Aleya Lehmann Bench
A Very Costly Masque Prepared but Not Shown
IN 2012 ALEYA LEHMANN BENCH BEGAN A FIGURATIVE SERIES IN THE STUDIO, FOR WHICH SHE DESIGNED THE COSTUMES, SET, AND PROPS, AND ENLISTED THE PARTICIPATION OF COLLABORATING ARTIST AND "MODEL" PATRICIA KIRSHNER. WITH THAT SAME PRACTICE IN 2016 AND 2017, ALONG WITH "MODEL" ALLISON PLASS AS WELL, ALEYA USED A COMBINATION OF LARGE AND MEDIUM FORMAT CAMERAS TO CREATE THIS LATEST BODY OF WORK, “A VERY COSTLY MASQUE PREPARED BUT NOT SHOWN”.
This series is excerpted from documents describing entertainments provided to Queen Elizabeth in 1575 during one of her progresses. Villages customarily provided the most lavish entertainments for her, seemingly simple theatrical productions that, from contemporary descriptions, must have appeared as pure magic, not only to her, but to all the villagers.
The artist, fascinated by these descriptions, imagines herself as a witness, breathing colored air into her mind’s eye. Much of early Renaissance street life—outdoor performances, etc.—was a response to the devastation of the plague: everyone’s dead so we can do whatever we want – the rise of individualism.
Trained as painter, living and working in New York City for the past several years, Aleya Lehman Bench’s creative practice has transitioned with skill and imagination from painting to photography.
This evolution occurred as she was working on a series of imaginary landscapes; then began to paint flat canvas “shapes” and canvas “garments”. Soon, she started to produce garments from tulle fabric, and then a short film which took the subject on a set of “errands” in the tulle costumes.
I have an increasing interest in this: an individual’s courage to occupy a space, to perform there, to create a theatre of one, a procession of one. In my studio, and in my images, I have created a delicate, almost hesitant, but nevertheless insistent “theatre for one”. In my new work, the idea of a masque takes center stage. - Aleya Lehman Bench
portrait of the artist as a young woman
This series, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman”, 2018, is part of a long-term project which has a performative aspect to it. In these new pictures, the model seems to embody the spirit of an artist or a performer, a Pierrot-like figure, and an artist in the broadest possible sense—with the courage to occupy a space, to perform there, much like the 16th century performers, in the wake of the plague and utter devastation.
A collaborative, performative process for this studio-based project involved contributing artist and model Anastasia Samohovetc as well as studio assistants EJ Liao and Reagan Brown, and also stylist Megan Lewis Velong.