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Sadie Chandler
She/Male Bodywork

Sadie Chandler thought long and hard before disclosing that the subjects of her latest portrait series, eight glamorous pin-ups, were of men. Viewers read them as women - a response which Lorena, Daisy, Kitty, Crystal and Ingrid would see as natural.

The artist came across her subjects in the escort/dating pages of New York street magazines. ‘She/Male Bodywork’ was amongst the titles ‘Men’, Women’ and ‘Asians’. She was immediately drawn to the poses and outfits.

Chandler believes we all fuss about how we look, and calls the choices we make regarding our appearance ‘the language we wear on our bodies’. With previous series including witches, Chandler’s primary project is the signs of femininity, which she says often results in ‘wild and theatrical coding'. She sounds a bit fed up when she says ‘looking like a woman is hard work. It’s exhausting’.

There is nary a smile in She/Male Bodywork - seduction is serious business - but these paintings are also celebratory. With careful make-up, resplendent tresses, racy underwear and high heels, these girls are all class. Invoking an arcane portrait tradition, the names of Lorena, Crystal, Daisy and Ingrid are inscribed in elegant text at full body scale.

The portraits were first produced as Flash animations. The computer program encourages a cartoon style which is both awkward and deft. In the translation to large paintings on canvas, these finely observed portraits are realised with considerable ability. Chandler holds a deep respect for sign-writers - as can be seen in the smooth lines, under-painted washes and font flair. The current series is inexplicably illuminated by the confession ‘when I went to LA (to study) I wanted to paint like a Mexican sign writer’.

As for how much feminist anger fuels these works, Chandler is - like any intelligent woman of our time - conflicted. She wants to protest the rigours of femininity, to exact some revenge, but she also enjoys complicity and there are plenty of times when she loves dressing up.

Anne Loxley 2003