Project One Gallery has continued to exhibit strong work in 2012, and recently Gallery Director Brooke Waterhouse’ curatorial eye has fallen upon the amazing photographic paintings of artist Franz Szony.  “Hapenis” is Szony’s first solo exhibition in SF, and is surprising in it’s symbolical depth and artistic details.

Best described as a “Photographic Painter”, Szony builds his “paintings” by shooting individual elements, scenes, and objects, which are then compiled into a finalized image concept. But these large scale works are far more than just simple photo collage, they are a devotion of time and detail rarely seen in the photography aesthetic.

Each image requires a team of dedicated models to sit for countless hours while they are prepped in a complex assortment of makeup, wig, and costume setups. Szony then works hands on, placing individuals perfectly in scenes that he will first photograph, and later add to the final image. Eventually through countless hundreds of hours, Szony completes his dreamscape puzzles which quite literally take the viewer inside the artist’s mind.

Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Szony attended San Francisco’s Academy of Art as an adult and returned to the “Biggest Little City in the World” in 2007.  Szony then delved into his passion and drive to create art, even going as far to open his very own “Mood Museum”, a gallery inside a vacant Reno building. It is undoubtedly amazing that someone of Szony’s photographic talent has only just recently emerged, and out of all places Nevada. The scope and scale of the work is especially impressive, considering this is the first time his work has premiered in a larger city.

The photographic paintings themselves feature compositions and individuals playing off one another in theatrical artistry. We’re given a ticket to explore Szony’s subconscious, while exploring concepts about life and humanity derived directly from his dreams.

“The worlds and characters I’ve dreamt have inspired both minute details, as well as entire works of art, both aesthetically and emotionally,” says Szony.

In an effort to better understand his own subconscious, the artist has kept a dream diary in which he meticulously records his nighttime affairs. It’s within these recorded nocturnal explorations where Szony has dedicated himself to accurately and artistically recreating this imagery in his photographic paintings.

Franz Szony’s underpinning narratives excel at showing just how interesting his work can be, and can make one feel as if they’ve just stepped through a rabbit hole of abstract photographic concepts that weave themselves into visual poetry.

In “Old World” and “New World” Szony explores the dichotomy between life on earth in a ying-yang fashion, while pointing out that cyclical nature of the universe as a whole.

The photographic painting “Hapenis” (also the title of the show), traverses the transcendental world of gender identity, and how sexuality can at times be a challenging and difficult expression to pin down. The image is affronting, with breasts replaced by penises, baby’s suckling tender bosoms between open legs, and so on. That which at first comes off as crass slowly works at breaking down barriers and beliefs within the viewer as they explore the imagery further. In the end, “Hapenis” succeeds at being a literal visual examination of our own gender notions and preconceptions.

The show features 17 works by Franz Szony, including a spectacular Swarovski crystal corset produced for his photographic painting “I’ll Be Fine”. Art and fashion cross paths in this corset made of antique Rococo perfume bottles, 100-year-old skeleton keys, and embedded gem Swarovski crystals. This provides us another perspective of Szony as not only a photographic painter, but also a fashion designer.

“Hapenis” is a wonderful look into the creative genius that is Franz Szony, an artist that is only just beginning to redefine what a photographic artwork can be. There is no doubt the world will be seeing much more from Szony in the future, and we’re eagerly looking forward to it.

– review and photographs by Michael Cuffe for Warholian

Franz Szony’s “Hapenis” will be exhibited at Project One Gallery from July 11th until August 4th, 2012. For more information visit the Project One website here:

For more on Franz Szony visit: