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Les Grandes Odalisques

2 channel video, 20 minutes (looped), 20x35 ft installation space
2004

Les Grandes Odalisques takes Ingres subject matter and reinvents it to address a modern society with technological advancements. The artist filmed twenty individuals in their bedrooms, reclined in an odalisque-like position, baring their real bodies in their real spaces. Many types of people posed: an intersex man (XXY sex chromosome), senior citizens, a bartender/exhibitionist, a woman who recently had a mastectomy, to name a few. The artist asked that each subject leave his or her bedroom in the exact condition it was in the moment they agreed to pose.

Les Grandes Odalisques is a two-channel video installation inspired by Ingres odalisque painting, and the many other odalisque paintings that followed it. Ingres famous painting of the Turkish concubine was meant to represent an erotic ideal rather than depict a real woman. He and other odalisque painters didnt actually travel to Turkey to meet their subjects; they werent attempting to create sociological documents, rather, they based their paintings on their own projected fantasies of what these exotic others might look like.

In 1814, the time that Ingres painting was made, artists had a certain distance from their subject matter, due to the confines of geography, lack of convenient methods of travel, and a society that lacked advanced telecommunications. In 2004 (the making of this video), our society is informed and shaped by our ever-present media, such as 24-hour network news or ubiquitous internet access, as well as our ability to traverse the globe in a matter of hours. Because of these technological advancements, artists have the ability to see firsthand the subjects that they might otherwise conjure up in a creative fantasy.

In recent decades, with the increasing availability of the web and media, a parallel trend in the adult entertainment world emerged - the rise of the amateur video. Amateur imagery has distinct characteristics. The individuals are not actors, they are real people who reveal real bodies: blemishes, hairy backs, cellulite, etc. They often exhibit themselves in their own homes or cars, and part of the fascination with this genre surely includes the messy home or  literally  the dirty laundry that gets aired with each image. Over time, while media connectivity has allowed our eyes to reach across vast distances, our erotic ideals have come closer to home. Now that we can see anyone, anywhere, anytime we want - we find affirmation in looking at ordinary, everyday people, like ourselves.

Les Grandes Odalisques addresses the way that our media access affects the creation of our ideals, both artistic and private. What is it we fantasize about when we have the ability to see anything we want?