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The Exotic Dancer Project (23)

Close up of The Exotic Dancer Project (23)

A light medium-skinned Asian woman sitting in a black chair with her legs propped up on a table cluttered with items. Her blue garment is pulled down to reveal her breasts and she has a black garter on her right thigh. She holds a cigarette in her left hand and looks at the viewer.

Nikki S. Lee, The Exotic Dancer Project (23), 2000; Fujiflex print, 30 x 40 inches; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Nikki S. Lee

The Exotic Dancer Project (23)
Nikki S. Lee

In 2000, Nikki S. Lee’s work took her to The Gold Club in Hartford, Connecticut, for The Exotic Dancer Project. For this and other Projects, Lee typically spent several months altering her appearance, style, and mannerisms in order to blend in with a specific social a group—swing dancers or senior citizens, for example. Preparation for this series proved more strenuous than some of her transformations, requiring the artist to follow a strict diet and exercise with a personal trainer.

The Exotic Dancer Project (23) features Lee offstage, presumably on a smoking break. Her outward gaze pulls the viewer in, while the V-shape of her pose her draws the eye to the counter filled with clothes, makeup, and hair products. As with all the works from her Projects, someone other than Lee took this photograph, and it includes the time stamp provided by point-and-shoot cameras to reinforce the snapshot quality.

Though Lee spent time researching each of the various groups she has joined, she also credits her intuition and empathy for gaining acceptance. According to the artist, “It’s not about studying. I just know their emotions.”

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Nikki S. Lee
  • Title

    The Exotic Dancer Project (23)
  • Date

  • Medium

    Fujiflex print
  • Dimensions

    30 x 40 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection
  • Photo Credit

    © Nikki S. Lee
  • On Display