Over the past several years my creative practice has transitioned from painting to photography with my training as a painter informing my work in important ways. The photographs presented here represent the latest in a series that began in early 2012, when I embarked on a long-term studio project with a model, to explore figurative imagery and narrative, involving long exposures and carefully choreographed motion. I make the costumes, and construct the set and props as part of the process.
“A very costly masque prepared but not shown”—a working title for the series—is a phrase taken from documents describing the entertainment provided for Queen Elizabeth I in 1575 during one of her visits to Kenilworth, Warwickshire. Villagers and townsfolk customarily provided the most lavish of entertainment to impress—seemingly simple theatrical productions that, from contemporary descriptions, must have appeared as pure magic to the Royal party and all that witnessed. I am fascinated by these descriptions, and imagine myself present, breathing in colored air in my mind’s eye.
Much of early Renaissance street life—outdoor performances, etc.—reflected the rise of individualism in response to the devastation of the plague. I have an increasing interest in this: an individual’s courage to occupy a space, to perform there, to create a theatre of one, a procession of one. In my studio, and in my images, I have created a delicate, slightly hesitant, but nevertheless insistent theatre for one, or two now, with this new work.
Aleya Lehmann Bench