We’re in the Monet!
Monet’s gardens at Giverny, the spectacular sculpted landscape that pioneered the use of flora as medium, keeps itself contemporary by having artists to live and work on its grounds. Which is how E.V. Day, blower-up of dresses and flowers, found herself in residence at the Impressionist’s famous estate. In those iconic gardens, amidst wisteria, weeping willows, and water lilies, immersed in the chromatic explosions and felicitous symmetries so carefully planned by Monet, Day’s thoughts turned to her friend and fellow artist Kembra Pfahler.
Pfahler, lead singer of the death-rock band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, derived her onstage costume from LeRoy Neiman’s Femlin drawings; the look, involving stiletto boots, body paint, and little else, seemed to fit in Monet’s highly curated landscape. So Day asked Pfahler to come model. In a series of triumphant, deadpan, and impish photos, the bewigged Pfahler posed along the celebrated vistas—and behind the scenes—for Day’s camera, creating yet a new perspective on a setting that’s been recorded and recapitulated in so many ways.
When these photos arrived at the New York gallery The Hole, the gardens exploded right out of the pictures and into the exhibition space. With sponsorship from Playboy, original home of Femlin, the Bowery venue has been transformed into a faux Giverny, with pebbled paths meandering along a mix of real and trompe l’oeil plants and flowers, modeled on the same aromatic and chromatic mixture selected by Monet. In the center is a copy of Giverny’s Japanese bridge (itself a copy of the original, which was destroyed), arching over real water adorned with fake water lilies. (At a recent visit, the collaborators were still deciding whether to put live fish in the simulated pond.)
On the walls, there’s Kembra, painted various tones of pink and red, looking like a jungle creature that escaped into a European forest. In one photo, with a leg thrown over the bridge, she appears to be making a run for it. But her destination isn’t clear. Is she trying to climb out of the picture plane—or to get herself back to the garden?
“Untitled 17,” by E.V. Day and Kembra Pfahler, 60 by 40 inches. Courtesy the artists and The Hole.