Saturday, October 3, 2009
I first noticed the work of Satomi Shirai in the ICP catalogue of student work "SHIFT" from last year. She was not one the students I'd reviewed, and her photo "Breakfast" (above) totally knocked my socks off. I suggested we use it at Discover magazine recently, to accompany an article that discussed the case of a woman who suddenly developed an abnormal sex drive. This image caused quite a reaction in the meeting- in the end it was vetoed for being too racy.
Satomi told me the following about the work: "In my current work, titled 'New York in My Life,' I am exploring assimilation which, I think, is a psychological process of change of a person's mind-set and identity, and which leads a transformation of a culture today. In each image of my work I usually set lighting and arrange objects to photograph a story, and don't really do photoshop except for color correction and changing contrast."
She also went on to say that the guy in the photo was Polish, and the she had included Greek products to reflect her neighborhood in Queens. I don't see this work as being primarily about assimilation. Who cares if the guy is Polish? And is anyone really looking at the food? For me the tension is between the man and the woman, and the hilarity of the scene. Cramped domestic dimensions are a repeating theme in Shirai's work- she is squeezing herself into preposterously tiny spaces, disappearing and reappearing. The effect is a little like someone doing a striptease with a banana peel. Funny and sexy, too.