Narcissister, a Truly Kinky Artist

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Drawing on the myth of Narcissus and the transgressive perversity it inspires, New York–based performance artist Narcissister embraces narcissism as an aesthetic and political strategy. The artist, whose training includes classical dance and the fine arts, lives in a darkly humorous world that consists of racialized dolls, mannequins, autoerotic sex play, and remarkable yet anticlimactic performances of constructed archetypes. She is known for wearing an expressionless Barbie mask, wigs, and a kinky-haired merkin, all while concealing her “real” identity. Her live and video works feature a mix of titillating yet disturbing displays of penetration and versions of “the pullout method,” which she performs on herself. In her art, edgy self-sex acts commingle with a multiplicity of characters and fictions typically considered taboo—kitschy soft-porn archetypes, topsy-turvy dolls, and mammies—to unsettle liberal ideas concerning multiracialism, feminist praxis, and virtuosity. Her recent art features dolls with crudely assembled body parts à la Hans Bellmer and Cindy Sherman, cut-up masks of various skin tones, dysfunctional and ill-fitting costumes, and oversize props that often thwart the artist’s seamless execution of a choreographed step or cue. Specifically, her art extends formal strategies developed by Lorraine O’Grady, Carolee Schneemann, Adrian Piper, and Kara Walker to transform stereotypical imaginings of the female body and long-standing social and aesthetic debates about the right and wrong ways to picture and perform racial and gender identity.

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