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A Ghost Is Occupying My Heart

Photographer John Arsenault overcomes heartbreak with an emotional exhibition of nudes and landscapes

by Victor Reznik in Culture on 05 January 2011

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Sometimes love just isn't enough, at least that's how photographer John Arsenault tells it in his gallery exhibition "A Ghost Is Occupying My Heart." After a nine-year-long relationship—the subject of most of his previous work—dissolved into blocked Facebook accounts and a self-healing playlist, the artist escaped from NYC and traveled to the insulated Massachusetts harbor community of Provincetown. There, Arsenault re-discovered himself by "stripping myself down emotionally, often literally nude, in order to create a body of work that revealed my pain as honestly as I could." Arsenault is acutely aware of the viewer in all of his self-portraits, in fact he leverages that voyeuristic relationship to expose his isolation, making for a palpable feeling of discomfort that is both beautiful and eerie.

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"A Ghost Is Occupying My Heart," is an introspective collection of work in which the photographer contrasts his emotional despondence against landscapes that express his state of mind. On view a few years ago, the self-portraits are now complimented by landscapes and still life imagery that express a need to be left alone in a state of contemplation. Arsenault achieves a strong sense of disconnection from his camera by literally positioning the apparatus in a way that seemingly startles the subject in the image. By discovering the camera he creates an exhibition in which he re-discovers himself.

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Putting a positive spin a somber situation, 10% of the proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for at risk LGBTQ teens. The show opens 6 January 2010 at Clampart and runs through the 5 February 2010.

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