What you are looking for can be found at www.blurb.com/user/richardchase. At least if you're looking for one of these.
The first time I bound my breasts I was saved -- that simple act pulled me out of a deep depression, and away from self-injury. A very close friend had been savagely beaten returning home from a gay dance on Prince Edward Island. The images of her battered and bruised face posted to the internet were heart-wrenching. Not only did they show what had happened to her, but they were also a stark reminder of the hateful experiences many of us face in the Queer community. I found myself tormented by memories of the constant physical and emotional abuse I suffered as an adolescent at the hands of my 'peers'. I was in New Brunswick at the time, and confided in a wise and caring friend. Before the beating, we had been having lively discussions about life and gender, about happiness and identity, and about the idea of androgyny. After the beating, she saw me falling into anger and silence, a darker side of myself that I hesitated to share with others. Not one to sit back and let the wrong thing happen, she offered me a remedy in the shape of panty hose. I joined her in ransacking the local Salvation Army for 'little boy clothes', and then we hacked off most of my hair while listening to Regina Spektor. With some arts and crafts instructions from the internet, we cut the legs off the panty hose for my arms and a hole in the crotch for my head. Pull that down tight, and there go the breasts. Put on a comfortable shirt, a little mousse in the hair for some punk, and there goes Amanda and here comes Lou.
The first time I bound my breasts I was saved -- that simple act pulled me out of a deep depression, and away from self-injury. A very close friend had been savagely beaten returning home from a gay dance on Prince Edward Island. The images of her battered and bruised face posted to the internet were heart-wrenching. Not only did they show what had happened to her, but they were also a stark reminder of the hateful experiences many of us face in the Queer community. I found myself tormented by memories of the constant physical and emotional abuse I suffered as an adolescent at the hands of my 'peers'.
I was in New Brunswick at the time, and confided in a wise and caring friend. Before the beating, we had been having lively discussions about life and gender, about happiness and identity, and about the idea of androgyny. After the beating, she saw me falling into anger and silence, a darker side of myself that I hesitated to share with others.
Not one to sit back and let the wrong thing happen, she offered me a remedy in the shape of panty hose. I joined her in ransacking the local Salvation Army for 'little boy clothes', and then we hacked off most of my hair while listening to Regina Spektor. With some arts and crafts instructions from the internet, we cut the legs off the panty hose for my arms and a hole in the crotch for my head. Pull that down tight, and there go the breasts. Put on a comfortable shirt, a little mousse in the hair for some punk, and there goes Amanda and here comes Lou.
As time has gone on, I've become aware that binding has strengthened my ability to admire myself as an individual. It is empowering in that it allows me the freedom to feel genderless. The idea that someone watching me walk down the street can't know if I am a boy or a girl thrills me because I know I'm the one with the answer. Make no mistake, though -- I do deeply love my female body, and often my clothes or my composure reflect that. But I don't let it define me. When I do bind or dress like a boy it is simply another conversation between my spirit and the physical world. Long flowing skirts and button up plaid are both expressions of who I am.
When you're young and you start to understand that the body you've been living in doesn't fit right, the world as you know it gets a little shaky underfoot. When that awareness doesn't go away, self-doubt and distrust become constant and troubling companions. There aren't any guidelines or protocols available to help sort this out. There aren't many adults who might take this mistake seriously, or even see it as more than just a phase or a child's funny whim. So you do your best to be who you are. You hide some things, and play up others. You discover that while girls are much more interesting than boys, your own outer shell is a problem. Before too long, the other kids notice that you don't fit the same mold that spawned them. Acne flairs and, while you can hide your body, you can't hide your face. With the solicitude and understanding of the young, you're singled out for the special attention that only the ignorant can offer.
You can't define yourself. How you fit into the world around you becomes an impossibility to manage. You torture yourself about what you did to make yourself go this wrong. And worse than that, you're deeply afraid of your own future.
