For her ongoing series “Beautiful Boy,” Lissa Rivera photographs her domestic partner. The
project began as a conversation on subway between Rivera and her male friend who shared with her that he wore women’s clothing in college but after graduation, “struggled to
navigate a world that seemed both newly accepting and yet inherently reviling of male
displays of femininity.” Believing that photography could create a space to experiment,
Rivera began photographing her friend and over time he became both her muse and romantic partner. According to the artist: “When taking the photos, I feel the same as when viewing a film where a director and actress share a deep connection to the fantasy captured. It is thrilling to see my partner transform into countless goddess-like forms. The project is a canvas to project our desires. At times the images even become self-portraits. The camera transposes our private experiences into public expression.” Since beginning the project, Rivera has moved the photo sessions from her studio to locations abroad at historical sites. As she puts it, “Leaving behind the artifice of the studio, we began to uncover a dreamlike new aesthetic, a vision of queer femininity deeply rooted in an imagined past, and an uncanny conversation with the generations of women who inhabited these spaces before us.”
What began as a conversation between friends has blossomed into a rich photographic
journey exploring issues of identity, masculinity, and femininity. Together artist and muse
play with the “feminine fantasies” of cinema, art history, and visual culture. Both admit
captivation and ambivalence toward these depictions of femininity. Yet at the core of
Rivera’s photographs is the idea that her partner’s femininity should be viewed as a strength.
Lissa Rivera is a photographer and curator based New York. Her work has received multiple
grants and honors and has been exhibited internationally. Rivera received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, where she became fascinated with the social history of photography and the evolution of identity, sexuality and gender in relationship to material culture. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Forbes, The Boston Globe, and Slate among many others. Rivera was chosen as a “Woman to Watch” for the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ biennial in 2008. Rivera is represented by ClampArt, New York.
Lissa Rivera, My Swimsuit, 2015, 20 x 30 inches, Courtesy of the artist and ClampArt, New York, NY.
Lissa Rivera, Pink Bedroom, 2017, 30 x 45 inches, Courtesy of the artist and ClampArt, New York, NY.