Sheffy Bleier
On Sheffy Bleier's Testicles

Part of the series Body of Love, the photograph Testicles yokes together a multitude of seething contradictions within its frame. Set against spotless, white drapery - which recalls the bloodless backgrounds of tampon commercials - the skinned flesh of the bull's sex organ, pierced by a butcher's hook from which it is suspended, leaves one's gaze in an impossible limbo between repulsion (averting one's eyes) and mesmerizing attraction. The grotesque length of the penis, amplified by its thinness, hangs limply like a piece of rope, in an unsmiling mockery of erection -   the quintessence of the male sporadic victory over gravity. Impotence is made wholly irreversible and no Viagra will ever make a difference.

The potency of the image resides in its turning the tables on K. Clark's canonical distinction between the nude and the naked. Not only that the (male) body is drastically reduced to its sexual emblem (usually modestly concealed or physically compressed in classical art), but the nudity itself is visually articulated through the nakedness of the flesh deprived even of its natural "clothing" – the skin - that serves as the vehicle of artistic transformation of the naked body into the nude of art. Inexplicably, the nude is rendered wholly naked. The spirit (art, beauty) is in the flesh.

The photograph reverberates with countless references to art motifs, beginning with the flaying of Marsyas by the victorious Apollo, through the genre of the butcher's stall in still life painting with its blunt articulation of the vanity of the flesh, up to the contemporary preoccupation with the body as meat. And yet it holds its own in the stillness and calm suffusing the screaming horror of the image. The cool, clinical, almost analytical detachment brings to mind the utterly utilitarian, i.e. non-art, police or medical photography with its post-mortem gruesome exactitude, while the locus of the male pride is transmogrified into piteous vulnerability with its attendant feelings of tender compassion. Could it be that the unflinching immanence of the flesh of the body is the gate to the transcendence of the loving grace? This is only for the viewer to decide.

Jerzy Michalowicz,
Jerusalem, 3 Sept., 2008