Yes, eventually people were found who weren't judgmental and who didn't care about sexual orientation. And that offered some relief, for awhile. But those friends weren't able to help with the quagmire that surrounded Jay's need to reconcile the thoughts and emotions and ideas that made up her internal person with the clear fact of the flesh and blood body that surrounded them. This determination to understand herself and accept that she didn't fit into society's 'norms' sent Jay into almost constant emotional upheaval, as well as long struggles with anorexia. Hospitalizations and residential programs did little to raise any level of self-esteem -- especially since no one recognized or wanted to deal with questions about sexual identity and understanding.
But when Jay was 20, an eating disorder counsellor finally acknowledged out loud that there was another part to Jay's real life and suggested trying out a nearby drop-in center for people with sexual identity issues. Jay walked by the building a good number of times before pushing herself through the door -- and found what had been missing for such a long time.
There's a sense of incomplete serenity around Jay. She's clearly on the upside of self-acceptance and self-assurance, but the struggles have left their marks. She's somewhat at peace with this physical body, and she's engaging and kind and has a depth of understanding about who she is and what she has done for herself. When I think about her, I see perserverance and bravery, and I admire her willingness to step into the public eye to offer her story to others who might take comfort from it.
We decided to do a series of shots that looked at tragedy, comedy, and the possibility that in a previous life Hannah might have at least known some ladies of the Parisian night. We did them in two sessions, and what you see here are some of the results.
It's easy to explain what a pleasure it is to work with Hannah. She has determination, imagination, and an understanding of who she is that she brings not just to the studio, but to the stage as well. She is fearless and funny and always willing to see herself as someone new.
Hannah's nature is to offer more than she asks for. Her curiosity and ability to pursue her desires touches all around her, and makes them more able to fulfill their own. When she tells you something, you can take it for gospel. What's better than that? -- nothing.
I usually start a portrait session by asking my subject to stand in front of a simple backdrop and move a little. Side to side, hands in pockets or not, arms crossed, head up or down, profile and full on. I might move the light now and again. We refine our approach by looking at the images and agreeing on good angles, right lighting, too much this or too little that. With those things in mind if the session is designed to be an exploration, we continue in a similar way. Or we start in on the images we have already chosen to do. My preference is for a simple set up -- a muted background, usually a single light and little else. I avoid giving more than a few basic directions so the person I'm working with will have the freedom to let themselves be. Sometimes we have music, we have conversation when it doesn't interfere, and there is always a lot of room to experiment.
Stacey is beautiful. It's as simple as that. She's funny, sarcastic, smart and a little bit angry, too, and that makes her satisfying to work with. Every part of a conversation flows across her face in dozens of fleeting, subtle expressions. At first I felt like I was trying to catch the perfect shot of a perfect bit of sunlight reflecting perfectly on the ocean. Then I realized I was best off letting the conversation flow and simply recording everything that happened. Light loves her skin. My original intent was to present these portraits only in black and white because the smoothness of her skin translates as if it were alabaster. But just like she is, the original images are golden and warm, so I've included them as well.
More than anyone I know, Michael's images speak for him. He has grace and beauty, his movements are precise and he laughs easily the way a satisfied person will. I asked that he vogue while I photographed him because I wanted the way he uses his hands to be seen, and to have them be frames for his face. Years of rigorous dance training have given him a physical carriage that is hard to ignore, so I worked in close for these shots to avoid distractions.
Esra is a delightful enigma. She is easily open about herself and happy to share her thoughts, but I sense there is an entirely separate life that is hers alone, and she's not about to share. I like that -- I'm intrigued by those who know not everything should be open to public consumption. And dancing around a person's secrets makes the photographing process, with it's chatter and questions and persistent but gentle efforts to satisfy my curiosities all the more fascinating. It adds more layers to the portraits, as well. Looking at these images makes me wonder what causes a bit of a smile, and what's behind the way she's set her shoulder. I like the way these four show Esra's moods -- she can be quite forceful, and a little shy, open to what surrounds her, but not one for much nonsense.
