My two earlier bodies of work, Still Lovers, and Fandomania: Characters and Cosplay, are photographic studies that reveal under-examined subjects. As a visual artist I have found remarkable beauty in subjects that, on the surface, might be dismissed as aberrant and unseemly. I am fascinated by the interplay between fiction and fact and the thin line that separates the two. By keeping the line of inquiry open, I have been able to make images that raise questions. Rather than focusing on the unknown, my new work creates an alternative perspective on a popular icon: the horse.
Beginning with my years as a competitive rider, the historical and contemporary manifestations of equine imagery have intrigued me. Horses and riders have been represented in photography and film from the medium’s inception. Early practitioners, such as Edward Muybridge and Etienne Jules Marey, isolated the powerful motion and sinewy muscularity of the equine form such that these images continue to resonate in our collective unconscious.
The metaphoric potential that exists between representations of the horse—and the jockey—in movement and the spectator’s gaze, particularly in racing, is at the forefront of my new work. At the track, expectations of the horse and rider are still insatiable, and conjure in the viewer motion, athleticism, sexuality, power, performance, vulnerability, competition, financial gain, and fetishism - the same issues humans are faced with in a society that worships commodity culture and winning at all costs.
The Pleasure Park series combines digital still photography and High Definition motion video to represent the racing horse in various forms. The animal has been abstracted but also made whole by the layering of animation, archival footage, freeze-frames, still photographs, full-motion video, and sound. This series includes two video instillations: The Pleasure Park simulates a horse race and is projected on four walls with quadraphonic sound. My intent is not only to capture the poise and resilience of the fleeting animal in multidimensional space, but also to place the spectator directly in the racing environment, overwhelming them with sensation and the power of the physical form and sheer force of these trained athletes. Pleasure Park: The Jockeys, is a one-channel series of video portraits, allowing the viewer to confront the riders in their most vulnerable and unprotected state. Pleasure Park: The Horses, portrays these powerful and sinewy animals off the track, in a studio setting deprived of visual cues. Although the ritual and pageantry of the race are alluded to in the accoutrement represented the animals are suspended in motion, still, removed from the culture of commodity. The final installation includes a variety of grids composed of still images, referencing Muybridge’s earliest studies of the horse. This complete series not only regards the beauty of the racehorse and the jockey, but also raises questions about the ongoing fetishism of thoroughbreds and their ultimate expendability for spectacle.
Dorfman’s 2007 series, Fandomania: Characters & Cosplay, explored the world of costume play—a pop-cultural phenomenon exported from Japan, now exploding in the US. The subjects in this series are extreme fans who frequent conventions worldwide, who dress up and live as characters from video games, Japanese manga and anime. A book of the same title has been published by Aperture.
Still Lovers, the photographic series that preceeded Fandomania, examined the intimate and domestic lives of men and women who live with life-sized silicone sex dolls. Still Lovers, the monograph, was published by Channel Photographics. Both series were the subject of solo shows at both the Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York, and multiple cities worldwide.
Elena lives between Los Angeles and New York.