(Lily Flores, Serge Gil, Scarlet Mann)
“We have a style that is voyeuristic & bizarre yet
contemporary & familiar at the same time. Our creative ménage à trois
—Scarlet Mannbrings a fresh perspective to collectors.” — Scarlet Mann
A collaboration between three LA-based photographers, Lily Flores, Serge Gil, and Scarlet Mann, who explore common themes by capturing nude, masked models throughout LA and its neighboring cities. LA Odyssey is a three part series that opened in 2013 with Conceptions, and continues November 14 with Reverie at the Bruce Lurie Gallery.
An LA photographer via Florida and Mexico. Inspired by her commute to work from LA’s West Side to an East LA belt factory, Lily Flores photographs the journey between neighborhoods, hoping to look past superficiality and stereotypes and capture the true history and nature of the city.
LA photographer born in Mexico and raised in transit, Gil’s work aims to capture the ephemeral and transitory natures of dreams, identity, shadow and light.
Raised in small-town Arkansas, Scarlet Mann came to LA as a model and later turned to photography. Her work, which plays with identity and the toxicity of fame and commercialization, is often set in nature in and outside of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles photographers Lily Flores, Serge Gil and Scarlett Mann have united in a common exploration of their sprawling city and its surroundings. Their three-part show, LA Odyssey, captures a series of nude, masked figures interacting with the many landscapes of Southern California. Without clothes and without a face, the models are void of identity and therefore represent nobody and everybody, a space for the viewer to fill. These dreamlike photos play with juxtapositions – celebrity meets anonymity, glamour meets labor, materialism meets austerity – echoing the way LA’s underbelly of grit and industry is tucked between its wilderness of mountains and ocean.
The trio returns this month with a follow-up to their successful 2013 opening, LA Odyssey: Conceptions, which went on to Art Basel Miami, The LA Art Fair, the Hamptons Fine Art Fair, and Houston Fine Art Fair. The second exhibition of the series, Reverie, opens November 14 at the Bruce Lurie Gallery. Flores, Gil, and Mann tell us about the project, their personal stories, and the “coincidental miracle” of their collaboration.
Where are you from?
Scarlet Mann: Southern California first, grew up in a small town in Arkansas, then back to LA at 21.
Lily Flores: Los Angeles by way of Florida via the Eagle Pass,TX/Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Méxican border.
Gil Serge: Everywhere and nowhere. I kind of grew up all over the place; different cities especially before I moved to Florida. Growing up in Mexico I mainly lived up north in wide array of industrial cities both big and small and the desserts and magic of the Mexican Sierras.
By age 11 I was permanently residing in Clearwater followed by New York City and ending in LA with a couple escapades into Italy and South Africa which forever changed me.
When did you start making art?
SM: Probably when my sisters and I decided we wanted to take sexy photos of our prepubescent selves;)
LF: My dad used to run the family business which was a hardware store in our hometown. When I was 4 years old he made me a wooden square table and painted it in mint green. I started drawing on it from then on.
GS: Montessori schooling opened my imagination as a kid. My school had materials that made me memorize all the great masters.
Trusting myself with art is a different story, it’s taken a lot of years for me to trust the process and allow me to share personal moments. I’ve created things my whole life, not sure that they were any good or art per say, it all ended hidden or destroyed. I had a long stint of silence – not to mentioned sucked dry of any creativity. As if I never had any.
“We work because we function
as a mathematical equation.
But it’s not the perfect equation.
Something is off and
somehow it’s that ‘other’ that
we seem to thrive on.”
— Gil Serge
Santa Monica-based alternative rock band formed in 1989 by guitarist David Roback and vocalist Hope Sandoval. They have released 4 studio albums between 1990 and 2013, and are best known for their mid 90’s hit “Fade into You.”
Who influenced you growing up and who influences you today?
SM: Mazzy Star & Madonna then – Lana Del Rey and Bright Eyes now.
LF: My mother yesterday and today.
I seek safety and get lost in music and lyrics. There was a lot of Spanish music I listened to growing up. And oddly enough, listening to lyrics and artist no one else my age would think of paying any attention to.
Today, I am also getting inspired by news, politics and eastern philosophy.
The exaggerated recount of events, the drama and the humor of the human failures and triumphs.
Eastern philosophy offers the depth of wisdom from that old period. Yet it’s as new age as it gets.
How would you describe your style?
SM: We have a style that is voyeuristic & bizarre yet contemporary & familiar at the same time. Our creative ménage à trois brings a fresh perspective to collectors.
LF: Los Angeles’ scenic backdrops nudes hidden behind any mask.
GS: A mere coincidental miracle. Lucky to be sharing artistic vision with two other talented artists. We work because we function as a mathematical equation at the end of the day. But it’s not the perfect equation. Something is off and somehow it’s that “other” that we seem to thrive on. Like a bad addiction and the high that comes with it.
We love this project. An emotional roller coaster, Beast untamed.
A German-Australian fashion photographer whose erotic and stylized black-and-white photos covered the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and many other magazines from the 1960’s until his death in the early 2000’s.
French fashion photographer (1928 – 1991) whose work was the first to create a narrative around fashion items – one which was often strange and surreal, incorporating violence and sexuality into highly controlled settings. Influenced by his mentor Man Ray and surrealist artists, his photography wrestled with the nature of commercial imagery.
