Dorothy Iannone: Sex Everywhere and Nowhere

News Section, Reviews

February 10th, 2015


(Review) You Who Read Me With Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends


Two Ways of Looking at a Woman’s Body


Originally published February 10th, 2015


In You Who Read Me with Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends (Siglio Press), a collection works by artist Dorothy Iannone and edited by Lisa Pearson, sex is both everywhere and nowhere.

Iannone’s work combines text and image in arresting fashion. While her figures are typically clothed, or at least ornamented, their genitalia are almost always on display. While the text describes erotic scenes, it’s seldom vulgar—more Marguerite Duras than Anaïs Nin—and more often then not, the words are used to convey stories, recipes, anecdotes and aphorisms of a nonsexual nature.

The result is something that appears at first blush to be as shocking as Raymond Pettibon, only more poetic and much more polite.

For instance, “An Icelandic Saga” purports to tell the true story of how Iannone fell in love with artist Dieter Roth while on a trip to Reykjavik with her husband James Upham. In many of the illustrated scenes, Roth is depicted with an enormous penis while Iannone is almost always shown in a state of undress, wantonly available. When reading the story, it comes as something of a surprise to discover that Iannone and Roth did not consummate their love until after she went home to New York, declared her intentions to her husband and returned to Iceland.

In an essay about Iannone’s practice, one of several texts about her art included in the collection, Trinie Dalton writes, “To experience her artwork as merely an exploration of sexual pursuits is to miss her message of ecstatic unity.”

In Iannone’s work, the truth of things is laid bare. For instance, Dieter is often shown with a fish under his arm. This was his gift for the Americans when they arrived in Reykjavik. One presumes that the fish was purchased at a fishmonger’s and wrapped in paper, but in Iannone’s paintings and illustrations, the fish is always a fish.

Heaving breasts, erect penises, swollen vulva, naked fish. In Iannone’s oeuvre, desire is never under wraps.

Iannone’s early art projects incorporated the texts of other writers, from Shakespeare to Henry Miller to Wallace Stevens. Born in Boston in 1933, she traveled widely and became a staunch opponent of censorship when books she brought back from Europe were seized by customs, and she was determined not to let it affect her own development as an artist.

Because of the frank and open nature of her work, and due to the fact that she’s lived most of her life in Europe, Iannone has only recently started to receive attention in the United States. You Who Read Me with Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends is certain to win her many more admirers.

Thankfully it’s not too late for her to enjoy this attention. The octogenarian is still writing, still making art that some deem dangerous.

Read the original review at San Diego City Beat