It Is Almost That: Artist & Writer Biographies

Author Bios & Interviews, Book Excerpts, Library, Women Artists & Hybrid Forms

January 25th, 2012

 

ELEANOR ANTIN (b. 1935, Bronx, New York) works in a variety of media, including film, performance, and installation, using historical settings and allegory, mythological characters, fictional personas, and alter-egos to construct metaphors about identity and the present world. Informed by studies in art as well as in writing, philosophy, and acting, Antin’s early work in the 1960s wed the literary and performative with conceptual and feminist art. Her most famous creation, the black ballerina Eleanora Antinova of the Ballets Russes, is the “author” of many works: performances, drawings, and photographs as well as writings and reveries about her life with Sergei Diaghilev. Antin’s awards include a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and her numerous solo exhibitions include a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A professor for almost thirty years at the University of California at San Diego, Antin has just completed a memoir, Conversations with Stalin: Confessions of a Red Diaper Baby.

 

BAMBANANI WOMEN’S GROUP is an outreach group of HIV-positive South African women who advocate for the availability of antiretroviral treatments for the wider public. They also assist other HIV-positive women with understanding the disease and its treatment, disclosing their HIV-status to their families, and planning for their future. Along with body map workshops, they conduct a range of activities supporting crucial and often underserved and under-funded women’s health issues. The maps have been collected into a book, Long Life: Positive HIV Stories. The artist/activists included here are: Nondumiso Hlwele (b. 1974, Cape Town, South Africa), Ncedeka Mbune (b. 1977, Cofimvaba, South Africa), Noloyiso Balintulo (b. 1972, Tsolo, South Africa) Ntombizodwa Somlayi (b. 1970, Cofimvaba, South Africa), and Victoria Ndyaluvana (b. 1968, Whittlesea/Sada, South Africa).

 

FIONA BANNER (b. 1966, Liverpool, England) is a sculptor and conceptual artist whose primary subject and means of investigation is language. Using various strategies that substitute language for image, she has explored the continuum between violence and sex, and the ways in which society frames war, pornography, and the female body. Some of her works include hand-painted transcriptions of films on gallery walls, abstracting punctuation into three-dimensional forms, assigning herself an ISBN number, and installing a fighter plane so that it merges with the museum walls. In different ways, all of her works create incongruities that call attention to the oscillation between intimacy and alienation in linguistic and visual communication. Her work has been shown internationally, including a 2010 installation at the Tate Gallery in London.

 

LOUISE BOURGEOIS (1911 – 2010, born in Paris, France) is considered one of the most important and influential artists of the twentieth century. Her sexually and psychologically charged sculpture and drawings often evoke her childhood and complex relationships with her mother and father. Her works take on abstract and organic forms, reshaping the human body and and giving shape to emotional space. Text and writing play an important role as well, with words often embroidered on cloth, written obsessively and repeatedly in drawings, or appearing as aphorisms, parables, and epigrammatic thoughts alone or accompanying drawings. She arrived in the U.S. in 1938 after studying mathematics and geometry at the Sorbonne and then visual art at a number of schools in France. While her work was regularly exhibited, it was not until a retrospective in 1982 at the Museum of Modern Art that she received international and critical acclaim. During the last three decades of her life, her work was frequently and widely exhibited internationally, including retrospectives at the Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris. She taught at the School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, Cooper Union, New York Studio School, and Yale University.

 

THERESA HAK KYUNG CHA (1951 – 1982, born in Pusan, South Korea) is best known for her hybrid, postmodern work Dictee, an image+text autobiography told through the stories of seven women and structured around the Greek muses. Like Dictee, Cha’s performances, films and videos, sculpture, works on paper, and writings investigate geographic and linguistic displacement, the fragility of memory, and the constructs of history and culture. After moving with her family from Korea to San Francisco in 1964, she attended the University of California at Berkeley for both undergraduate and graduate studies, followed by post-graduate work in Paris. She was murdered by a stranger in New York in 1982. Exilee/Temps Morts: Selected Works collects her previously unpublished writings and text-based works (University of California Press).

 

COZETTE DE CHARMOY (b. 1939, London, England) is a painter, writer, photographer, and collagist whose creative universe is rife with uncanny and subversive transformations as well as critique received knowledge. Her verbal-visual constructions often use imagery from and ideas associated with science, war, and the machinations of power. Her first book, The True Life of Sweeney Todd, draws imagery largely from the 19th century Illustrated London News, paying homage to her Surrealist influences. Other published works include The Colossal Lie/Le Colossal Mensonge (Collection OU), and Le Dernier Iceberg (Voix Éditions).

