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Forrest Bess was a painter/fisherman who exhibited his work in a renowned New York gallery yet lived in poverty and isolation on an island off the Gulf Coast of Texas. Bess developed elaborate theories about the uniting of the male and the female within his own body, and performed operations on his own genitals that turned him into a pseudo-hermaphrodite. In his lifetime, Bess wanted to show his medical theories alongside his paintings, but his longtime dealer, Betty Parsons, always politely declined. As part of the 2012 Whitney Biennial, sculptor Robert Gober, working from Bess’s letters, curated a room of paintings and archival materials that realizes Bess’s wish.
Robert Gober is a New York–based sculptor who has curated exhibitions since 1986.
Forrest Bess’s work is on view in the Museum’s second floor galleries.