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‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Exhibit at Kaycee Olsen Gallery

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An exhibit of 60 soldiers affected by the military policy keeping gay soldiers from serving openly is currently on display at the Kaycee Olsen Gallery. We asked the artist Ken Sheng if this provocative project is photo journalism, activism or art.

“I consider my work to be mostly art,” Sheng tells FBLA. “Because the images are a collaboration between me and the subjects where we create and control the different gestures and poses for their pictures, it doesn’t register as traditional photo journalism. And while the work is inspired by politics and activism – and can certainly be used for those purposes – it isn’t a campaign. It is really my singular artistic vision of the issue, and I hope that the images register as strong works of art.”

Full press release and details after the jump.

PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION FEATURING OVER SIXTY CLOSETED SERVICE MEMBERS AFFECTED BY THE “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” POLICY DEBUTS IN LOS ANGELES.

Kaycee Olsen Gallery, Los Angeles, is proud to present photographer Jeff Sheng’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” series from September 18 to October 23, 2010. This exhibition will be the first to feature the photographs and stories of over sixty servicemen and woman currently affected by the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which mandates the immediate discharge of those persons in the United States military who are allegedly or openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This exhibition coincides with the current political and judicial debate of the issue of the laws known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The show features twenty framed images, along with two artist books highlighting the portraits and individual stories of over sixty currently serving military personal. To create each work, Sheng uses lighting and shadow effects to mask part or all of his subjects’ faces and asks each to provide an alias and location with personal meaning for the title of the work. In doing so, he protects and emphasizes their anonymity. The artist elaborates, “Ultimately for me, these photographs underscore the silence permeating the unsung heroism of gay and lesbian military personnel. The photos are about the men and women who continue to fight and serve despite the heartbreaking invisibility they suffer.”

The exhibition coincides with the artist’s release of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Volume 2, a 100-page, full color photography book (www.DADTbook.com), featuring the portraits taken in 2010 of these closeted service members. In the book’s foreword, Congressman Patrick J. Murphy who earlier this year introduced the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill into the U.S. House of Representatives, writes, “To remove honorable, talented and patriotic troops from serving, contradicts the American values our military fights for and our nation holds dear. The time is now to end this wrongheaded policy.” The photography book also contains essays by celebrated LGBT activist David Mixner and discharged veteran Major Mike Almy.

Jeff Sheng received his MFA (Master of Fine Arts in studio art) from the University of California, Irvine, and his BA from Harvard University. His previous photographic series “Fearless” on “out” lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes on high school and college sports teams, has been exhibited at over forty college and high school campuses, as well as ESPN Headquarters and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. His artwork is also in such prominent collections as the Sir Elton John Photography Collection and the Human Rights Campaign Collection. Additional artist information about Jeff Sheng can be found at www.jeffsheng.com.

Kaycee Olsen Gallery is open 11am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday, admission is free and open to the public.

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