Artist Spotlight: Colton White

Colton James White's creativity is manifested in the spectacle of performance art, specifically fetishizing anonymous encounters, strangers, sexual frustration, and intimacy. White, who recently graduated UNT with a BFA in New Media Studio Arts,  credits Marina Abramović for being his “gateway drug” into the world of performance art, but now reaches past her influence into the grittier, non-commercialized world of experimental art for his fix.

Colton James White
Photo by Gibson Regester

Hotlips at the Beautiful Creature, his most recent project, is a three-year culmination of work that has evolved with its performer over time. White invites participants to explore ideas concerning personal space, sexuality, and spectacle.  He sits facing away from the audience, a faceless body. His participants are brought in individually, and asked to sit in front of him. Each participant chooses a shade of lipstick to be applied by White. The magic happens in the mode of application. Rather than keeping a “safe” distance, and using his hands to apply the rouge like normal, White sticks the lipstick in his mouth, and draws on his participants’ faces. He mashes the lipstick into their mouths, swerves it across their cheeks, and draws out the participants’ innermost discomforts all while being 3 inches away from their face.

White has had his participants jerk away from him in horror, straight men excitedly hopping into the hot seat, and people treating it like a first date and introducing themselves before allowing their look to be transformed. Each encounter was different, intimate, sexualized, and quick – 30 seconds tops. But much like a one-night stand, once it’s done, it’s done.

White's work is not one that can be reproduced. Each rendition of Hotlips is something completely different and exciting. If you weren’t there to see it, you missed something truly special. While the last rendition of Hotlips was recorded (on tape!), I wouldn’t expect to see the finished documentary footage anytime soon. White keeps his art fresh, sexy, and intimate by embracing the ephemeral nature of performance art and choosing to document his encounters minimally, if at all.

The Dentonite is proud to present excerpts of White's performance art you don't have to wait until 2017 for the next showing. Our slideshow presents photos taken by Gibson Regester after lipstick was applied to White's subjects. They serve as a personal little black book of encounters. Also included is video documentation of the final participant from the 2016 solo show. Additionally, you can explore White's website for the previous incarnations of his Hotlips encounters.

All photos by Gibson Regester

Header image design by Jason Lee