I was looking for a black female dancer to complement the pictures I recently did of Michael Crawford. Asia appeared a little while ago, and I put her images up earlier this month. She's not an accomplished dancer, but simple movement makes her happy and she enjoyed that part of the session. Not so when we started concentrating on her portraits, though. If I have to ask someone to stop smiling all the time, its because they're feeling unsure of themselves and apprehensive about the process they've agreed to take part in. For some people, holding still and posing clothed can be a more difficult thing than posing nude. Naked movement allows the person to disappear into the music, but being still and confronting the camera leaves very few places to hide. And so it was for Asia, until we managed to ease her through her concerns. I chose these four images because they show who she is: a young woman interested in herself and the ways she can show her sensuality to the world around her.
What I want from the work I do is a group of images that best describe the person I've photographed. I want some of the variety that makes them unique -- happy at times and perhaps not so much so, present in the moment or lost somewhere far outside the studio, loving and open or closed and protected. I like the people I work with to wear as little as comfort will allow since clothing can be as much a mask as is turning off the lights. In my experience most people are more at ease being photographed while nude or nearly so, and able to give over more of their inner selves to the camera because of it. I like to work with people more then once, and over and over again with those who are able to let themselves be seen. There's an intimacy to this work that makes my studio a safe and easy place where people can be themselves without fear or embarrassment, and where they can see themselves through their own eyes.
Her father never called her by name. She was his Sweetheart or his Princess or his Pumpkin, but never Delphine. That was made her middle name after a bitter row with her mother and, even though Delphine was his choice, he never said it. He loved her and she went everywhere with him -- even to the fights at the Garden. He'd dress her up in her nicest outfits and they sat in the front row, and she'd come home stained with sweat and blood. It didn't matter to him how angry that made her mother -- it was one of the few things he didn't bend on. He died when Delphine was maybe seven, and when it happened his Sweetheart's life all but stopped. Her aunt accused her more then once of being a cold and heartless child because she didn't cry for him, and for a long time she believed the aunt was right.
He was calm and gentle. Her mother was high strung and delicate. She had always been so, and when Delphine's father died, she crumbled. He was fifteen years older than she was and his purpose had always been to take care of her and to make her life easier. After he was gone, she was too. The police would find her in her best clothes, wandering the streets and listening to his voice calling her. She was institutionalized over and again. It was the Fifties and shock treatment was the vogue, as was submersion in ice water and other so called behavior modification techniques. She'd seem better for awhile, but always ended up going back.
It fell to Delphine's brother to look after her. He had enough difficulty looking after himself, let alone his little sister, and she pretty much grew up wild. When her mother was home, they'd fight tooth and nail to win control over the other. Mother wanted her to be a good Catholic girl who crossed her legs just so and never thought about boys, but Delphine wanted to be left alone and for her mother to go away again. They never looked for a peace between them -- and certainly not after her mother started seducing her boyfriends.
Delphine told me: I left college after a fight with the dean over my openly dating a black boy. I didn't care. I was smart and quick and I could keep things organized. I took a job that taught me how to manage a legitimate spa and Swedish massage business for a blond goddess I'll call Gigi. She was six feet two of North European magnificence -- a crown of golden hair over creamy skin and perpetually glittery blue eyes and soft, always moist lips. Gigi looked like those soft focus Hollywood star photographs from the thirties, only she moved and spoke, went barefoot and wore lime green mini skirts. She had long legs, perfect hips, and breasts that had no care about gravity. We were a sight to see -- the dark Sicilian girl from short and dark Sicilian parents, and Gigi who walked on clouds and shone like the sun. She took me to dinner at a fancy French restaurant one evening. I knew something was going to happen when our food was prepared table-side and different wines started to appear. She glowed and shimmered, a Nordic angel doting on the dark haired hippy chick. She purred and laughed and whispered, and later that night she took my clothes and then she took me. I was happy to be in her arms and in her bed.
