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Red State

March 21, 2017
  • Photographer Brandon Barnhart and performing artist Peter Smith find each other in the mountain town of Bozeman, Montana to create photos that unpack the more intimate parts of their practices explored in rural seclusion. Photorgaphs by Brandon Barnhart
    Texts by Peter Smith & Brandon Barnhart

    I left LA for 5 months at the beginning of 2016 to read and write about gender, sexuality, and magical realism. I found my work showing interest in these areas and wanted to be a better advocate for the themes I explore. During that time in Idaho and Washington, where I grew up, I caught wind that Peter Smith was doing something similar nearby. Peter, a performer and artist I deeply adore, happened to be stepping away from their life in New York to live in Montana for a bit. I left my red state and drove to Peter’s red state and there, in Bozeman, we messily unpacked what we had been toying with in our seclusions.

    I am interested in the ways humans understand and access their fantasies. Falling heavily down the Murakami rabbit hole made me keenly aware of how powerfully we catch glimpses of truths through the nonsensical, and, often, the horrifying. Peter had read about a woman in the area who felt so trapped in her family that she shot her kids. How horrible, they said. To feel so disillusioned. So limited. Why did Peter have a desire to understand that place? Why did I? If one person could get there, couldn’t we? Is that ok? There was still a lot of ice on the ground, a Montana March, and there were rumors of ghosts in at least one of the buildings on their family’s property.Each day we talked about horror, and those conversations led to these photos.

    We met up then, I think, to feel understood. Validated. Supported in a way only someone moving on a similar wave can support you. We had no plan, really, just a desire to create. But a year later, these photos seem like a document of love for someone so beautifully in touch with artistic guides I myself was yearning to hear.

    Peter is an exquisite form. Ever in flux. Horrified. And so full.

    -Brandon

    My therapist is paying his rent because I could be better at emotionally and behaviorally coping with stuff. My issues afford someone else to live in New York City. Maybe one day I will be able to turn a profit by how I deal with things. Maybe one day I will sing “Maybe This Time” as the first non-binary Sally Bowles in Broadway’s Alan-Cumming-Free-Revival of ‘Cabaret’. Although Sally Bowles is written for a woman. Sometimes, a woman is a woman (but always, an Alan is a Cumming.)

    Maybe one day my problems will pay my rent. I’m not getting paid for this. This business is pay me or pay attention to me. This business is show business and people have sung that there is no business like it but people sung thungs to thumsulves to make thumsulves feel butter all the time. I do, at least. Speaking in general is dangerous. Though a dangerous General is something I’ve often been cast to speak as. I’ve played “The Mean Man” a lot. I’m good at it. I think I’m good at playing “The Mean Man” because for a while I was mean to myself for having the same body as one.

    Somebody who wanted me to call them “mentor” once asked me if I performed because I wanted to be somebody else or if it simply was all I could imagine doing for the rest of my life. He then put his hand on my thigh and asked another question and I haven’t talked to him since. I’ve thought about sending him a letter apologizing for being incommunicado. With thoughts like that, my therapist could get a timeshare.

    -Peter

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