The photographer tries, oh how he tries, to plumb his subjects' depths, only to run aground in shallows; searching for a Mona Lisa smile, he finds only a Barbie doll's empty stare. The tweener and Gen Y girls populating these pictures harbor no secrets in their eyes, only boredom. They are here on this nude beach because their parents made them come; they would rather be texting their friends or downloading ringtones. From their vacant semblances Sturges wants to coax the same Bertolucci burnish in 2006 that he captured in 1976. Alas, XBox and wi-fi have leeched the enigma out of young eyes, leaving vapidity in the void where possibility used to reside. In the absence of the pregnant gaze of old, Sturges forces his models to turn away (as in Fanny, D106) or to feign depth where none is present. In Fanny, D107, the eponymous model flexes her forearm with Popeye machismo, but her sparkless eyes keep the image from being the feminist, genderqueer statement it desperately wants to be. And so Sturges retreats into the forest, photographing Vanessa et Miranda in backlit wide shot, two would-be sprites frolicking among the trees, reduced to silhouettes. Pity poor Sturges: Only distance and lighting tricks can turn his displaced mall rats into myths and metaphors.
Butters Gallery, 520 NW Davis St., 2nd floor, 248-9378. Closes May 27.