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Looking for Maya is an odd
little collection of photographs by J.D. Fleishman accompanied by prose and
poetry by other authors -- a chapter from Privilege by Black Alex, an
interview with Maya by Lauri Bertz, and a poem by Jeff Burns titled "make
my hands smell like melville."
Since there are no permission or copyright notices for the text, it
seems quite possible that it was all in fact written by Fleishman, and this
suspicion is bolstered with the description of Fleishman in the accompanying
information as a "conceptual artist." Ultimately, it doesn't make much difference who wrote them,
especially because the text is unimpressive.
The theme of this work is
prostitution. Fleishman spent two years
following the operations of "an elite New York City massage parlor"
according to the publicity information.
The twenty photos show women, naked or partially clothed, in color and
black and white. Most of them are
blurred or out of focus, and we see few faces -- in the one picture where a
face is clearly visible, there is a black rectangle blocking out the eyes, and
presumably this is part of the intended artistic effect. The only picture that shows a full face is
in a mirror, of a blond woman putting on make-up. There are several pictures of women's behinds, some of women nude
under long coats, and a couple of women talking on the phone.
The publicity release claims that
Fleishman was recording "the true intimacies in the life of a working
girl" but if that was the intent, then the work does not succeed. One of the central reasons for its failure
is that it leaves the women anonymous and completely unidentified -- the photos
are not intimate or revealing, except in showing some exposed skin. They provide no real insight into the
emotional life of the women, nor their working conditions, or their
interactions with their clients. The
text might aim to perform this function, but its far too short and rudimentary
in its descriptive qualities to achieve anything but give the reader a
perfunctory glimpse of this world.
The photographs themselves are
moderately interesting aesthetically, but none is particularly striking, and
there's not much unity in the artistic style.
For a collection of twenty pictures, an artist has to have some clear
and remarkable approach to make her work stand out, and this work does not have
The production quality is quite
high given the small size of the booklet.
Link: See some
of the text and photographs reproduced in The Brooklyn Rail.
© 2003 Christian Perring. All
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department
at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology
Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in
medicine, psychiatry and psychology.