Capturing Queer America, 30 Years After Mapplethorpe

Molly Landreth’s Portraits Recall Classic Images While Obliterating Familiar Narratives

In classic gay coming-of-age stories, the small-town misfit escapes to the big city—the bigger the better. Robert Mapplethorpe left his home in Floral Park, Queens for art school in Brooklyn and then New York City, where he fell in with a group of artists and eccentrics, most notably Patti Smith, Sam Wagstaff, and George Dureau. “I come from suburban America,” he once remarked. “It was a very safe environment and it was a good place to come from in that it was a good place to leave.”

Mapplethorpe found an artistic …