Necklace, 2013

Vintage porn might be the last place one would expect to encounter Arcadia, but Tracy Nakayama unequivocally positions it there. Her seemingly endless series of sepia ink drawings on paper are taken from the erotica of what seemed a simpler and more innocent moment of staged intimacy, and are so sympathetic to their source that they approach homage. Nakayama focuses primarily on images from sex magazines whose purpose was often speciously presented as sociological, and whose softcore aesthetic is adaptable to her feminist approach. She isolates and subtly alters her sources to evoke a wistful sense of lost innocence.

Tracy Nakayama’s chosen period might have been the last time when porn was even tangentially tied to the concepts of free love and sexual experimentation, more earnest and tender than slick and professional. No implants or celebrities here, just a lot of long hair, beads, sideburns, summer-of-love lissomeness, and simulated sex, as dictated by the laws of the time.

For her paintings Nakayama alters her sources, changing facial features, removing backgrounds, decentering the images, and employing her palette of dull red to suggest the patina of history. It’s a bit like looking at browned-out old Polaroids, but with each shade of sienna lovingly refashioned in new ink.