The book “Fantasies,” merges two bodies of work that were both conceived and born the same night in 1999. A friend insisted on bringing me to the former erotic emporium on Times Square, Show World, to see not only the New Burlesque performance there, but also to scout the space itself as a location for possible pictures. That night I took a 35mm snapshot of Dirty Martini, on pointe in her ballet slippers, head thrown back in perfect silhouette. This moment was the beginning of the burlesque project.
These burlesque pictures and go-go interiors were made alongside one another and led parallel lives once they branched apart. Although the empty interiors are in a variety of strip clubs, the girls of the New Burlesque movement would most likely not perform in the kinds of joints I was shooting. These two related worlds do not usually intersect – though they are clearly related. So, this is not a documentary project. The empty interiors point to a lack of intimacy and show a somewhat tawdry attempt at the fantastic in interior design. I have a love/hate relationship with these places, their smells of stale beer, cigarettes and Lysol. I revel in the fuschia neons, the blacklight and the hand-painted figures of naked ladies on the walls. The real women depicted, however, represent something else. My view of them is more celebratory and romantic, sort of a tonic for the empty stages with the ratty carpets, a reclaiming.
The meeting points for the images are a sense of escape, desire, fantasy and sex. A nostalgic feel is present in both strains of work, a longing for something that may never even have been. However, they are subjects existing in two discrete, contemporary underworlds, ones that appear to be from separate decades – the Fifties versus the Eighties.
The girls aren’t strippers, by today’s standards, but burlesque showgirls reviving the lost art of truly glamorous striptease, which is more “tease” than “strip.” They are more like pin-ups than porn and never show what is underneath their glittering pasties. You could probably catch a burlesque show somewhere in NYC or San Francisco every night of the week.
Lisa Kereszi was born in 1973 in Chester, Pennsylvania. In 1995 she graduated from Bard College and in 2000 received a Master of Fine Arts from the Yale University School of Art. She is now on the faculty as a Lecturer at the Yale School of Art, and is Acting Director of Undergraduate Studies in Photography. In addition, she has been a guest lecturer at many other institutions including, NYU, Massachusetts College of Art, Parsons, School of Visual Arts, and Vassar.
Her work is in many private collections and museum collections including, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Berkeley Art Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery. She is represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York. Her editorial work has appeared in books and magazines such as, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York, Harper’s, W, The London Telegraph Sunday Magazine, Details, etc. Her book, Fantasies was recently released by Damani Editore and she has an upcoming release from Nazraeli Press in Spring 2009. website | yanceyrichardson.com