Sabine Dehnel provides answers to riddles never asked, and poses riddles for which there are no answers. You are probably familiar with this. Let’s say you are viewing a picture, and on the first glance, you are certain you know exactly what you are looking at. Looking again, however, doubts start to form about whether the “reality” you see is in fact what you thought it to be. Looking at the piece a third time, you no longer know what you are actually looking at. Solving the mystery of this artwork presents an unexpected challenge, fascinating you so much that you become engulfed by it. It will not let you go.
Dehnel’s Icons series portrays significant artists in an extraordinary way. What makes these portraits so outstanding is that Dehnel creates every single detail herself. She uses her models’ upper-bodies like a canvas, making them look like a painting in harmonious colors. The clothing, with its particular materials and forms, adds individual flair to each piece. For these articles of clothing, Dehnel uses color schemes from the portrayed artists (such as Frida Kahlo’s iconic red, blue, and gold), applying them with techniques that would do justice to the subjects. To craft Niki de Saint Phalle’s mosaic corset, Dehnel took an impression of the model. By hand and with great attention to detail, she then created its unifying appearance. At the heart of each of Dehnel’s photographs is a medallion containing a black-and-white portrait of an iconic figure from art history. These are the anchor to which the rest of the piece, and our interpretations of it, are tied. But even with knowledge of the artist who is represented in the piece, you can never explain all of the artwork’s enigmas. It remains open to interpretation. And don’t hold your breath for an explanation from Dehnel – part of her art is that it holds many secrets.
Sabine Dehnel was born in 1971 in Ludwigshafen, Germany. She studied Fine Art and Philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz and at Otis College of Fine Arts and Design in Los Angeles. She has worked as a freelance artist and photographer since 2001, in which time she has also been an educator in Mannheim and Mainz. She has received many stipendiums for her work and has shown her work around the world in solo and group exhibitions.