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"Lisa Lyon was in her 20s, she’s obviously older now and she’s just this ghost in these new images. I’m in my late 40s and Dazza is around the same age as I am. So I feel like those photos were this kind of performance dialogue and this method acting dialogue between Lisa Lyon when she was in her 20s, Dazza Del Rio and me hovering around 50, and the mystery of Lisa Lyon today who, I don’t know, maybe she’s around 60, 60 something." 

––from ‘Q&A with Liz Cohen: Multimedia Artist and Educator’ in Wednesday, 2021

There is a distance between how I saw myself in 2002 and how I saw myself in 2020. There is a distance between how I see myself and how others see me. I cannot gauge the distance. I think a lot about aging.


Lisa Lyon exercised an incredible amount of control and focus to become the first woman competitive bodybuilding champion in 1979. She competed once. Although often uncredited, she saw herself as a performance artist. Her performance was akin to method acting, a technique developed by Stanislavsky that requires fully living as a character – it is different than pretending. Lyon’s deliberately achieved physique can be seen as a challenge to a limiting gender binary. As she performed for the photographs with Mapplethorpe, she presents as feminine and masculine, powerful and poetic. Lisa Lyon was in her 20s when she posed for Robert Mapplethorpe, her lover at the time. He photographed her for a six-year period. She is his most photographed subject and least talked about subject.


Dazza del Rio came to fame in the late 80s and the 90s as lowrider magazine’s most popular cover girl. She is an icon. Dazza is comfortable in her own skin. Playfully defiant, she refuses to accept the idea that embracing and putting her sexualized identity at the forefront is necessarily oppressive. She is an agent, and the word victim is not part of her vocabulary.For the BODY MAGIC photographs, Dazza del Rio and I, as twins, attempt to embody Lisa Lyon as she performs in the Mapplethorpe photographs. Three generations of women continue to take on roles.

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