American modernist photographer (1917 – 2009) whose work spanned fashion photography, portraiture and still life. Known for his simple, sparse, and organized aesthetic, Penn was one of the first to pose subjects against a simple white or gray backdrop.
New York-based photographer best known for her conceptual self-portraits, in which she utilizes setting, makeup and costume to pose as a variety of characters. Her work questions the nature of art as well as the role & representation of women in society and the media.
How and when did you decide that this is what you were going to do?
SM: I’ve been obsessed with photography since I was a young girl, influenced primarily by the classic fashion photographers such as Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, and Irving Penn.
LF: I was working at a factory in Boyle Heights designing belts. This opened the door for me in two ways, I was very inspired to be getting acquainted with another part of the city and also the factory was one of the most intriguing spaces I’ve been in. This is what I want to narrate in my photography for others to see.
GS: A night with Cindy Sherman.
An accidental Google click turned into unexpected obsession that carried through the night. I was up all night watching every interview and documentary that had Cindy it and/or referenced her work. Many sleepless nights followed.
I think her work opened my eyes to what I found most interesting about art. An intelligent way to express intimate parts of my life. Self portraiture. Opening dialogs through characters which I interpret through the use of masks and obstruction of facial features.
What’s your story of getting started as an artist?
SM: Shooting women is definitely my forte. I started working at a modeling agency at age 19. One day the photographer didn’t show up & I was thrown in to take the pictures shaking hands and all. The agency director said that I had what it took to make the girls comfortable. The shots turned out fine & I knew from then on that I had found my niche. I never looked back.
LF: Becoming a professional artist is crossing that line. You are putting yourself out there so vulnerably. You are now in the realm of your own unknown and yet to be discovered fantasies.
GS: Los Angeles has been a huge source of inspiration. I honestly have only the love relationship with the city. While it’s easy to have the love/hate relationship which this city very much offers — it truly appreciate the unparalleled source of diversity for anyone who is creative or curious.
After attending countless openings I began to immerse myself more and more with other parts of the city that were gritty. Stark perfection of gallery space juxtaposed with the grit really spoke to me.
It was around then that on a random Saturday afternoon Scarlet, Lily and I started the discussion to begin our journey in what we have decided to describe as a polygamous creative marriage of sorts.
The idea was born an afternoon at Scarlet’s home in Topanga. The odyssey of our friendship took significance and form immediately after we titled it. Rest is history.
“Do something every day
to remind this city of why
the hell you are here.”
— Lily Flores
How does it feel to have this exhibition opening? What was the process like?
SM: It’s passionate creative energy all year, then, after the art is made, in the final couple of months, it’s all business. We work so well as a team, where one lacks, the other picks up. We are a family, we challenge each other as well as have each other’s backs.
LF: It’s a lot of work, still a learning process. This is our second collaborative exhibit and we are learning something new everyday. The last days leading up to the exhibit are an emotional roller-coaster but seeing the photo story come together on the walls is most exhilarating for me.
GS: Opening is a reward. The process itself leading up to is arduous and mentally draining. Approaching art with a collaboration of 3 is probably the hardest thing we have ever had to do.
However, the challenges and obstacles we have placed on the road have also been am the biggest source of growth and maturity.
In the end, we are like singers in a band who sing in unison but split into melodies. We try to voice each photo with something personal that we find relates. We feel this helps protect the integrity of the process and keeps us each attached individually to our concepts and how we each view or odyssey of LA.
There is so much of us in the photos and we know each other so intimately well than the end our personal Odyssey and adventures are all captured or reflected in the photos.
Howl’s Moving Castle
A 2004 Japanese animated fantasy film by Hayao Miyazaki, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is based on the namesake novel by Diana Wynne Jones and follows young heroine, Sophie, as a witch’s curse transforms her into a 90 year old woman.
A 2014 dark comedy written and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, which premiered to critical acclaim at the Venice Film Festival, where it received four awards. The film follows an aging actor (Michael Keaton), who played iconic superhero Birdman in his glory days, as he attempts to reclaim former glory with a Broadway production.
What’s your favorite book, film, and music right now?
SM: Lana Del Rey “Paradise”/ “Big Sur” by Jack Kerouac/ “Howl’s Moving Castle”
LF: Book – so many but “Alice in Wonderland,” always. Artist – Lana Del Rey. Film – “Birdman.”
GS: “Kill Bill.” always.
What are your interests and passions outside of your art?
SM: Getting into nature and exploring new terrains.
LF: Reading, The Walking Dead, hiking, going on day trips around California. I visited Joshua Tree, Big Sur, Death Valley, Napa Valley, and the Grand Canyon this year. Keeping a journal of every night’s dream if I have one I can remember the next morning – nightmare, dream or reverie.
GS: Architecture, interior design, music and lots of yoga.
How do you feel about the rising creative scene in LA?
SM: It’s a heartbeat that I LOVE contributing to.
LF: I am all for it! And I quote, “Do something every day to remind this city of why the hell you are here.”
GS: LA is wonderful.
A perfect melting pot of dysfunctionality that helps us get inspired daily. There are so many stories to be told.
What’s next for you?
SM: I have a couple of shows in the works. Lily, Serge and I have some amazing things happening with this project for the coming year.
LF: LA Odyssey…to be continued for next year. And my own project in the works. You will know soon enough.
GS: Live in the now. Dream when I go to sleep. Our ongoing series/ collaboration + a solo in the works.