Watering Hole

Peter Tomka

Self Portrait Aquatics Center, 2023; Peter Tomka

Part of my recent life has been showering at the gym or the spa because I do not have that private bathing space in my current living situation. I was thinking about private thoughts in public and wanted to record myself taking a shower in public. ‘Self Portrait Aquatics Center’ is taken clandestinely from a stall across from where I am showering in public. The recording device was filming and I was able to take a still from the video.

Lafayette Park Place, 2023; Peter Tomka

‘Lafayette Park Place’ is a photograph of ‘Power of Water’, a statue between Hoover and Lafayette Park Place out front of the 1927 historically significant Granada Building. In disrepair and vandalized now, the statue was originally a water fountain made during the Public Works of Art Project, a prototype and short lived program that was the precursor to the WPA's Federal Art Project. Cast in Stone in 1934, Henry Lion led the project with design and modeling, engineering done by Sherry Peticolas and assistance by Jason Herron.

Montalivet, 2023; Peter Tomka


It was a very long flight to Europe followed by two trains to get to Montalivet, the title and site of where this photograph was taken. The occasion was the belated 30th birthday party of Remi, my French pen pal from when we were 16. I was the last person to arrive to a larger group of gays and this was sort of a hazing tactic, they hosed me down wet t-shirt contest style and tackled me with joy when I arrived.

Send Me No Flowers, 2023; Peter Tomka


This is a still of Rock Hudson from the 1964 film 'Send Me No Flowers' with Doris Day and Tony Randall. Rock Hudson plays a hypochondriac who before he dies tries to find Doris Day a new husband. Doris Day thinks he is cheating and throws him out. Rock Hudson's death from AIDs complications had an impact on funding AIDs research and finally made the Reagan Administration acknowledge the epidemic.

Watersport, 2023; Peter Tomka


Nick Norcia, originally from a southern conservative household, moved to Los Angeles to work in entertainment and has an online following. He is photographed in front of the Richard J. Riordan Central Library in downtown. He is sitting in a now defunct water fountain cut off to dryscape the property.

Bittencourt, 2023; Peter Tomka


Evan Bittencourt, the subject in this photograph, is an actor here in Los Angeles. I would compare this scene to when the actor has to continually eat through a scene and then they spit out the food after each take. Evan was drinking water for quite sometime and the position of his hand eventually came from the duration of the shoot.

El Royale, 2023; Peter Tomka


The El Royale is a building in Hancock Park designed by William Douglas Lee, the architect for Chateau Marmont. The El Royale is the site and title for this image.

Stone Cold Celebration, 2023; Peter Tomka


Stone Cold Steve Austin is known in wrestling for his antihero image. This is a classic beer smash photograph that was sent in a group text in reference to the now nostalgic and popular era of wrestling.

Champagne, 1982, 2023; Peter Tomka


This shows Jerry Buss celebrating the NBA championship in the locker room at the Forum. "Lakers owner Jerry Buss gets a champagne shower from Magic Johnson." Part of 'Watering Hole' was to showcase champagne celebrations and christenings.

Sæmundsdóttir, 2023; Peter Tomka


This is an image of 'Prometheus Bringing Fire to Earth' (1934) by Nína Sæmundsson (originally Sæmundsdóttir) with the Westlake Theater (1926) sign in the background. The statue was built as part of the PWAP and dedicated in 1935 a year after Wilshire Blvd split Westlake Park in two. The imagery also follows the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics with a torch in hand.

Interviewer: Where did the initial idea to put this series together come from?

The original idea for ‘Watering Hole’ came from my working title ‘Silver Shower’. In the gelatin silver process the paper takes a bath through a series of chemical trays. Each time I am working on a project involving this process I set up a new darkroom in my studio. The setup places the chemical bath between the easel receiving the latent image and the glory hole where the projection comes from. After the photograph is processed it is hung dry like laundry. I use an inflatable queen size sheet that holds the trays as my tarp, normally used for golden showers in the bedroom. The flow of liquid from the print eventually tapers and dribbles down the corner of the paper as if imitating a leaky faucet. The process influenced my decision to explore the intersection of piss play, christenings, and Los Angeles’ access to water.

Were the photographs intended as a series from the beginning or is there more of a complex and fractured origin story?

My sourcing and editing process for ‘Watering Hole’ follows the standard I set forth in my first show ‘Paternity Test’ (2021). In both these exhibitions, images from my digital archive, source material, and recent portraiture are put together. As the images pile up the intention becomes clearer. The exhibition reveals itself before the editing starts and it is like I need to find my way through a giant stack of images.

Is there a story behind how you ordered the photographs? Are they charting a journey or are they intended more as a collage of a mood?

The pagination of the exhibition is anchored on two works ‘Lafayette Park Place’ and ‘Sæmundsdóttir’, with ‘Self Portrait Aquatics Center’ intro-ing the welcome to the watering hole (I wanted a butt to butt moment). The two statues featured are both located blocks from each other. Between their physical sites is my studio. I wanted to mirror their physical sites and set an intentional structure for the exhibition. The work filled in accordingly as if the wetness traveled with ease from one image to the next.

*Questions by Micaela Brinsley

Peter Tomka

Peter Tomka is an artist and founder of No Moon LA. His work is held in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He holds a BA from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of California, Riverside.

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