Of course after that she had little use for me sexually, but I became even more her confidante and protector. She made bad marriages and had difficult boyfriends. I'd drive her to their houses, and then away from their wives or to the hospital after the men beat her. Even so, it was a good life for a time -- Gigi the owner of the spa, me running it and being her puppy. I learned massage and I learned men and things had a comfortable rhythm. Until the day she told me she'd sold it all. Without warning, without consultation, without a word. The new owners immediately turned the spa into a brothel and brought in their own girls. They offered, but I wasn't having any of it. I had no desire to either be a prostitute or part of a sex business, so I left.
I learned early on to look at things from different angles, to work out consequences, to plan a safe course for myself. I never got into situations in which I didn't already know how to keep control, no matter what happened. Though it wasn't the business I built, I knew how to run it, so eventually I went back to the spa. While I was away, I had given the issues a lot of thought and come to realized that not only was I missing what had literally been my home, but that deep down I was curious to see what being a working girl was like. I found I missed a certain basic intimacy that comes from physical contact with strangers. And anyway, I love sex -- be it lust or rebellion or spur of the moment, or love and admiration or the most intimate surrender, it's something I'm very, very good at.
My first was a businessman who talked about his work and his disappointment with his wife while I massaged the tension out of his muscles. He talked until I told him not to. I found his rhythm right away, and finished him by hand. I remember he had perfect teeth, and he gave me a big tip.
I love men -- I really do. I love their games and their macho-ness, the lost little boy sense so many of them have, their vision of themselves as white knights. I feel bad for them, too. Men are designed to be protectors and providers and warriors and sex obsessives spreading their genes everywhere they can to keep the strain strong and various and healthy. But they're almost all without a place, now. Their lives are bound by mortgages and houses and work that ignores their physical nature. My clients are white collar -- lawyers, businessmen, doctors -- and they've got these jobs and careers that give them only a shadow of what they need. They fight in court or close big deals or fix broken bodies, but so what? And they know it, too, either consciously or deep inside -- so what? Where's the satisfaction in doing the same thing over and over and over?
The men who come to see me are almost all married and dying from it. They were all crazy in love once, fucking morning, noon and night, and starting their careers and picking their battles and establishing their positions in whatever power structure they chose. They made money, got power, got recognition -- they were men and could point directly at the things that made them so. But how long does that last? How long does love last, or how long before money isn't enough, power over others isn't enough? How long before everything -- everything -- becomes the same old thing, the usual thing, the completely predictable thing? What happens to their primal nature? What happens when the warrior has no battles save within his own house? Has no way to spread his genetic wealth? When everything he's established tells him he's done, used up, and there's nothing more?
I'll tell you what happens. Some of them drink, some find religion, some start wars, some preach genocide. A few decide to save the whales or pick up trash along the highway. And many come to me. I give them attention, I listen and we talk. Most of my clients are interesting and cultured, and they happily let me take control of them for an hour or two. I let them be the hungry male again, the leader and warrior, and make them the absolute center. I touch them and caress them and make them feel stronger then they have in a long time. I let them know they are still men.
As part of all this I wanted to know what testosterone was like, so I took it for a while. It's a difficult companion. The physical effects were immediate. I put on eight pounds of mass, my abilities in the weight room were off the charts, and so was my sex drive. I couldn't keep my hands off myself, even though my orgasms no longer satisfied me the way they used to. Even in the midst of climax, I was already thinking about what came next. Testosterone demands your attention, gives you a sense of need that must be satisfied without telling you what the need is. It's like stepping on an accelerator at the same time you close your eyes -- you'll go forward, but toward what you won't know until you arrive.
I wasn't able to find a balance with it. It was either on or off. When it was on, I was male. I had the push of brute strength, I had a powerful sense of focus, and there wasn't anything that could prevent me from reaching my goals. I felt stripped down to the essentials, had little concern for the consequences of what I wanted to do, and there was little room for wavering or multidimensional thought. It felt truly dangerous because all it kept saying was, 'Stop fucking around, and get this done now!'
