by Gary Aker rexbreathes@hotmail.com

Marne Lucas and Jacob Pander, the stars of the artistic/explicit underground film, The Operation, will bring their collaboration of nudes and pin-ups to Portland's Umbra Penumbra gallery this month, opening December 4th. As opposed to The Operation, where they were both in front of the infra-red camera, this show will feature Marne (aka Gina Velour) posing and Jacob shooting in regular, spectral photography. Marne will also expose her self-portraits in found mirrors and reflective surfaces, where "each photograph evokes the mood of that time," Jacob said. The banal locations are transformed into intriguing settings that reveal the passage of time for Marne. Rounding out the show will be photos of the making of The Operation by Jacob's brother, Arnold.

"It's sort of a demystification of the film," Jacob said about Arnold's behind-the-scenes photos. The bizarre, 12-minute movie, shot entirely on infra-red film, is a raw excursion into the mating of technology and human sexuality. People in masks and gowns, hospital gurneys and surgical instruments and the military-night-vision feel of infra-red photography all contradict and ultimately succumb to the passion and force of Jacob and Marne's explicit sexuality. This viewer would rather not look behind the curtain; I sensed Jacob and Marne were also hesitant about the magicians giving away the secrets of their magic show.

The Operation has been the I.V. hook-up to recognition, collaboration, and opportunities for Marne and Jacob since it was first revealed to an enthusiastic audience and critical acclaim at the second New York Underground Film Festival in 1995. Recently, The Operation ran through a tour of underground and indie fests in Vancouver BC, Honolulu, Austin, Texas, and the famed Hollywood Underground Film Festival. As they say on Broadway, this show has legs.

Exotic Magazine contributor, D.K. Holm, persuaded the editor of Leg World Magazine to take a look at The Operation. That led to a four-page layout in the January issue on the newsstands this month.

"One of the enticing things about doing photos for Leg World is that they are interested in stuff that has more of an aesthetic approach," Jacob said of the five-month-old Larry Flynt publication. And Marne was able to write the text for the layout.

"Which is nice," Marne said, "because lots of times the text isn't anything like the photographs... I wrote the text as my character, Gina Valour: surgeon, fetish model, and writer," she summed up her front-of-camera persona. The Leg World photos will be included in the gallery showing.

An Exotic Magazine review of The Operation by Doc Wainwright caught the eye of Leg Show editor, Dian Hanson. Leg Show ranks as the premiere mass circulation fetish magazine for fanciers of feet, high heels, stockings, and outrageous glamour. Jacob and Marne found themselves flying to New York so Marne could pose for the fabulous fetish photographer, Richard Kerns, with Ms. Hanson on the set. That photo-layout will appear in the March issue of Leg Show, available in January, 1998.

Next, it's off to Chicago for Marne, to pose for photographer Steve Diet Goedde (who will shoot the next Exotic cover). Marne explains that "I pose nude as a form of self-expression... It's worth it to me to fly across the country just to work with him for a few days."

Fortunately, we in Portland don't have to go anywhere to see the stunning collaboration between Marne and Jacob. The featured nudes were shot inside a custom-built darkroom in an undisclosed mansion. Marne positioned herself in an oversized, stainless steel sink -- again, exploring the juxtaposition or "melding of technology and the human body," as Jacob describes it. Then there's the series of hotel shots which "are more indicative of the nostalgia of the pin-up" Jacob mused, then added, "The feeling is almost noir." This was achieved by using low light and pushing the film to get a grainy quality that compliments the art deco design of the interiors.

Jacob comes from an artistic background focusing on architectural landscapes and images of technology. Recently, he and his father, painter Henk Pander, took a desert tour of airplane graveyards for mostly commercial aircraft. Dad painted while Jacob took photos of the "eerie, surreal violence." Jacob is inspired to write a film scene that can be shot in that location. Filmmaking and photography aside, Jacob's bread and butter has been making savvy comic books with brother Arnold that culminated in the graphic novel, Triple X (see the May, 1997, issue of Exotic).

