Visual Arts Journal reviews Motel Bizarre

Cover of the Spring 2008 Visual Arts Journal

Review of Motel Bizarre

In her new book of staged photographs, Motel Bizarre: Tales from the No Tell Motel, Stephanie Crabe (BFA 2003 Photography) explores that distinctly American institution: the middle-ofnowhere roadside motel. In the book, Crabe investigates the seedier side of these residences of the transient, forgoing the more familiar viewpoint that portrays these places as not much more than cradles of kitsch. Crabe shows Motel Bizarre to be a hidden world of fantasy and sexual deviancy. The images are full of characters who exist on the fringes of society; neo-Nazis, transvestites, prostitutes and hired thugs are just a few of the inhabitants.
While Crabe presents the motel as a place where those who have seemingly no place in
society can indulge any or all of their urges, she does not make it a particularly terrifying place. In fact, Crabe’s photographs show a colorful group of characters that look as if they have finally found a home for their perversities. Housewives carouse with male strippers; a dominatrix and her slave enjoy a little BDSM; and a couple of young lesbian punk rockers are able to escape their families for the night. While attempting to demonstrate the loneliness that comes from transience, Crabe does not look down on these people—instead she turns them into antiheroes from a world that exists outside the margins of familiar society. [CM]

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