BY AIMEE WALLESTON / SEPTEMBER 21ST, 2009
What does it mean to be a wild girl? For women, the eventual transformation from free spirit to sad mess seems too often to be predetermined. To avoid casualty status, renegade women must form an individualized identity wherein rebellion and nonconformity don’t cave in to tragedy. And it isn’t easy. Artist Naomi Fisher seeks to reform ideas around non-traditional femininity and cultural constraints. Her latest show, at Leo Koenig gallery in New York, takes up this cause in a body of video, photography and drawings. A cast of five women—many of whom Fisher has collaborated with before—set out on a nine day camping trip to Oleta State Park in outer Miami to form “Camp Primitivo.” A chance to live out a primitive, all-female existence—in vintage Versace ensembles the artist found at a sale of the unclaimed contents from an unpaid storage space—the project focuses on the visual aftermath of the group’s experience.
Though the works are about unity and collaborative living in some regard, the unique identities of each of the women are crucial to the project, says Fisher: “In most semi-staged faux fictional photography, the anonymous nature of the subject is very important. It allows the viewer to superimpose their fantasy on the subject. Women make an especially easy blank canvas. In my work, the subject, their history, and their personal relationship to me are all very important.” In the images, there is a juxtaposition of tenderness and intimacy against the “wild” setting—and also what seems to be an attempt to locate a more animalistic mentality in each woman. Females, be they animal or human, care for each other, but they also tend to their instinctual needs quite selfishly. Any of that arise? Says Fisher: “The only thing that did not happen was selfishness. We all really cared for each other and the experience was incredibly positive.”