I tried it because I wanted some sense of what it is like to be male. What I found out is that it's very different from what I know. My female hormones allow me to be caring and to stay in one place long enough to learn something, and to not feel a sort of wanderlust that would prevent the impulse for nesting. I came away from it wondering how it's possible for men to function in the social structure that owns them. So much of what they have to do, day in and day out, is in direct contradiction with what their bodies and minds are demanding of them.
I think a lot of girls try out this life because they are fascinated with what society tells them is illicit and immoral. Most all of them come from seriously dysfunctional families and broken homes. The closer they get to trying out the trade, the more interesting and alluring it seems. There's a sense of the mysterious and of sisterhood that draws them -- they see a kind of family thing going on. It's not that way at all, but it's what they need to see, so they do. And there's the flattery of being sexually attractive that builds all kinds of illusions, and then there's the money. With so much money coming in right now, there's no need to think about tomorrow -- and very few of them do.
I chose this path for myself, and I've never regretted it. I've been doing this for a long time. Long enough to mentor some of the girls. Most of them come into this business knowing nothing, and that makes them terribly vulnerable. While a sort of innocence can be charming, it won't last. I've learned to be quite direct with them about simple things like hygiene, and how to keep a condom hidden in your cheek while you're talking with a client, and how to unroll it on him at just the right moment without using your hands and breaking the mood. Few of the girls talk about what actually happens behind closed doors, but I will. I guess I'm old school because I think part of what I do should be more personal than just sex. I try to make the girls understand how important it is to not get involved with a client, but also to know how much the client needs from them. I tell them to not get involved with pimps because they'll end up broken, broke and discarded the minute their attention strays from him. Yes, the pimp's girls are pampered and always kept beautiful and dressed in diamonds and furs, but nothing their work earns belongs to anyone but the man who runs them. I want the girls to absolutely understand the difference between sex and the business of sex.
I tell them to not go into business with men even as partners because men are territorial, possessive, prone to testosterone-fueled stupidity, nonobjective and without finesse. I tell them that if they need to work with a man, before they start or agree to anything they must look at the situation, figure out where the various paths that come to them will lead and what the consequences might be with the choices they are tempted to make. I tell them that if they do try this life, they must first set a goal they want to achieve through it. They always have to be prepared for anything that might happen and, most importantly, they must always have an escape plan. I tell them to talk to the men they are dealing with and to learn from what they hear. And from what they don't hear. I tell them to listen to the ache and frustration, to see what happens when you subject yourself to so many outside restrictions and obligations. I tell them to ask themselves where's the happiness and where's the pleasure? And I tell them to not be afraid to say, 'I need more.' To say, 'We'll settle the business first and then we'll do what we'll do. If you want this and this from me, then I want this and this from you. If anything changes, then everything changes. When that's out of the way, we'll do what we'll do.'
I guess I want them to see life as I do. I've seen so many girls ruined by their own simple mistakes that it breaks my heart. I've lost good friends and seen good people come to terrible ends. In this business a girl has to see her life as a test of what she can do, what she is willing to do, and how she will live with the consequences. To succeed as a working girl you need to know what your convictions are and that you can live by them. If you can, you are invincible -- no matter what happens, no matter who does what, you will always have yourself.
Spend a little time with Sara, and you quickly feel you've known her for a long time. Maybe because she's one of those people who seems irrepressibly up-beat and interested. Maybe it's her smile and her curiosity about all the things that are around her. She's a painter, so maybe it's her concern for physical and emotional detail. She's impulsive in her fashion sense, making it impossible to know who's going to appear at the door. She had a pair of enormous, hairy white boots -- until one evening when she stood too close to the fire. She describes herself as both a nerd and a geek -- I have no real idea what that means, but I do know she can belch loudly enough to re-arrange the furniture, and that's cool by me.