 

ANN HAMILTON (b. 1956, Lima, Ohio) has long been interested in language, its elusiveness, materiality and mutability as well as in the boundaries and codes that inhibit, inhabit, and inscribe the body. Her multi-sensory installations are site-specific, responding to the social history of each place and attentive to the ways in which those spaces shape the viewer’s experience and cultivate meaning. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she was chosen to represent the U.S. at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999. Her works have been installed and exhibited at many major museums in the U.S. and abroad. Her public commissions include permanent works for several libraries, and her most recent work is an installation that includes a mechanism for viewers to create their own concordances at the Pulitzer Foundation. She completed her MFA in Sculpture at Yale University and has been teaching at Ohio State University since 2001.

 

JANE HAMMOND (b. 1950, Bridgeport, Connecticut) conducts inquiries into the construction of meaning through her paintings, printmaking, and photocollages. In one sustained series, she uses an appropriated visual lexicon of 276 images gleaned from diverse sources (books on biology, phrenology, and physics; tattoos, stamps, and cartoons; etc.), reconfiguring public information into the private space of the imagination. Much of her work has a literary inflection, particularly another series of paintings made in response to titles that poet John Ashbery wrote for her. Hammond received an MA and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her work has been exhibited widely in solo and group shows in the U.S. and abroad.

 

SUSAN HILLER (b. 1940, Tallahassee, Florida) is a London-based artist whose multifaceted practice not only investigates the means by which knowledge and culture are formed, but also disrupts and re-presents accepted bodies of knowledge in ways that call attention to the spaces between the literal and figurative, the unsaid, the overlooked, and the unknowable. From her most well-known work, The Freud Museum, to her many works which engage dreams, visions, and the paranormal, Hiller draws on her training as an anthropologist to engage the political in tandem with the emotional, the rational with the irrational, language with the inarticulable. She has degrees from Smith College and Tulane University. Her work has received considerable international acclaim, including several solo exhibitions world-wide and a recent retrospective at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in England.

 

DOROTHY IANNONE (b. 1933, Boston, Massachusetts) is an artist whose highly stylized, vividly imagined works achieve a radical and provocative expression of sexual liberation that originates not in the rejection of male power structures but in the embracing of her lover, the artist Dieter Roth, as her male muse. Her ecstatic — and often censored — works exalt sexual union, merging not only traditional sexual roles but also male and female genitalia. Much of her work is rooted in autobiography, specifically her relationship with Roth which is recounted in the image+text work, An Icelandic Saga. Based in Berlin, she had her first solo exhibition in the U.S. at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York in 2009.

 

BHANU KAPIL (b. 1968, London, England) is a British-Indian writer whose hybrid forms of writing are highly influenced by her own history of migration and explore the existential position between and across various borders. She is the author of four books of poetry/prose: The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers and humanimal [a project for future children] (both from Kelsey Street Press), Incubation: a space for monsters (Leon Works), and Schizophrene (Nightboat Books), from which this selection is excerpted. She teaches at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. ROHINI KAPIL (b. 1975, London, England) is a British-Indian photographic artist interested in tropical and subtropical environments and architecture. The photographs in Schizophrene belong to the project The Future of Colour. Her work has been shown in London and Prague, and she is currently completing an MFA at the California Institute of the Arts.

 

HELEN KIM (b. 1966, Los Angeles, California) is a photographer interested in cultural and economic narratives and their effect on the realms of family and history. Kim’s work has been exhibited at the CCA Wattis Institute of Contemporary Art in San Francisco and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and currently teaches at University of Southern California and Chapman University.

 

ALISON KNOWLES (b. 1933, New York, New York) is a pioneer in Fluxus, an avant-garde movement that began in the 1960s and radically challenged the prevailing definitions of art and artistic practice. Working in several media, including sound, performance, book arts, printmaking, and sculpture, Knowles is known as an innovator who uses the everyday world as the matter and form of art and poetry. Her early work Bean Roll—a can of texts and beans—connects the ordinary and edible to the aesthetic; it is considered one of the earliest book objects and is the first of many more of her works using beans as a central object and subject. She is also well-known for her sound compositions and their scores. Throughout the 50s she was a member of the New York Mycological Society along with the avant-garde composer John Cage who directly influenced her work and the Fluxus movement. With her husband Dick Higgins, she founded Something Else Press. Her work has been exhibited and performed worldwide.

 

KETTY LA ROCCA (1938 – 1976, born in La Spezia, Italy) was one of a few feminist conceptual artists working in Italy in the 1960s and 70s. Her oeuvre comprises visual poetry, visual art, and performance, and often critically appropriates mass media narratives to reconfigure language and the representation of female reality. Her focus on the physical aspects of language manifests in works like in principio erat, which stages bodily gestures as communicative signs connected to the female experience. Several retrospectives of her work have been exhibited since her premature death, including one at the 1978 Venice Biennale.

