Show World


Nikki S. Lee’s considerable reputation rests on her serial impersonation of various contemporary stereotypes—from hip-hop honey to yuppie bitch—and the photographs that document her public interaction with other members of those social groups. Because those photos were deliberately amateurish party snaps, I preferred to think of Lee as a shrewd performance artist whose explorations of identity were far more interesting than the pictures that recorded them. With her new series, however, Lee reasserts herself as an artist with a camera and assumes a much more fluid role—that of a Cindy Sherman-esque Everywoman making her way in the world. The gimmick here is elegantly simple: Each big, color photo is radically cropped to eliminate Lee’s male companion. He remains as an arm, a leg, a slice of shoulder, or bit of head—a presence denied. Lee looks different in nearly every photo, but she plays one part: She’s the dauntless survivor of many discarded relationships, always ready for love. Her photos are evidence not of romantic failure but of romantic persistence, and a woman’s willingness to cut her losses and move on, alone if necessary.