by Zachary Z. Handler
October 19 - November 23, 2019
The night I called my grandfather to tell him I finally got my Hebrew name, “Zevel,” I used the landline phone in my father’s jewelry studio. My grandfather, an Orthodox Jew and president of his shul, was so upset that my Hebrew school teacher had given me a name that means “trash” that he called the school himself to complain.
I have always been an avid collector of items that are typically discarded or left behind: the pull tab from the soda I shared with my failed first kiss, the instructions that came with my golf clubs I only used when my mother punished me by dropping me off at the hitting range or the receipt from my embarrassing sixteenth birthday dinner at Hooters restaurant where my father took me just to see how I reacted to the waitresses. I hold onto these things because they carry a certain magic that runs throughout my life. I save them because they collectively document the history that I have made; souvenirs reminiscent of something I never want to forget.
These photographs survey my childhood and adolescent years through a playful balancing act of pop culture ephemera from the 1980s and 1990s stirred together with my own archive of mementos. Their presentation as modern reliquaries is meant to remind us of the innocence and joy that most of us experience during our formative years where we explore our multiple senses of self. They also showcase the sometimes painful realities of growing up othered.
Each still life is partnered by an intimate story which hints at the meaning assigned to the object(s). This is my way of offering a voyeuristic, vicarious touch on these experiences, from first love to first heartbreak and back again. These objects might evoke specific memories for the viewer, a mysterious cross between shared culture and the universal search for identity. “Zevel” is an opportunity to elevate the mundane to the mythical and reconsider our own treasure troves of tangible history.
Zachary Z. Handler (b. 1980 Silver Spring, MD) is a visual artist exploring the on-going narrative of the different forms that queerness can inhabit and the social expectations that lie behind it. Handler celebrates the distinct and beautiful strangeness that othered people possess.
In addition to his artistic practice, Handler has a streamlined career both in the fields of healthcare and art education. Working with such arts organizations as the Museum of Modern Art, Quest Visual Theatre, and the Creative Alliance, he created access programs to individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind. He has taught art classes across the country and overseas, to deaf and hard of hearing youth in foster care.
Handler received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2003 and a Masters in Arts Administration from Columbia University Teachers College in 2005. He co-curated ‘Miami is Nice’ at Space Camp in 2017.