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article imageLilly McElroy throws herself at men — literally Special

By Sarah Millar     Feb 3, 2012 in Arts
When you hear stories about a woman throwing herself at a man, the accompanying image is probably not what you would imagine.
Your thoughts are likely of a woman with too much makeup and not enough clothing on, probably with a lot of alcohol in her bloodstream already, coming on too strong to a man who, let's face it, is just not that into her.
You likely don't think about a woman very literally throwing herself at a man. Which is what the images from artist Lilly McElroy's "I Throw Myself at Men" exhibition depict. The exhibition, which debuted in Chicago in 2008, recently went viral on the web.
On the phone from Tuscon, AZ, McElroy explains the motivation behind her work is often the desire humans have to form connections with other people, eventually leading her to explore the romantic connections.
"That's where the project came from, that curiosity about the desire to form a romantic connection with another person. And how it can be really beautiful and wonderful and humiliating and terrifying all at the same time," she says.
McElroy always asked the men if they were willing to participate before throwing herself at them.
McElroy always asked the men if they were willing to participate before throwing herself at them.
Lilly McElroy
The images are hard not to look at. They are of McElroy flying in the air toward a seemingly unexpected man. But, McElroy is quick to point out, the men know she is coming. She asks them beforehand.
"I'm not jumping on guys who don't know what's coming. Because you know there's a lot of force behind the jump and it could take somebody out pretty quickly," she says.
So just how do you approach a man and ask him if you can hurl yourself at him while your photo is being taken? McElroy says it helps to have a sense of humour about the whole thing.
"I usually approach the men with a sort of a joke which is, 'Hey, do you mind if I literally throw myself at you?' " she says. "They usually think about it for a second, and then I explain that I'll take a picture. And they either say yes or no."
She also usually gets an OK from the bartender to take the photos and throw herself, literally, at men in the bar.
Going viral
In her work  McElroy likes to explore the desire humans have to connect with one another.
In her work, McElroy likes to explore the desire humans have to connect with one another.
Lilly McElroy
As for her photos going viral? McElroy says she has always hoped to make work that will appeal to people who don't necessarily like art. It is also the reason she puts all of her art online, in the hopes someone just surfing the Web aimlessly may come across them and get an art experience of their own.
For McElroy, watching different blogs post the photos and the resulting comment threads have been interesting to watch. Especially since the photos are usually viewed in a gallery or museum setting.
What's viral today usually goes viral again, so is McElroy prepared for a second onslaught of interest in a few years' time? She says she is just happy people are interested in her work and has no future expectations.
"It would be great if in three or four years from now people are still interested and still find the work relevant," she says. "But that's the hope of any artist, I think, whether you're a musician or someone working in the visual arts or a writer or whatever. Everybody hopes to make something that remains relevant."
More about Art, Performance art, Photography, Lilly McElroy