October 28 – January 5, 2021
The Meat Rack series by Sam Zalutsky explores the deep sense of wonder, beauty, and desire found in the Meat Rack, a small forest between two gay communities on Fire Island, where men have sought connection for close to a century. The two beach communities of Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines have served as a bucolic summer escape for generations of urban gay New Yorkers. The Meat Rack, nestled between the two towns, is filled with scraggly, otherworldly trees and shrubs and intersected by narrow pathways, some which lead to the next communities and some that dead end inexplicably in a patch of branches. Despite various threats, including periodic sting operations by forest marshals, the pink scares of the 1950s, the AIDS epidemic, and the rise of smart phone apps like Grindr or Scruff, the Meat Rack continues to be a place where sexual freedom and desire are played out in real time and in a public space, where layers of this history can be found in condom wrappers, beer bottles, tissues, and other detritus buried in the sand along the dead end trails and hidden nooks and crannies.
The series reveals and contrasts the natural beauty of this place with the heightened sense of sexuality, connection, and possibility that exist here between men; that might emerge down the path, around the corner, through the trees; where the person you “spy” through the thicket could engender just a friendly hello or maybe a passionate sexual encounter. I use infrared color film, a format developed originally by the US military for camouflage detection, to foreground the act of searching in a possibly hostile environment for sexual and emotional connection. The pink and red colors also reveal the heightened sexual energy and excitement as well as an otherworldly sense of place and purpose. The film defamiliarizes the everyday imagery of the forest, heightens the act of looking, and reflects on the hidden codes of gay male culture and public cruising, where subtle signs are still used to both reveal and hide ones’ identity, signal to like-minded individuals, and survive in potentially hostile environments.
As a photographer, Sam Zalutsky won honorable mention with two Meat Rack series photos, #3 and #8, in this year’s SoHo Photo National Competition, curated by Kris Graves. He also presented the series in MANA Contemporary’s Digital Open House. Earlier this year, two images from his Ghost Self Portrait series appeared in shows: “Katherine I,” was selected for the Photographic Center Northwest’s Distinction show, also curated by Kris Graves, and “Nutty with Ghost Self,” was part of “the imperfect lens,” at the A Smith gallery (Johnson City, TX) curated by Michael Kirchoff. Last year, Sam participated in Review Santa Fe and his photo, “Meat Rack 8,” was in the Center for Fine Art Photography’s 2018 Center Forward show (Kris Graves & Hamidah Glasgow, curators).
As a filmmaker, Sam’s new feature, SEASIDE, a revenge thriller with a queer twist, starring Ariana DeBose (Anita, Steven Spielberg’s West SideStory; Alyssa, Ryan Murphy’s The Prom;original Hamiltoncast) won Best Feature Award at the Klamath Film Festival and was a 2019 Gravitas Ventures release. His first feature, YOU BELONG TO ME (Wolfe Releasing), a gay horror story, was shortlisted for the Independent Spirit Award’s Someone to Watch Award and screened at Frameline, Outfest, Palm Springs, San Diego FilmOut (Audience Award, Best First Feature), and NewFest (Honorable Mention). Sam directed on A Crime to Rememberand I, Witness. His short, HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE PROMISED LAND, about a Holocaust role-play game at summer camp, was funded by the Jerome Foundation and premiered on ShortoftheWeek.com. He has created dozens of videos on breast cancer survivors, New York non-profits including Prep for Prep, Reach Prep, and Civic Builders, and campaign videos for New York progressive politicians Biaggi, Jackson, Richardson, and Cabán, with the Creative Resistance. Residencies: MacDowell; VCCA; Fundación Valparaiso. Sam teaches screenwriting in the Spalding University Low Residency MFA in Writing (Louisville), and has taught at NYU, Bennington, and Tec de Monterey (Queretaro). MFA, film, NYU Tisch; BA, Yale.
View Sam Zalutsky’s website.