 

BERNADETTE MAYER (b. 1945, Brooklyn, New York) is a writer who has challenged poetic conventions by exploring the forms of and relationships between consciousness and language. Often collapsing poetry and prose as well as experimenting formally, her work reveals the ways in which language shapes the imagination, the quotidian, and the self. Associated with the New York School poets, Conceptual art as well as Language poetry, Mayer has been a key figure in the New York City poetry scene since the 1960s. She has written more than a dozen books including Poetry State Forest, Scarlet Tanager, Proper Name and Other Stories, and Midwinter Day, all published by New Directions. She graduated from the New School for Social Research in 1967 and began teaching there shortly thereafter. She served as director of The Poetry Project in the 1980s in addition to teaching there for many years. With Lewis Warsh, she founded United Artists Press, and from 1967 to 1969 she co-edited the magazine 0 TO 9 with Vito Acconci.

 

ADRIAN PIPER (b. 1948, New York, New York) is a conceptual artist and an analytic philosopher whose scholarly work focuses on metaethics, the history of ethics, and Kant. Her work as a visual artist has driven Conceptual art and Minimalism into more politicized territory through her explorations of received, manufactured, and self-assigned identities and their social implications, particularly with regard to race. Her work has been exhibited internationally since 1969, including six retrospectives, most recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. She received her PhD in Philosophy from Harvard University and became the first tenured African American woman professor in the field of philosophy. In 2008 Wellesley College terminated her professorship upon her refusal to return to the U.S. while listed as a Suspicious Traveler on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s Watch List. She now runs the Adrian Piper Research Archive in Berlin.

 

CHARLOTTE SALOMON (1917 – 1943, born in Berlin, Germany) was a painter and writer whose life ended abruptly when she was deported to Auschwitz from Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, where she lived with her grandparents in exile during the second World War. Her adolescence paralleled the fall of the Weimar Republic and Hitler’s rise to power, and her cultured, assimilated family saw its fortune rapidly diminish. Despite the many ways in which Jews were expelled from public life (her father, a professor of medicine and a doctor, could neither teach nor practice, and her stepmother, a highly lauded singer, was not allowed to perform in public), Salomon was able to secure a place in art school under a special rule. As anti-semitic attacks increased and the worlds accessible to Jews became more circumscribed, the Salomon home became a gathering place of intellectuals and artists where Salomon listened intently to her parents’ guests and whose ideas and opinions likely expanded her education. In 1939 she left for France and to stay with her grandparents. While alive, her grandfather refused to give his permission for Salomon to marry Alexander Nagler. When he died, the couple hastened to marry, which revealed their identities as Jews to the authorities. They fled temporarily, but upon returning to Villefranche-sur-Mer three months later, both were arrested. Salomon died within three days of her arrival at Auschwitz in October, 1943.

 

GENEVIÈVE SEILLÉ (b. 1951, Saint-Girons, France) is an artist whose work revels in text as an aesthetic rather than semantic material, shifting the verbal to the visual and upsetting the primary ways in which one reads and thus obtains knowledge. She creates books, assemblages, boxes, and works on paper that exploit both the pictorial aspect of language and the range of textures present in the artifacts of writing by using materials from her “Scriptionary,” a scrapbook repository of cuttings from old dictionaries, crossword puzzles, and other printed and recycled matter. Her biomorphic, anatomical, and architectural drawings are governed by what she calls her “secret geometries” that resist the “Western cult of articulacy.” Exhibitions of her work have taken place in the U.S., England, and France, and her bookworks are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

MOLLY SPRINGFIELD (b. 1977, Columbia, South Carolina) is a visual artist interested in the ways in which society and individuals experience, organize and produce information. Her labor-intensive drawing practice of rendering letters and notes, library catalogue cards, photocopies of pages from books, and other printed matter and hand-written materials yields questions about reproduction and originality, seeing and reading, and technology and labor. She received her MFA from the University of California at Berkeley in 2004 and has had several solo shows in the U.S. as well as group shows in museums and galleries in the U.S. and Europe.

 

COLE SWENSEN (b. 1955, San Francisco, California) is a poet and translator whose work is deeply influenced by the Language poets, the visual arts, and history. Coupling conceptual departure points with ekphrastic techniques, Swensen’s poetry is attentive not only to the lexica and syntax of various epistemologies but also to the ways in which they layer metaphor and shift perception. The author of thirteen collections of poetry, Swensen’s most recent books include Ours (UC Press), The Glass Age (Alice James Books) and The Book of a Hundred Hands (University of Iowa Press). La Presse, an imprint of Fence Books, is edited by Swensen and publishes contemporary French poetry in translation. She received her PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz after completing her undergraduate and masters degrees at the San Francisco State University. A National Book Award finalist and a Guggenheim Fellow, she teaches in the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. SHARI DEGRAW (b. 1967) is a letterpress printer and graphic artist based in Iowa City. She runs Empyrean Press which produces limited editions and broadsides featuring contemporary literature and art. Her work is exhibited nationally and collected by major libraries.

 

SUZANNE TREISTER (b. 1958, London, England) has created a web of interlinking hybrid narratives that dissolve fact and fiction, rationality and paranoia, science and science fiction. Examining the matrices of war, military intelligence, power structures, and documented history as well as of the occult, the alchemical, and conspiracy theories, Treister’s visual evocations of interconnectedness pose questions about perception and reality. Her fictional avatar, the time-traveling Rosalind Brodsky of the mid-21st century, drove a project that manifested in a website, case histories, a book (HEXEN 2039), as well as as a series of exhibitions and interventions. She studied at St. Martin’s School of Art and Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Her work has been exhibited in England, the U.S., Australia, and Germany.

 

ERICA VAN HORN (b. 1954, Concord, New Hampshire) is an artist whose bookworks record the fleeting, the incidental, and the easily forgotten. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University recently mounted the exhibition The Book Remembers Everything: The Work of Erica Van Horn and an eponymous catalog was published by Granary Books in 2010. She received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and since 1989 has been working with her husband Simon Cutts on the projects, exhibitions, and publications of Coracle Press. LAURIE CLARK (b. 1966, New York, New York) is an artist who also runs Moschatel Press and Cairn gallery, an occasional space for contemporary art and ideas, with her husband, the poet Thomas A Clark. Her drawings have been published by Coracle and Wild Hawthorn Press.

 

CARRIE MAE WEEMS (b. 1953, Portland, Oregon) reconfigures traditional and colloquial narrative forms (stories, songs, jokes, aphorisms, oral histories) to lay bare the systems — whether political, social, linguistic, or visual — that perpetuate racism, classism, and sexism. Investigating family relationships, gender roles, and racial identity, her work draws on both public and private histories, using original and appropriated photographs and texts, as well as film, video, and multi-media installations, to challenge the viewer’s acceptance of the status quo and history as told. She received degrees in art from the California Institute of the Arts and the University of California at San Diego. She also pursued graduate studies in Folklore at the University of California at Berkeley. She has had numerous solo exhibitions at major museums in the U.S. and abroad.

 

HANNAH WEINER (1928 – 1997, born in Providence, Rhode Island) was a successful lingerie designer and graduate of Radcliffe College before she began mounting performance art works in the 1960s that were documented in the avant-garde journal 0 TO 9 (edited by Bernadette Mayer and Vito Acconci). In addition to her intermedia performance, she cultivated a poetics of translation, not between languages but between person and culture, language and consciousness, the everyday and the extraordinary. Though she was in conversation with writers and artists of the New York School, Conceptual art, and Language poetry, Weiner forged a wholly original artistic vision. The complexity of her aesthetics, her formal composition, and her poetic inquiries was perhaps leavened by her mental illness rather than directed by it. Her most well-known book is Spoke and most recently her unpublished writings were collected in Hannah Weiner’s Open House (Kenning Editions).

 

SUE WILLIAMS (b. 1954, Chicago Heights, Illinois) is a painter whose darkly comic and autobiographical interrogations of the violence against women also serve as a critique of misogyny as well as feminist myopia. Her insistent political incorrectness and interest in the experience of the body extends now into colorful and seemingly abstract works that, upon closer inspection, are composed of viscera, genitalia, and other body parts and fluids. She studied at the California Institute of the Arts and Cooper Union. She has had numerous solo exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad.

 

UNICA ZÜRN (1916 – 1970, born in Berlin, Germany) is best known as the author of Dark Spring and The Man of Jasmine, for her tumultuous, damaging relationship with artist Hans Bellmer, and for her association with the Paris Surrealists. Her virtuosic writings and drawings are simultaneously hallucinatory and lucid self-portraits of a psyche under siege of madness, deprivation, despair, and trauma. While she wrote and painted before meeting Bellmer, public recognition came with the inclusion of her work in four Surrealist Art exhibitions in the 1950s. She wrote The Man of Jasmine after meeting Henri Michaux who seemed to embody her childhood fantasy of the ideal lover/father figure. After a series of hospitalizations, she committed suicide by throwing herself from Bellmer’s sixth-floor window.

 

 

 

 

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