See Inside a Solo Exhibition of Works by an Artist’s Sex Doll

The artist behind the current exhibition at The Untitled Space exists only in theory. “SKYE CLEARY NEVER GETS OLD” (through March 29) presents 20 paintings, purportedly by one Skye Cleary, a character created by performance artist Lisa Levy and painter Sharilyn Neidhart, and who takes the form of a sex doll.

Levy has devised an in-depth origin story for Skye—her student artist days, daddy issues, and all—a tale animated by previous installations at Arcade Projects and SPRING/BREAK. Oversized Polaroid photos shot by photographer Meryl Meister, included in the new show, follow Skye on a night-out, fleshing out her existence. Levy told me that people passing by had thought Skye was a real person.

Skye Cleary “working” at famed Brooklyn strip club Pumps. Photo: Reven T.C. Wurman.

Because she’s made of silicone, Skye Cleary will literally never get old—but, in Levy’s saga, she does age. Skye, now 28, has finished her MFA. This is her first exhibition centered on her artwork alone. Each series that Levy and Neidhardt paint through Skye is structured like an ad campaign, drawing on Levy’s years in the industry. Neidhart paints the scenes, and Levy devises the text.

“They’re much bigger, more formal paintings,” Levy said of their latest works. “My text has gotten a lot better, much more emotional.” Still, there’s little to no subtlety on view—just a lot of skin, attitude, and hustling.

Skye Cleary, The Patrons (2022). Courtesy of Lisa Levy

Legend has it that Skye grew up in rural Pennsylvania and moved to New York in 2016 to study at SVA, where she started stripping. “I could earn three times the money as an exotic dancer than I could working at a retail or art job,” Skye’s statement for this show explained. “That gave me what I wanted most, more studio time.”

Levy told me that, thus far, Skye has felt obligated to keep her side gig separate from her art career, but Skye’s statement claims these works critique such self-censorship. “It’s funny when you point out the obvious,” her statement concluded.

Skye Cleary, My Body My Choice (2023). Courtesy of Lisa Levy

Levy received the physical Skye in 2018 from Danielle Knafo, a psychoanalyst and renowned expert in men who date sex dolls. Levy first embraced her interest in psychology in 2001, when she became a quasi-analyst and started taking clients on stage at live improv comedy shows. Just a few years before acquiring Skye, Levy staged a performance where she mocked Marina Abramović by sitting on a toilet in an art gallery for two days. “It really bothered me that Marina Abramović put herself in a godlike position,” Levy said. “It’s so symbolic of what’s wrong with the art world, that artists are somehow more divine.”

Not long after, Levy found herself contemplating the sexual currency that young women hold. She wants girls today to seize their power, because she didn’t. “My best friend would be sleeping with the creative director and I’d be [working] all night,” Levy recounted of her days in the advertising industry. “A lot of women would be manipulating men and I was frustrated that I couldn’t do it, or that I wasn’t attractive enough. And I don’t even think looks have that much to do with it.”

After exchanging emails, Knafo offered Levy a doll she had on hand, and Levy set out for Long Island to get Skye.

Skye Cleary, Price Available Upon Request (2023). Courtesy of Lisa Levy

While stars from Mae West to Meghan Thee Stallion have built careers around playing men for money, wider society still has a hard time facing its oldest profession. Levy—and Skye—believe that’s because awareness would leave young women with lots of power, which society currently controls through shame. Women “need to own it, and use it how they want to use it,” Levy reflected.

Levy is reclaiming her own power through Skye, who’s using her body to get men to “empty their pockets,” as Levy puts it—and also as an avenue to have fun for herself and enjoy life. Levy foresees more photoshoots in Skye’s future. She hired the Spa Man Global art collective to party with Skye in a private room at Bushwick hotspot House of Yes while Meisler snapped the photos in this show. Much like Levy, the young actors started treating Skye like a real being. As artificial intelligence encourages the art world to ask what an artist actually is, Levy and Neidhardt are helping a truly objectified women find her voice.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *