It was a crisp, gray day in January 2020 when I stepped out of my Uber onto what looked like industrial wasteland, a concrete-scape dotted with smokestacks and graffitied shipping containers. I pushed through the glass door of an old brick factory and found myself inside the pristine white walls of the Mana Contemporary arts center. In the lobby, I waited until a petite woman with jet black hair walked in with her Yorkshire terrier, Mozie.
This was Rina Oh, and she had asked me to meet her at the studio space in Jersey City, New Jersey, where she paints and sculpts. A recurring subject of her art is Jeffrey Epstein, the well-connected financier who died in a New York jail cell in 2019, while being held on sex-trafficking charges. Oh’s studio featured an oil painting of Epstein’s friend Prince Andrew as Bacchus, the god of wine, and, next to it, a painting of a nude Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been charged with recruiting underage girls for Epstein, holding the forbidden fruit in what Oh calls the “Garden of Sin.” The tone of the paintings was neither critical nor celebratory—just strange.
Oh’s fascination with Epstein is not abstract. She knew him personally—as someone who was in a romantic relationship with Epstein that came to include finding other women for him to meet. Although Oh had never spoken to the press or to the authorities, she was willing to share her story with me for a podcast I was working on about Epstein, called “Broken: Seeking Justice.” I wanted to understand what it was like to be part of his circle, and why she had done it.