On a recent hot and sticky afternoon in Los Angeles, an artist and a reporter met in a building on the edge of Skid Row. They were on a mission to view secret paintings. The introductions went something like this:
Reporter: Hello, my name is Lea Lion.
Artist: Cool name. I'm Scarlett Lacey.
Reporter: Lea Lion and Scarlett Lacey? We should start a burlesque troupe.
Artist: (Laughs) Or a lingerie line.
Suggestive names aside, Lacey is interested in a different sort of exposure. Namely, she is showing off "Concealed/Revealed," an exhibit of her paintings on view through October 1 at Art Share LA in downtown's Arts District.
At first glance, Lacey's paintings appear to be pastel-colored landscapes heavy on the lavender, ivory and eggshell. But like a good strip tease, everything is not revealed at once, or, as Lacey put it, "It's two paintings for the price of one."
After a few moments in the well-lit gallery, Lacey killed the overheads and snapped on a blacklight. Instantly, the paintings revealed images of naked women in erotic poses -- breasts bared, nipples erect, lips parted -- in fluorescent reds, yellows, greens and blues.
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"I sort of love the idea that you can have your granny over for tea and she's never gonna know, but then when you want to, you can reveal this other side," Lacey explained. "[Gabriel García Márquez] said, 'Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life' This is my secret life."
Dressed in paint-splattered jeans and an off-the-shoulder tee, Lacey hardly seems the type to lead a double life, but, as she put it, "I like kittens. I like guns."
Growing up in London in the 70s, Lacey was surrounded by nudity. The walls of her childhood home were covered with paintings of naked ladies and, Lacey recalled, her parents "relished the shock on a polite guest's face when our front door opened to reveal walls and walls of boobs and bums."
Fast-forward to present day Los Angeles where Lacey works in Hollywood as a producer by day and paints by night. Her nocturnal sessions led to experiments with blacklight paint and, eventually, the secret paintings.
Lacey hopes blacklight painting goes mainstream and, who knows, that just might happen. When she nixed the gallery lights, the blacklight revealed the tag "purchased by Steve Lazarides" next to one painting. The London-based art dealer represents street artists such as Banksy, Blu, Invader and JR.
While blacklight may or may not be the next big art movement, one thing is for certain:
"Just like my folks, I'm getting a thrill from giving prudes and whitehairs an f-you," Lacey said.
"Concealed/Revealed" is on view through October 1 at Art Share LA, 801 East Fourth Place, Los Angeles, (213) 687-4278 or www.artsharela.org.
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