Color Me Lucky
7 x 9 inches
Edition of 200
Published by Aint–Bad
From the artist:
In the 1970’s, Evel Knievel was the daredevil—steadfast, virile, courageous, and determined. Knievel’s illustrated legend captivated an audience. Clad in red, white and blue, he embodied the fantasy of soaring over obstacles—even if the landing wasn’t pretty. Color Me Lucky is inspired by Evel Knievel’s swagger. It explores desire, sexuality, masculinity, image, and risk. It’s about the momentum that carries you forward, even when you know there’s a train wreck ahead. My work about this popular daredevil opens up a conversation about what attracts a woman or man to act on or witness risky behavior for the sake of a thrill. In these images, Knievel is the metaphor to decipher if we all have a bit of Evel in us.
Alexis Pike is a sixth generation Idahoan calling on the geography of her genes while focusing on the American West. Pike received her BFA from Boise State University and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She’s been a Top 50 finalist for Critical Mass and has exhibited widely, at venues including Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Missoula Art Museum, Photoville, Guate Photo Festival, and Aperture Foundation. Her work’s been featured in Harper’s, LensCulture, and Wired.com and her monograph Claimed Landscape was published by Blue Sky Books in 2014. Currently, she lives in Bozeman, Montana with her four children, two dogs, and one cat. When she’s not being a photographer or a mom, she’s an Associate Professor of Photography at Montana State University.
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Book review by Dana Stirling |
In her book Alexis Pike dives (head on) into ‘Evel Knievel’ the stunt performer and entertainer who over the course of his career did stunts that amazed the crowds and has become a house hold name, a personae many kids looked up to and really has become an iconic figure in the American culture. I think that now, the name ‘Evel Knievel’ has just become a general term for living on the edge – taking risks and living life of danger.
Alexis herself writes:
“When I was six, I planned to be just like Evel Knievel. Naively, I couldn’t understand the consequences of my choice. Imagining myself in his striking leathers, I raced my bike down a hill like a kamikaze on a mission for the sake of a stunt.
At the bottom of the hill, with too much speed, I crashed, tumbled hard across the gravel, laid there unconscious—my prize was spending four days in the hospital with a fractured skull. Injury aside, I gained bragging rights”
In her book, Alexis was inspired by all Evel represented and the visual culture surrounding him and the time. She is able to capture in this book a feeling, an Americana, a culture that even if you have not lived through yourself you feel you are a part of just by looking at the images.
As someone who was not born in the U.S. I always saw American movies and shows (even thought my parents really tried to push all their British television on me but Israel LOVES the U.S too much not to be influenced) and for me I knew of this character but I never had a connection to him per se, but I always understood the attraction around what he represented.
With bold colors and a smart use of it along the pages of the book, we are taken down the road of exploring what this sub culture looks like, tastes like and feels like. The use of the obvious red, blue and white in the images, is laid out in the book as a narrative of itself. The colors are a guide to what this person is, was and what he represents. I know American love their flag and love even more to make merchandise out of it - so this overwhelming patriotic visuals just feels - right.
A big part of what I find interesting in the book is the contrast and duality of masculinity and femininity and how they contradict and complement each other at the same time. We assume these types of actions are for “boys” and honestly from what it seems, even in the book, it’s still true. However, I think that Alexis was able to bring that other side of what it is to also have women in these types of fields and how risk and sexuality play a key role in these interactions. In her interview with Lenscratch in 2017 she said:
“In terms of masculinity of the sport, I had to embrace it because that was a major part of what defined this project. The themes documented in this project are typically male driven—daredevils, stunts, etc. But I’m also coming from working in landscape photography; fields historically dominated by men, and have had to address being a female photographer.
There are a few stuntwomen but primarily the performers are men. One group of women, Circus Una, performed in 2014 at EK Days. They are talented—riding motorcycles on a high wire—but also provocative in their costumes, straddling their bikes high above the crowd. During one of their performances, I ended up watching the audience and realized many, especially the men, were gawking at their bodies in hopes of a gravity aided wardrobe malfunction.
I was seeing the allure of sexuality in a risky performance. From that point I wanted to capture a more open ended visual definition of attraction and risk. Women attend, some perform, but it is very male centric. ”
In her book, she cleverly wives together still lives, close ups, portraits and actions shots to create a tapestry of the overall story. Like a written story, she is able to go in and out in order to build the narrative in a way that we are captivated and stimulated. I think the variety of the visuals and the slightly different photographic approaches make the work that much richer and more exciting. With every page turned you are faced with something new that is different than what you looked at before – and I think it works well in capturing the spirit of these people and atmosphere of these events and lifestyle.
One of her images, a close up of a hairy manly chest of a guy wearing a leather red, blue and white (obviously) jacket and a golden necklace, for me, is the images that in just one visual captures what I always imagined when thinking of Evel Knievel and honestly sometimes America as a whole. There is something so honest and powerful about this harsh light close up that represents all men who are inspired by this daredevil and who live their life in his spirit. The Americana and the traditional colors and stars of these performances are so striking that for me this image tells this story beautifully.
In the end of the day, this books captures something that is fun, dangerous and questionable all at the same time, but in a vibrant and crafted photographic work, this book is one you can learn a lot from about storytelling and creating a time capsule of culture and art.
Do yourself a favor, live on the edge and grab a copy of this book for yourself – you won’t regret it!
Grab a copy of the book here