Samantha Nye

Reenactment has long been a theme in my practice which centers around a performative relationship between my mother and myself. My current body of work includes a series of paintings that re-imagine “aspirational lifestyle imagery” from the 1960s alongside a series of music videos that remake Scopitone films from the same era. These relics of pop culture are chosen as symbols of the dominant sexual and cultural consciousness of my mother’s adolescence. I regularly cast a group of women, ages 55-92, related to me either through blood or life-long friend circles of my mother and grandmother.  My reenactments aim to retroactively influence the models of sexuality that influenced the generations of women before me. What started as queer role play amongst extended family has grown to include queer elders, bound by the concept of chosen family.

Attractive People Doing Attractive Things in Attractive Places is a series of oil paintings based on the aspirational lifestyle photographs of Slim Aarons. The title of the series is lifted from a quote Aarons made about his work, which focused heavily on 1960s wealthy leisure class. I alter the architecture and populate the poolside landscapes with my queered vision of ‘attractive people’ and the ‘attractive things’ I imagine them doing. In revising Aarons’ vision I ask what if it was kinship, leisure, sex and joy shared between queer and aged bodies that generated wealth and value. Alternatively I sometimes consider these paintings scenes of celebration after queer elders have stormed the castle.

Visual Pleasure/Jukebox Cinema is a video and installation series that remakes Scopitone films and playfully takes its name from the pivotal feminist film essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey. Scopitone films are short musical films that were once played on jukebox-like machines and housed in bars and nightclubs. A short lived phenomenon, I am interested in Scopitone films because they marked a rupture in the 1960’s teen dance fantasy. As jukeboxes were intended to activate the party, Scopitones asked the party­goers to cease dancing and huddle around a single small screen. Aside from it’s logistical problem, perhaps it was also the genre’s high camp aesthetic that made it undesirable to mainstream audiences. Signatures of this genre are youthful bikini-clad dancers, poorly executed lip-syncs and theatrical preoccupations with leisure and marriage, all ripe for a queered revision. In Visual Pleasure/Jukebox Cinema the almost shot-by-shot remakes are approached through a Freudian queer filter that marries 1990s music videos with its 1960s muse. The installations, or viewing rooms, are my attempt to heal the isolation caused by the original Scopitone machine and bring bodies together watching, singing, listening, dancing, reclining or just being.

All of these works are meant as love letters to queer spaces past and present, the thriving and the abandoned. In my attempt to image queer kinship I acknowledge the beautiful parts, the prickly parts, the radical parts and the parts that have long needed fixing. With celebration and criticality I pull references from lesbian legacies and failures. These works envision a fantasy history of both age and trans-inclusive lesbian spaces and mash-up incongruent queer references such as the Slim Aarons’ photographs of the 1960s, lesbian separatist spaces of the 1970s, Bat Mitzvah parties from 1990s, and the Miami gay club scene of the early 2000’s.