For someone with her feet so firmly on the ground, Sara gets her hair cut a lot. And shaped. And colored. Then re-cut, re-shaped and re-colored. Probably because her natural state of being is in flux. She's constantly moving forward, consciously shaping her life, avoiding the pitfalls of stagnation. She's not belligerent about it, and she doesn't wear it as a statement of worth -- it's just who she is. Which can be disconcerting to those of us who find themselves happily embracing stagnation every now and again....
I brought this up to her several times. I was getting the sense that part of what drove the flux was some need to stay protected... to use it as a coping mechanism. I had the feeling that part of her forthrightness was a learned response, and had taken more than a little work to get comfortable with. It wasn't that there was any sort of falseness about her, but rather I had the sense that somewhere along the line she had come to a point where she had to choose to be open to the people around her, and had to decide that the life around her was also of interest -- and had to teach herself how to respond to it.
This is part of what she told me:
I grew up in a constant cloud of toxic perfume: titanium, cadmium, cerulean, zinc -- the colors of my mother's palette. Years of stunted cellular growth was a small price to pay to witness her creativity, and to learn from her. I was her prized pupil. Unfortunately, she was also certified insane more then once and in more ways than one -- but unlike most infamous and crazy artists, her work was actually brilliant. And yet her brilliance as a painter was ruined by her failures as an artist. Her uncontrolled emotions kept her chained to the fringes of the art world. She lived in shifting episodes of blinding angers and paralytic fears that stopped her cold from ever functioning in or becoming a noted member of ant art world. Of course, the demons and turmoils that ruled her love and her hatred for her work made selling it an impossibility. I suppose my mother might be one of those artists to whom fame comes only after death, when her furies and paranoia are forgotten. But that won't be for a long time, I suspect -- and not at all, if she decides to destroy the few paintings she has left.
Even as a young child I believed I could be an excellent painter, just like she was. But watching how many different ways she found to insure her failures inspired me to not even try. I knew she had given me the genes and talent to make myself really good -- but I was too close at too early an age to the 'constant inpatient' to be willing to make the gamble. Early on I began to know I would not waste my days painting work that came from my heart but would never sell. And after all that I had seen and all that had been thrown at me, I was certainly not going to waste my sanity.
When my father finally won custody of me, I felt a maelstrom had been lifted from my shoulders -- but the unexpected agony of losing her was almost beyond belief. As a child will, I loved my mother completely. For years I was lost in the conflict between the relief of being rid of her and the despair of having lost her, and I stopped painting. As I grew and matured, I came to understand that my passion for color and canvas was the only true connection to my childhood and to the one person who had always been my icon and my idol. It's true my mother never was a parent to me. And yet, without the persuasion of her oils poisoning my airways, I was quite lost -- and frequently missed the chaos she lived in and the physical awareness of her hands gripping my heart.
Not until high school (ironically enough, hers and mine the same), did paint once again paste my hands and waft into my bloodstream. And it was in this very same high school that I fell in love -- not only with my painting again, but with the teacher assigned to oversee the school's literary and arts magazine. It was during the first editorial board meeting that my obsession with him burrowed its roots and started to grow. He took possession of my thoughts, became omnipresent, was never absent from me for more than a moment. He sank deeply into the fertility of my 15 year old's emotions, and grew steadily throughout freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. It was because he was handsome and charismatic, unpredictable, and he loved words and art. He made both Hamlet and Lewis Carroll sublime to me. Maybe I should have been concerned -- but I wasn't, and he became the heart beat at the center of my life.
In senior year and as a joke, he brought us an invisible rabbit named Art to be our mascot. To the other girls who also admired him so, it was all good natured fun. But for me, Art became something much deeper, quite feminine, and we settled her permanently into my being. Nothing was ever said between this teacher and me, and we never touched except by accident. Our conversations were about school and writing and art, but his eyes spoke his words to my soul, and his smile was something that only I could understand. To someone looking in at us, all was as it should be -- but to me, looking outward, very little was balanced at all. Moving time fueled my rising passions and my hormones until a fierce compulsion and need for something both familiar and chaotic exploded. I wanted the taboo, the fantastic, the illicit.
