Vp Issue 8: "Now It’s Our Party: Profile, Ilene Chaiken"
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is a particular anthropology to our lives that also hasn’t been known by the world at large. And we want to let you in on those details.” “This is why people read. This is why people watch television. It’s so fundamental to our humanity to want to peruse stories about people who are different from us and learn about things that we didn’t previously know. That enriches us beyond probably any experience.”
The full-scale sets of The L Word are built to replicate a West Hollywood neighborhood. Some exterior scenes are shot in Los Angeles but, for the most part, everything is done in-house in Vancouver. Standing on the set provides a false sense of reality as the homes on set have running water. After lounging in Bette and Tina’s backyard by the pool, you emerge from the front door into the fluorescent light of a warehouse instead of the California sunshine. As a glamorized version of the urban lesbian experience, The L Word set is more than a working television set—It’s a gallery. Today on the set, art director Cheryl Marion is scoping for a space to hang a Lisa Yuskavage reproduction painting in Bette and Tina’s home. Chaiken is an art enthusiast who encourages decorating the set with work by fine artists. The show has displayed works by Cathy Opie, Julia Sher, Nicole Esienman, and others, with plans to exhibit artists such as Yuskavage and Sam Taylor-Wood in the future. “It’s like having a museum, which sort of makes sense given that Bette is a museum director,” says Chaiken. In regard to art, she says “I’m informally knowledgeable about what’s really going on, but I have a lot of good friends whom I go to, and say, ‘What should I be doing?’”
On the walls of a small hallway linking the production offices to the set there is a different kind of installation. A set of collages made of Polaroids and fashion magazine clippings depicting fashion influences for each character hang on the wall. A New York Times article featuring a photo of resident heartthrob Katherine Moenning beside a Paris runway model hangs on the bulletin board. One quote reads: “Far from being frumps doomed to Manolo Blahnik deficiency, lesbians are a powerful presence in fashion, in both predictable and unexpected ways.”
Characters wear the latest designer fashions showing individual style and establishing each