Looking for some older performers, I ended up meeting some show girls. The way they looked down on strippers got me quickly intrigued and interested. Outcasts are my kind, they try harder. From strip joints to Burlesque theaters, I went on a quest and met the “Legends”, these dominating characters of the quintessential American art of strip tease. Hours of confidence on tapes, intimate photo sessions, they peel off and reveal the hidden layers of their life with throaty emotion. Their memories reflecting the memories of the land. Vietnam vets and bikers are their loyal patrons.
Candor and decadence, the art has seen his Golden Age, losing to the sex industry, but its actors kept its luster vibrant. Of all ages, from sixty to ninety five, they don’t make covers of glossy magazines. Seductive Queens of “effeuillage”, undressing but never bare, endangered species of femininity, they made it, to these pages.
When I was in my twenties my first real body of work was to put my body to work in a series of abstract self portraits. Alone with essentials, a small studio taped with black paper was my theater and my winter white skin all the wardrobe. Experimenting with postures and light I made that woman a polymorphic “transformer”, transcending my contorted body into figures of a primeval ballet.
In my own subversive representation, it was to say here is more invention and discovery in a woman’s body than beauty, sex or nudity.
From a brief encounter at a strip cabaret, the Blue Angel in New York, I felt these women were sisters of mine in their own art, and went on a path looking for them. We were all illusionists. They, teasing and agitating a crowd’s imagination peeling off their disguise, while, disguised with nakedness, I was making of bare human nature provocative and arresting renderings. Burlesque before I knew .
Stripper. Ecdysiast, in high society. From Greek ecdysis: shedding of an outer layer of tegument, as do snakes, or insects. Natural act of transfiguration. What’s removed is no longer skin. Pure artistic mutation under our eyes. Don’t be fooled. Each one of them is a real entrepreneur of the American Dream. They have conquered their flesh and their independence, their sex and their economy, and they have paid the price. Rise, fall, addictions, solitude, indigence, all the trimmings of life when there is nothing but life to live. They made it with humor and grace. This is what makes them the “Legends”.
Together we have played a scene or two of the film of their life and in these moments I could see the changeling of me. As if in the making of all women were the intimate moves and rituals of seduction of the young girls we were. Moves that stay with us for life.
As I honor these artists I wish to honor my mother and her fierce mother, and the older woman I will be one day, reaching the age when the receding flamboyance of flesh let through more of the original soul.
Aged bodies, aged trophies. Memories of adulation and erotic trances have a way to keep alive and transfigure with innocence in front of us these beautiful women.
Legends, The Living Art of Risqué
25 x 25 cm
140 color photographs
French or English version