What I got was something I had no idea I wanted: to fall back into my childhood, to return to the nightmare, but this time with me in control. Blind to what I was doing, I challenged myself to survive what to open eyes was a predestined disaster. I didn't care. I knew it was crazy, but that this time I would be brilliant. I would do something that even my mother would be proud of. I would graduate, then come back pretending I needed submissions for an arts magazine. And I did just that. First semester into college, I returned to high school and got just what I was asking for.
It was good, for a while. We were happy, for a while. And then we weren't. And it became ugly -- for a long while.
What is it that happens as time flows? Eventually the wounds stopped bleeding and the ground underneath me became more sure of itself. And the darkness that trapped me thinned enough to allow some definition to what surrounded me. It came as a surprise when the descent finally ended. I knew it was over when I took to the easel again. I kept the rabbit -- both in spite of, and because of the chaos her creator and I set loose. I started a series of self-portraits in which I was searching for myself through my reflection. I worked with a mirror, and every time I looked into it I knew I was facing my mother. But now she was the first one to blink. The success of that work let me know with absolute clarity that I am not her. Though I look a lot like her and I paint with passion and experience, I am me -- and I have chosen not to fall and not to fail.
Sometimes the rabbit tells me I am Alice, sometimes I know I am the rabbit. It doesn't matter because the rabbit is mine, and I have the tattoos to prove it. I am the tempted, and I am the temptress. At times I can also be the Mad Hatter -- bewildered and completely obscured from society's understanding. In these ways, much like my mother, I have been quite unbalanced. Unlike her, however, I have found my way back from the other side of the looking glass. I have seen Wonderland, and it is only a place to visit.
During these past few years I have developed more into a successful artist and become less a fictional character. As I have become more real I have played my fears and confusions, joys and desires out on canvas. The rabbit has come to life in my paint, and I have been able to capture her there, manipulate her to serve my needs in intriguing ways. To the casual observer, her apparent meaning may seem obvious and plain. But to me she will always be my lost innocence, and about my blind and impossible need to get that innocence back. And perhaps that is where her irony lies -- I know her experiences and suspect she may have even grown a little jaded, while outwardly she still seems unscathed and pure.
You can see the emotional complexity in Sara's work, from the hard eyed and unflinching exactness of the self-portraits to the fantastical sensibility of her most recent pieces. A journey has been made away from the mirror and into an eruption of personal release. That dark and angry face has been replaced by a hot chick riding the rabbit. Her work and her life are about survival. They are not about life and death -- but about growth and change and seeking. Not about repeating a safe formula -- but about always breaking the formula apart and re-assembling it in new ways. She is about looking at her work with fresh eyes and following change... not for it's own sake, but change for growth and a willingness for new experience.
I've worked with Sara quite a few times over the last 5 or 6 years. We did the following images in August of 2007.
Sara is, first and foremost, a talented painter. And, as you might suspect, she's always been something of a wild child. She's younger than I am, and I wonder what life would be like were I responsible for her. Mostly I'd be proud of her artistry and intellect, her character, in her forthrightness and love for adventure. What was left of me would be in a constant but mild state of anxiety over what she might cause to happen next.
Taking portraits of Sara is looking at who she is right now. There's no concern about where the images might fit in with what we've done before, or about what they mean. Instead it's a chance for her to see more parts of who she is, and for me to figure out how best to show them. What we create is a document of a specific moment in her life that she uses to talk to herself about herself. She uses the images in her artwork, and she uses them to inform her conduct -- and she uses them with clarity and style.
What I love about Sara is her fearless curiosity about who she is, and the way that curiosity allows her to be pretty much anything she wishes. In these most recent photographs she's alive with the exuberance of having cast off what's expected and with the embracing of what is not. She's alive to what happens when she frees herself, and alive to being excited, concerned, intrigued and beguiled.