At first glance, it might appear as "La Grande Odalisque" by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the famous painting featuring a posing naked woman. But wait — the naked woman has a beard.
A series of 22 photos by French-born artist 2fik is coming to Brooklyn gallery Invisible Dog on April 20, and many of the works will seem familiar to the everyday art fan, except for one element — 2fik's own image appears in each of them, a message of identity born straight from the past of the man himself.
"There is this type of weird notion of identity that society tends to have," 2fik explained to Metro. "They always make a link between what you look like and what you are."
2fik's idea to recreate well-known works using his image stems from his own identity has a multicultural person who doesn't seem to "fit in anywhere." His parents are from Morocco and he was raised Muslim. He was born in France. He is openly gay. He has Mediterranean features. He has been living in Canada for the past 10 years.
"Instead of trying to fit in one culture and be totally grounded, I perceived that identity is actually a pile-up of identities and a mix of experience and views, personality, skin type, religion, body type," 2fik said.
Each image of 2fik that appears in his work is a different character with a personality, fears and goals, he said. He works almost entirely alone, shooting the images on his own, with the exception of a lighting assistant from time to time. He has been working on this series, the second of his art career, for the last three and a half years. His work tends to prompt a chuckle, as 2fik often appears nude or dressed as a woman in the photos — but humor is a big part of his message.
"Having been through some crazy struggles, I think humor saved me a lot," 2fik said. "Making people laugh is making people open their hearts."
He pursued an exhibition at Invisible Dog after a friend from Montreal first visited and told 2fik about this "crazy place in Brooklyn" he must go and see.
"I say this in a humble way, but I think [my work] can be seen refreshing because I am not at all from the art world, originally," 2fik said. "My father was a baker and my mother was a stay-at-home mother. I did this series as I felt, doing it. I didn’t bend my views, my photos, my visions about how it could be potentially seen."
The exhibition will be at Invisible Dog from April 20 to May 18. It will then be featured at the French embassy in Washington, D.C.