Marne walked away from the fashion model life, where she said, "You show up, you do the work, you get paid, you leave. They don't want your input whatsoever. You're just the hanger... Posing nude, I have a lot more creative input. It's a lot more about self-expression; it's not (just) how I pay the rent."

Marne pushed on to vent about fashion modeling: "You're forced to be in competition (with other women). Men have porn magazines, women have Vogue. I think men flipping through porno mags are far more accepting of women and their bodies than women are looking through Vogue, comparing themselves and saying, 'I don't have her ass.' I think women are far more critical of themselves. For me, all those years posing nude while I was a fashion model, forced me to accept myself, as in: this is all you have, this body in this moment.

"Being a fashion model, you're just a hanger for the clothes. So you have to be this six foot rake weighing 100 pounds, which is just ridiculous. If you're posing nude and you put on ten pounds, you look better."

While Marne and Jacob hail from different backgrounds they share aesthetic tastes. Jacob described their desire to "make the space and the subject both very interesting, bring the whole room and the whole atmosphere into the shot." Jacob added that "it's very unique for a photographer and model to have a 50/50 collaboration" like the one they enjoy.

Marne said, "We're both very private people but we have this interest exploring the human form." With each successive project Marne said she would list the should and the should-nots. Oftentimes, the should-nots, dictated by privacy, outweighed the shoulds. "Then I leave the should-nots behind and proceed to do it." She blames her boldness on "insane inspiration." But she also said, "I have a commitment to showing women they should accept their bodies and their sexuality and they should explore what is sensual to them." Although that's not exactly Joan of Arc crusading, Marne pointed out, "Our society is in conflict with that (her commitment), so that is a difficult path. That's not considered a valid pursuit, not climbing a certain ladder."

Which gently led us into a discussion of the difference between art and pornography. Jacob said that art is more than just sexual content and includes emotion, mood, and setting. But to make the distinction, you also have to examine "the process behind the photography."

Marne looked back on the world of fashion modeling and said, "What is the difference between fashion and art? It's the same question as pornography versus art."

"It's the difference between selling product and expressing the vision of the creator," Jacob said. "The argument is usually based in the graphic nature of the subject," he added, "But at this point, it's evolved into the intent because we're (society) becoming more accepting of graphic material."

Artistic intent or not, Marne is pro-sexuality in action. She ventured on to describe her "Inner Slut" nights: "Me and my girlfriends will all get dressed to the nines and I'll take them to all these scary places like adult stores and strip clubs. The whole point of that is to demystify those places for women."

"The ones who are categorically against porn, or who will leave their boyfriends if they catch them looking at an explicit magazine often become enthused and intrigued and become a regular at strip clubs, start renting (adult) videos. I'm sort of like the den mother because I'm not really interested..."

Summing up her crusade, Marne prided, "It's about educating my peers to not hate their bodies or hate women who do that (nude dancing, videos). The ones who are the most opposed end up wanting to become dancers. It's really rewarding to see these women (change) who were terrified of their bodies, their sexuality."

Marne is making a tape called "Inner Slut Night" which features favorite, five minute excerpts from videos that she and her girlfriends have watched together.

Now that The Operation has catapulted Jacob and Marne to the vanguard of explicit art, what can we expect next?

There's not a lot of agenda in it," Jacob almost apologized. We're interested in doing a series of photo shoots with other models, local models, where Marne is the art director." So all you girls, whether you've ever been before the camera or not, gather up your "Inner Slut" and maybe you can explore artistic/explicit expression. It's worked wonders for Marne and Jacob, as you can see at Umbra Penumbra Gallery... 314 SW 9th, Portland, (503) 223-4497. Opening reception December 4th (First Thursday) from 6pm - 9pm. DJ Peek-A-Boo to play at reception. Free.



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