Lilly McElroy: Meet the woman who literally throws herself at men (in the name of art)

Meet the woman who literally throws herself at men (but it’s all in the name of art)

Her legs fly behind as her arms stretch, outreached and groping for contact. Her chest is on target, heading for a crash landing, milliseconds away, against a stranger's body.

For her art, Lilly McElroy, an LA local, has turned herself into paint and the world around her into a canvas.

In a playful, candid and largely spontaneous set of photographs, I Throw Myself At Men, the 32-year-old master of fine arts graduate hurls herself at men – literally.

Launched! Ms McElroy, originally from Southern Arizona, took two years to create her 'I Throw Myself At Men' project

Launched! Ms McElroy, originally from Southern Arizona, took two years to create her 'I Throw Myself At Men' project. Now based in LA, she said she wants to capture the human desire for connections

On her website, Ms McElroy, originally from Southern Arizona, writes: 'For this project I went to a lot of bars and I literally threw myself at men who I didn't know. I used my body as a projectile, hurling myself toward strong, vulnerable men who were waiting to catch me.'

She notes that she captures 'awkwardness' and 'subverts stereotypical gender roles' – though perhaps most obviously, the photos make a joke of herself in an immediate and sardonic way – possibly what many women accomplish in a protracted and rather more personally embarrassing way when they really do throw themselves at men in the more traditional sense of the expression.

Hello, stranger: Her photos intend to capture 'awkwardness' and 'subvert stereotypical gender roles'

Hello, stranger: Her photos intend to capture 'awkwardness' and 'subvert stereotypical gender roles'

Nice to meet you, too: The pictures were shot in bars in Brooklyn, NY, Chicago, IL, Kansas City, MO, and Tucson, AZ

Nice to meet you, too: The pictures were shot in bars in Brooklyn, NY, Chicago, IL, Kansas City, MO, and Tucson, AZ. Here the man braces himself for the hit, while the artist keeps a straight face

In the part performance art, part social commentary, the featured bars – photographed over two years in Brooklyn, NY, Chicago, IL, Kansas City, MO, and Tucson, AZ, she told Huffington Post – play as big a role as Ms McElroy and her helpful men do.

In an email interview with the news site, Ms McElroy says that, like many Americans her age, she spent much of her youth watching Jackass.

That slapstick sensibility is evident in her work, where the joke is often on her if things don't work out quite according to plan.

She said that while 'there is
obviously a strong feminist component to this project', she is most
'interested in talking about how human that desire for connection is.'

Strong men: The artist said that 'there is obviously a strong feminist component to this project', but is most 'interested in talking about how human that desire for connection is'

Strong men: The artist said that 'there is obviously a strong feminist component to this project', but is most 'interested in talking about how human that desire for connection is'

Hurtling towards her man: Like many Americans her age, the artist spent much of her youth watching Jackass - her pictures have a slapstick sensibility to them

Hurtling towards her man: Like many Americans her age, the artist spent much of her youth watching Jackass – her pictures have a slapstick sensibility to them

Catch me! As awkward as it can be, the coming together of two people and the yearning to be desired makes for a special energy

Catch me! As awkward as it can be, the coming together of two people and the yearning to be desired makes for a special energy

As awkward as it can be, the coming together of two people and the yearning to be desired makes for a special energy.

Watching her soaring towards her new-found man, besides him and the eventual audience, is only the photographer and the bartender – patrons of the bar were unaware of the art that was unfolding around them, she said.

The project took about two years to
complete and had started as an experiment using Craigslist to find her
unlikely subjects. Ms McElroy abandoned her plan to use the website,
she told Huffington Post, after she discovered that face to face
meetings in bars were 'more effective and fun'.

Look, no hands! The strangers were asked to simply stand, only catching the flying artist at the very last moment

Look, no hands! The strangers were asked to simply stand, only catching the flying artist at the very last moment. Here the man even has his hands firmly tucked into his pockets

Solid landing: Rare glimpses of the artist laughing show the fun of the project - she met the strangers in bars and onlookers had no idea what was unfolding

Solid landing: Rare glimpses of the artist laughing show the fun of the project – she met the strangers in bars and onlookers had no idea what was unfolding

If anything, the pictures, originally exhibited in 2008 at the Thomas Robertello Gallery in Chicago, show that bars – most often the places that men and women do come together – are far from romantic, love-filled, beautiful places – they are full of the grit of daily life.

In the interview, Ms McElroy
acknowledges that a reverse version of her project may resemble Martin
Kersels' Tossing a friend photos – the comic and strangely serene
pictures are of the artist doing exactly that.

Braced for landing: The couple are snapped milliseconds from colliding as life goes on as normal around them

Braced for landing: The couple are snapped milliseconds from colliding as life goes on as normal around them

Bar action: It is not the first time the artist has pictured herself in photos, turning usual behaviour - such as meeting men in bars - on its head

Bar action: It is not the first time the artist has pictured herself in photos, turning usual behaviour – such as meeting men in bars – on its head

Hit me baby: With sex largely removed from the equation, the meeting of a man and a women here is comic and awkward

Hit me baby: With sex largely removed from the equation, the meeting of a man and a women here is comic and awkward – the photographer can be seen in this image

It's not the first time the nymph-like artist has turned quotidian urban scenes into a canvas, twisting the usual behaviours associated with places to unlock a new and often comic view of a location.

In her 2003 project, Locations, a demurely sleeping Ms McElroy lies, out of place and time, on the pavement in front of a Prada store, on a Bedford Avenue, NY, subway platform, in a quiet library and on the floor of a gas station.

In 2007, the artist invited a group
of strangers, people she admired, and randomly selected names from the
phonebook to 'watch the sunset with her'. She had spent a year making a
papier mache landscape with a sun that she lowered using a pulley. The
'sunset' took 15 minutes and was watched by the motley group over hot
apple cider in midtown New York.

Artist on the rise: It's not the first time the nymph-like artist has turned quotidian urban scenes into a canvas

Artist on the rise: It's not the first time the nymph-like artist has turned quotidian urban scenes into a canvas

This American life: Ms McElroy has been working on a new project that saw her drive across the U.S. with a film camera in hand

This American life: Ms McElroy has been working on a new project that saw her drive across the U.S. with a film camera in hand

She told HuffPost Arts that she has been working on a new project that saw her drive across the U.S. with a film camera in hand.

In what seems to the archetypal American commentary, as much about the country's culture as its geography, she told the site: 'I…filmed a video of myself holding a boom box over my head and playing Bruce Springsteen's “Dancing in the Dark” to the landscape.'

Out of the bars and into the wide open country – Ms McElroy is throwing herself at the world.