Leah Schrager is an artist who works between the web and NYC. In her work she photographs, appears in, augments, and markets her own image. She’s interested in the line, movement, biography, and digital life of the female body. In 2010 she founded a new form of therapy as Sarah White, The Naked Therapist. She also co-curated the female-positive BodyAnxiety.com exhibition, which is featured in the April 2015 issue of Art Forum. After graduating in 2015 with an MFA in Fine Art from Parsons, The New School, she launched a celebrity-as-art-practice project called ONA, which is set to run until 2020. Making ONA a real world celebrity has so far included the creation and growth of her Instagram account, which has over 450K real followers, the release of her EP “Sex Rock,” and the publication of “Self-Made Supermodels” in Rhizome.
While most contemporary female artists ignore or critique the male gaze, Schrager embraces and explores it through utilizing an open-minded approach to sexuality that fluidly includes its dynamics in her aesthetic investigations. Her visual work involves digitally and materially painting on images of herself, and her conceptual work involves creating and propagating images of herself online in tandem with various “persona” projects. Both practices seek to examine the possibilities of female action and representation in today’s society. She is a proponent of considering the artistic value and merit of selfies, as selfies provide the model full legal and economic control over her images (as elucidated in her recent curatorial statement for Body Anxiety) and owned self-explorations offer an empowering alternative to the traditional status of models under “man hands” (men selling women’s images as art). Schrager has been compared by journalists to such seminal figures as Diane Fossey, Marina Abramovic, Marcel Duchamp, Laurel Nakadate, and Sigmund Freud. She and/or her work have been profiled in 1000′s of media outlets, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Vice, CBS News, ABC News, The NY Daily News, NBC New York, FOX Business News, Playboy, The Huffington Post, Salon.com. Prior shows include Center on Contemporary Art, Andreas Schmidt Gallery, Superchief Gallery, Castor Gallery, Johannes Vogt Gallery, and Spring Break NYC 2017.
About this Website
For works prior to 2014 please email leahartstudio @ gmail . com for access.
A selection of works is viewable in the main menu items as highlighted sets.
You can also view works by series.
All works are downsized for display on the web.
A Few Reviews
“Leah Schrager’s meditation on her performance of celebrity as an arts practice was our most-read WWAOTW column in 2016. Writes Christian: ‘Schrager’s deceptively complex brand of feminism, expressed through the unashamed sexuality of her beautifully abstracted self portraits, makes her voice unique among new media artists.'” Artslant, 2017
“New York City-based Leah Schrager has been described as “ a woman of her time”. Why? This multifaceted artist is battling against and commenting on a number of contemporary issues from the male gaze and digital censorship to celebrity culture, digital identity and sex. By using and photographing her own body as an art object through an alter ego called “Ona”, she reclaims her identity, her body, and her sexuality in racy selfies.” The Art Gorgeous, 2016
“In terms of contemporary art, Schrager’s hybridization of various practices including performance art, social practice, the internet as context/interface, and solicited audience participation makes the work interestingly difficult to define concretely. More often than not, performers struggle to entice their audiences into participating…What’s fascinating is how Schrager has exploited the male gaze to garner participants who are willing to pay their own money to contribute to the development of her project. It’s a coy and, frankly, economically taut method to approach interactive performance work while avoiding actual individual exploitation through maintaining the valued anonymity of her participants (I’m looking at you, Laurel Nakadate).” – Sean J Patrick Carney, Vice, 2014
“Aforementioned bathroom–selfie–taker par excellence Schrager also appears in The F-Word as the Naked Therapist, a project that sees the artist take on the role of a shrink who slowly undresses during the session. Men actually hire her to do this; thus, as the Naked Therapist, she appropriates the male gaze for profit and sells her image as a cam–girl for social and monetary capital. She elevates sex work to the level of post-modern art simply by asking it to be viewed as such. Of all the young artists featured, Schrager’s work leaves her viewers most unsettled.” … “These porno-critical works smoothly read as “feminist,” while Schrager’s work sits in a more uncomfortable—perhaps more honest—contemporary truth about the place of women in the art world. Schrager revels in her sexualized power and abject labor and uses it as a conceptual segue to address not only issues of agency but to also sub–textually address which bodies are privileged over others.” – Rachel Rabbit White, Broadly, 2016
“The problem, according to the event organizers? The performance seemed like “self-promotion,” rather than art. Those are mutually exclusive now? Have they looked around the art world lately?” – Noreem Malone, NY Mag, 2012
“Schrager, in her text, coins the term man hands for the phenomenon by which wom- en’s images of themselves accrue status and art market value when used by male artists…. As Schrager writes, the artists’ “bodies appear as fantasies, mutations, glitches, nightmares, mundanities, dating profiles.” All content morphs and mutates online; it’s an assumption implicit in these artists’ work. If they practice mirroring as a critical strategy, they are mirroring not only tropes of representation but the ways in which those representations morph and mutate, move and shift, the way they are used. The flux, trickery, and metamorphoses that are a staple of online and IRL fantasy worlds are present in “Body Anxiety” as both aesthetic and critical tactics.” – Johanna Fateman, Artforum, 2015
“A resonant voice in the new feminist art wave, Schrager’s work often triumphs sex positivity by reframing the power dynamic between model and photographer and challenging the notion that provocative imagery is less than art.” – Margaret Bechtold, A Woman’s Thing, 2016
“Anyway, the gallery’s rather gross dismissal of the project as a “commercial venture” certainly carries the stigma that White is really nothing but a prostitute, of either the literal (see above) or figurative (why is it now “art”?) variety. (And just to be clear, I don’t think White is a prostitute in either capacity.) Either way, it was deemed not art, using former Supreme Court Justine Stewart Potter’s infamous and thorough, “I know it when I see it” test.
It would be all too easy to make jokes at White’s expense, and it’s quite possible that it’ll feature in some late night talk show monologue soon enough. But really, this ignores the actually challenging questions raised by White’s practice: Does it qualify as art? Without regard to whether it constitutes good or valuable art–a judgment I’m not qualified to make–the answer, from my perspective, is that it most definitely does qualify as art.
In fact, the debate touches on one of the central critiques of performance in the visual art world that we’ve been exploring since Andy published his essay on the topic last year, and through the various events–a pair of “White Cube & Black Box” discussions, “Ephemeral Evidence” at Exit Art–we’ve produced since then. Namely, the visual art world, whether commercial galleries or non-profit museums, is essentially object-, and therefore commodity-, oriented. And the hyper-capitalism of the visual art market these days, with record-breaking sales that led New York‘s Jerry Saltz to recently proclaim it a “nasty” “disgusting” “freak-show,” exacerbates the problem; how, given the crass commercialism of the entire field, can a curator credibly claim that one practice is commercial in an acceptable way, while another is not?” – Jeremy Barker, Culturebot, 2012