work which is something I’m really excited about and humbled to share. And it’s also a small lens into the contemporary queer dating experience, one that while personal to me is something that is widely experienced and can be universally understood.