Bright Lights Film Journal

The Noir Portraiture of Stacy Lande

Painting influences film. Film influences painting. The portraits of Los Angeles painter and performance artist Stacy Lande (pronounced, “lan-dee”) appear equally influenced by 19th Century Symbolism, 20th Century Expressionism, and the dark worlds of film noir.

As an artist, Lande experienced an epiphany of sorts while watching Erich von Stroheim’s mutilated silent classic, Queen Kelly (1929). Like von Stroheim’s films and Queen Kelly in particular, Stacy Lande’s paintings exist on the border between Expressionism’s emotionalized stylization and noir’s jaundiced hyperrealism. Lande’s portraits are highly detailed, highly textural. She achieves her textures by painting on wooden door panels, and by mixing glitter and other materials into her acrylics and carefully layered glazes. The “lighting” is always from underneath, often seeming to come from the subjects themselves. The backgrounds are generally jet black.

Conceptually, Lande draws inspiration from Bram Dijkstra’s book, Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siecle Culture (Oxford University Press, 1988): “It’s all about this Victorian obsession with voluptuous, allegorical evil women who suck the lifeblood out of men in the late 19th century.” (The predecessors of noir’s femmes fatales.) “What I do is take modern people I work with and plug them into these allegorical, mythological roles.”

Salome, pictured above left, is typical of Lande’s work, reimagining an L.A. nightclub grrrl as Salome holding the head of John the Baptist.

Lande has a wicked sense of humor. Her portrait of me, above right, is titled Fire King, which could refer to some ancient demigod, but – as Lande points out – could also be the name for a brand of charcoal!

Lande’s artwork is collected in The Red Box (Last Gasp, 2000), available through the usual on-line sources. The book is tellingly divided into four sections, “Earth,” “Water,” “Fire,” and “Air.” For photos, interviews, and more samples of Lande’s work, check out her website.