May 7 – June 19, 2005
For the last twelve years, I have worked on and off in the world of exotic dance (strip clubs). It is a world harshly judged by the mainstream and generally negatively depicted by the media.
Strippers are often viewed as dysfunctional people on the fringe of society. Throughout my career as a dancer I have come to know some very powerful and creative women. I have witnessed deeply moving and healing experiences and I have seen a great deal of beauty and strength within this industry.
Three years ago, I began photographing the women that I work with. At first, I wondered if I should photograph every aspect of this world, including the stereotypical “bad stuff” (exploited women with low self esteem), but I realized that I do not view the dancers in this way. Dysfunction exists within the world of exotic dance as it does in every aspect of our society, however it is not the negative things that stay with me, but rather the humanity that constantly disrobes itself alongside the women.
I have therefore chosen to focus my lens on the performance aspect of this world where women express so much – dressing and undressing their bodies, dressing and undressing their souls. The women I work with are extremely supportive of my work. They are inspired by my photographs and I am honored by their trust.
Born in the United States, and raised in New Zealand, Charise Isis returned to the States at 20 to study acting in NYC. As a “struggling artist”, she supported herself as a bartender and later a close friend introduced her to the world of exotic dance. Dancing for Isis became not only a great source of income, but also a wonderful platform for expressing her creativity. She also began exploring different visual media including painting, sculpture, and performance art before discovering her talent for photography. After having a son, she moved to Woodstock, NY, where she continued to supplement income dancing and began studying photography at Ulster Community College.
Having access to an abundance of interesting and beautiful women at her work, she naturally began photographing them. Since then Isis has compiled more than sixty images along with interviews, which she is currently working to make into a book. Isis has shown her work in exhibitions in NY at the Stepping Stone Gallery in Huntington, Best of SUNY show at the State University Plaza Gallery in Albany, and Backstage Productions in Kingston. “American Stripper” is Charise Isis’s first solo exhibition. Since then she has gone on to exhibit at Michael Mazzeo Gallery, Griffin Museum, and the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz, among others. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Art, Houston and the Center for Photography at Woodstock.