YOU don't need to be a psychology buff to enjoy "dream boy" by Andrew Lyman, but it sure couldn't hurt.
The winning exhibit of Non-Fiction Gallery's "Your Art Here" contest, "dream boy" explores themes of sexuality, queerness, coming of age, digital communication, otherness and isolation, and single pieces individually and collectively explore even more themes.
Lyman, an Atlanta native, is a photography major at SCAD and is one quarter away from graduation. He's interned with CR Fashion Book in New York and has been featured in SPOON and Savannah's own Aint-Bad magazine.
Many of the photographs in "dream boy" come from one of his larger series, "Reverence," and also has roots in another series of his, "Teen Dream."
That series, created in his sophomore year, sought to exemplify the ideal teenage boy, which is certainly a major part of "dream boy" as well.
"I've always been interested in this other entity, a certain coolness," Lyman explains.
"I definitely felt bothered growing up as a queer dude, and just being weirder than everyone else and wanting to fit in and not seeing any reason why I wouldn't. There's always been this untouchable entity of coolness; that's where 'dream boy' comes from."
With the exception of the coolest kids, the feeling of youth ostracism, in its various forms, is universal and one of the reasons why so many people dislike their middle school years.
Being a kid on the queer spectrum can make the ostracism sting even more, since, as Lyman explains, "I didn't really fit in with the boys, and the girls were like, 'No boys allowed.'"
However, Lyman notes, "The show isn't necessarily about boys; it's more about myself and being a boy."
While the show is largely comprised of photographs, it’s also an installation piece meant to represent Lyman’s boyhood bedroom, down to a pile of dirty laundry and a well-worn chair across from a computer screen.
Giant printouts of text messages are also hung on the wall, which, Lyman says, are all real texts he’s sent and received.
A defining tenet of the show is post-human theory, which refers to the domination of computers and other forms of artificial intelligence in today's world and how said domination could mean that computers will become smarter than humans.
While Lyman doesn't get this deep into the theory with his art, he uses a lot of texts in an attempt to capture what it's like to come of age in the digital world.
Some of the texts are obvious rejections, like "no thanks" "i'm good" and "this is awkward." In the days of sexting and Tinder, even a flippant text can instantly make someone feel like they don't belong and are undesirable.
Lyman also uses a series of sixteen photos of boys looking into or away from the camera to help visualize rejection.
"It's a questioning gaze, the male gaze, but it's very different than an objectifying gaze," Lyman muses. "I see the gaze as a mirror. There are all of these moments where you're waiting for the other person to respond to you. It's all about feeling like you belong or not."
One of the most visually interesting parts of the show is the huge collage of 4x6 prints, not unlike the kind you get from CVS kiosks, tackling a variety of symbols and themes. It's almost like a hidden picture puzzle — the more you look, the more you see, and the more you analyze.
"With each photo, I like it to ask more questions than be definitive," Lyman says. "You can draw your own conclusions. Everything is put next to something else that makes sense and relates to everything around it. It's an ephemeral grouping."
A particularly striking juxtaposition is a photo of Lyman's young nephew next to a photo of Lyman's full backside, a pairing he says his sister would kill him over.
In fact, nudity appears a lot in the collage, but all to varying degrees, raising questions of how context makes nudity acceptable or not. That too can be seen as one of the underlying themes of the show.
"We're putting a disclaimer at the front saying there's nudity, but it's totally mild," he asserts.
While the nudity is mild, sensitive viewers beware: there are two photos of frontal nudity and small plaster-cast molds of, ahem, members in the cloud installation.
The genitalia, though, shouldn't be a reason to miss it this deeply personal, incredibly smart, sometimes complicated show.
After all, as Lyman says, "Boyishness is nebulous."
dream boy at Non-Fiction Gallery,
1522 Bull St., through July 7
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