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September 15, 2014

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Joe Downtown:

Burlesque performer takes it off, but ‘it’ isn’t really there

Image

Darla Lush

Although completely nude, burlesque performer Darla Lush appears to be clothed using projection mapping technology at the El Cortez on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. She plans to incorporate the technology into her striptease act. The couch she is sitting on is also projection mapped — in real life it looks nothing like the one in this picture.

Click to enlarge photo

Although completely nude, burlesque performer Darla Lush appears to be clothed using projection mapping technology at the El Cortez on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. She plans to incorporate the technology into her striptease act. The couch she is sitting on is also projection mapped -- in real life it looks nothing like the one in this picture.

Click to enlarge photo

Burlesque performer Darla Lush, seen here modeling at the Neon Museum, plans to incorporate projection mapping technology into her striptease act.

Burlesque performance, an art form dating to the 1940s and earlier, is about to get a computerized makeover courtesy of Darla Lush, some fairly new technology and the backdrop of retro downtown Las Vegas.

Only going by her stage name, Darla Lush, 27, who lives in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, spent a day this week in a room at the El Cortez being videotaped and photographed in the nude by Evan Weitzberg of MapJacks, a projection mapping crew out of LA.

Here’s the interesting part of the photo shoot: If you were to stand a few feet from Lush, who is on a couch naked, you would never be able to tell she was nude.

With projection mapping, Lush, appears covered in a shimmering black dress, which is really a digitized image projected to perfectly fit and cover part of her body.

Even the Victorian couch she’s sitting on isn’t really there; there’s a couch, but it looks nothing like the one in the image.

(For an example of projection mapping downtown, the Velveteen Rabbit, 1218 S. Main St., uses it to create art of its fire-scorched wall.)

As Lush moves, the projection image tracks and moves with her. That means she will be able to perform a striptease — except the clothes she peels off won’t really be there to begin with.

“Projection mapping basically turns my body in a performance into a display surface,” said Lush, who is also the producer of Darla Lush’s 3-D Striptease.

“I’m my own muse,” she said.

Lush grew up in a large family in Cleveland, Ohio, under the watchful eye of a mother who had once been a nun. All the kids were home-schooled. One sister is now a Bible translator.

“They didn’t want me to meet someone at school who would influence me to become what I am now, a stripper,” Lush said, chuckling. “I’d say it worked to the opposite end. And I’m glad I’m on this path.”

Always artistic, Lush said she grew up sketching the human body, drawings which she would never let her family see. They now think she works in an office somewhere in California.

In today’s world of an Internet saturated with pornography, burlesque appears to some as taboo as reading a comic book. Lush, though, knows it’s still verboten to many.

“People are still so offended by it, so judgemental, so it’s the kind of thing where I like to be around people who are doing it and understand it,” she said.

After graduating from California’s College of the Arts, where her primary medium was sculpture, Lush said, she was turned off by the “pretentiousness” of the art world. She found the entertainment world a better fit.

Lush started doing pinup photo shoots after people kept telling her she had “a pinup look.” Then the work of burlesque performer Shanghai Pearl, whom she saw perform in San Francisco in 2009, inspired her to give striptease a try.

After a few years, something happened she never thought would occur — her college education kicked in to take the art form a step further. She learned about projection mapping in school and decided to add it to her act.

“I’ve never wanted to do what everybody else does,” she said with a perfect smile.

Lush’s attraction to Las Vegas stems from her self-described “degenerate” love of blackjack but also because some of its retro-feel fits the burlesque mold. One of her favorite places to be photographed is in the Neon Boneyard, 770 Las Vegas Blvd.

She chose the El Cortez as the backdrop for her photo/video shoot because the rooms had a vintage theme and she loves the casino’s history. She also wants to make connections downtown, where investors are focusing energy and money on creating a mini-tech hub.

Lush, whose lipstick adheres perfectly and without fault even after playing blackjack for 10 hours, takes a gambler’s view when asked how she thinks this form of burlesque will be accepted.

“Like in blackjack, you only throw down what you’re willing to lose,” she said. “I’m expecting to win, but if it doesn’t work out, I’m OK with that. I just want to do this, have this idea and this video. It’s something I’ll always have.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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