There are certain art forms that have always had the ability to carry me off to another stranger, yet more aesthetically pleasing world, and this young British creative is dabbling in two of them.
Nadia Lee Cohen is an art photographer currently based in the US. Her photographs are at the same time beautiful and glamorous, yet grotesque. Through her lens an otherwise mundane scene becomes surreal and intriguing, and her work has been described as ‘reality overdone’. Beautiful women stood on a roadside or sat in a diner are paired with buck teeth or a hair do three feet tall, flash photography and a more-than-pungent colour palette – and the combination gives a sense of uneasiness. It’s almost impossible to look away.
That uneasiness makes sense when you learn that Cohen draws heavily on Hitchcock’s work and mise-en-scene to inform her own artistry. Other auteurs like David Lynch or John Waters also play their part in the mix and go some way to explain the odd sense of humour behind these creations. The combination feels bold and fearless when applied to a fashion campaign (GCDS and Maison Margiela).
But it wasn’t Nadia Lee Cohen’s art photography that first introduced me to her work, it was one of my other favourite art forms: a damn good music video. The first time I watched the video for Gilligan by D.R.A.M. featuring ASAP Rocky and Juicy J, it was like a slap across the face in the best sense possible.
I’m buying a ticket to this freak show
The Gilligan music video, directed by Cohen, felt like it came out of nowhere and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the impossibly wide smiles, the shaking fake butts, the bizarre but beautiful town, the popping colour palette… basically all of it. Everything on the screen was so cohesive yet so bizarre. Within mere moments I was on board with the unreality of it all and eager to explore the scene.
The video maintains a not openly explained tension through people’s expressions (prosthetic or otherwise), a strange dinner party and the choppy camera work. It feels like suburbia under threat but you’re rooting for the invaders.
Cohen has also created videos for A$AP Rocky and Kali Uchis. They’re some of my favourite music videos of recent years, glamourous but twisted. Take a look at Nadia Lee Cohen’s website for more of her video work.