Newspaper Diary: Trompe l'Oeil Photographs by Joanne Leonard
Joanne Leonard's "Newspaper Diary: Trompe l'Oeil Photographs" exhibit at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities April 5-May 31, 2012.
Newspaper Diary J O A N N E L E O N A R D Ne w s p a p e r D ia ry Tromp e-l'Oe il Photo graphs J O A N N E SPONSOR The University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities CATALOG CONTRIBUTORS Wendy Kozol Professor, Department of Comparative American Studies, Oberlin College Amanda Krugliak Curator, Institute for the Humanities, University of Michigan L E O N A R D April 5 � May 31, 2012 Curator's Statemen t Amanda Krugliak cataloguing the small details, the countertop, toys strewn about the floor, a lover asleep on the bed, the dream of a window, and the house not quite ready for company. Both the act of photographing and the resulting images of this inner world serve as record of the human trace and the value of our own human experiences. Her photographs are as much about what matters as the mattering, profoundly personal and conversely startling in their entirety. I first met Joanne Leonard in the 1980s. I was her student at the University of Michigan, just beginning to explore my own voice as a young woman and an artist. She was perhaps the first person I'd ever known and the only J oanne Leonard is an artist who has always offered a view into the room, art professor at the time (most were men) that spoke of empowerment, feminism, the strength and potential impact of our own stories, ideas, and imaginations. It wasn't until years later that I recognized her tremendous influence on my own artistic practice. I had carried her with me. She taught me that value is inherent in one's life and work, but it is also dependent on a constant vigil and endurance... a commitment to the process of becoming. Joanne Leonard's work has never been static or complacent, rather in a state of response. Her own narratives and the reign of the world's events are in overlay, deeply relevant to the collective shifts of society. Leonard's use of collage reiterates this back and forth between public and private, past and present, real and imagined. (fig. 1) The materiality of her photographic collages juxtaposes the flat, two-dimensional surface with the luridness of unexpected combinations. A hint of color, texture, pattern, a passage of text ignites the images, alluding to that place of seismic instability, where all breaks away. In Newspaper Diary: Trompe l'Oeil Photographs, Leonard continues the conversation. The significance of our books and correspondence, our histories, our love letters, our rituals are in doubt. These brave new works initially reside in the present. They are modern and unaffected, somehow reassuring. We can almost picture the artist herself drinking her coffee, reading the Times, placing cuttings of the newspaper against the pages of her favorite art book. 2 Newspaper Diary Before long, through a carefully considered sleight of hand, these trompe-l'oeil photographs defy all presumptions and constructs of time, upending any notion we have about history and our place in it, or some record left for posterity's sake. These compositions exist only in the photographs; they are props, mise-en-sc�nes. And in this discovery comes the wrenching acceptance of what we desperately try to save and what we inevitably brace ourselves to lose in the midst of it all. The works in Newspaper Diary are highly complex conceptually. Each photograph captures the translation from idea to volition. The gravity of the book, the image, and the paper succumb to the impermanence of things. As a final record, the photographs themselves become object. The uncanny relationship between visual representations decades apart suggests that our uniqueness is more likely and predictable than we think, like a roll of sixes in a game of dice, or the Jack of Spades in a deck of cards... noteworthy, but not beyond replication. We live in a world full of black holes, twitters and texts, and the big bang. Perhaps in some alternate universe there exists another version of us, with a different end. Newspaper Diary offers no absolutes but some measure alluding to continuity...what came before, "it is what it is" and a life after this one. Joanne Leonard matter-of-factly catalogs this time line, capturing for a moment the poignant immediacy of the everyday, the harsh realities of the times in which we live, and the inevitability of a tomorrow that may not remember what mattered. Yet, in the deliberateness of these photographs that are already recollections, Leonard also embraces humanity and a certain resilience. fig. 1 JOANNE LEONARD 3 Encounters with the Everyday: Joanne Leonard's Newspaper Diary: Trompe-l'Oeil Photographs Wendy Kozol uncannily resembles a color woodblock print of the Great Edo Earthquake of 1855. (fig. 2) Compositional similarities between a Gainsborough painting of two young girls and a news photo of an African mother and her two young children from Antananarivo, Madagascar, (p.8) seem at first to promote fantasies about childhood innocence. Until, that is, one reads the newspaper caption about the abuse of the five-year-old girl by an uncle. A publicity shot of Pope Benedict XVI with Rabbi Arthur Shneier in front of a throng of rabbis taking their picture emerges out of the decorative borders from a facsimile medieval manuscript whose facing page provides an ancient mirror of sorts as a similar throng gazes up at Christ hovering in the sky. (fig. 3) Catching the eye through unexpected, sometimes witty or disturbing, and often poignant juxtapositions in Newspaper Diary: Trompe-l'Oeil Photographs, Joanne Leonard fig. 2 A n aerial view of the Japanese coastline devastated by the 2011 tsunami stages "momentary collages" that exist only temporarily for her trompe-l'oeil prints. Headlines appear across pages of books as if to catalogue the growing obsolescence of newspapers while the dirty or damaged edges of public library books that signal both age and heavy usage resist the temporal specificity provided by newspaper datelines. Beyond a record of current events, Leonard's assemblages provoke emotional, aesthetic, and political encounters between public and private worlds, and between historical and present time, that underlie the quotidian experiences of reading the newspaper. For the past four decades, Joanne Leonard has used photography, collage, and other mixed media to create visual narratives of 4 Newspaper Diary female subjectivity that explore the joys and pains of domestic intimacies. This "intimate documentary approach" provides multi-layered studies of the social, emotional, and sensual pulls and pushes of motherhood and family life. Relentlessly self-reflexive, Leonard explores the politics of the private sphere through close-up images of bodies and faces that accompany written memories of hopes, struggles, and disappointments. In the past decade, Leonard's work has increasingly moved towards explorations of the intersections of memoir and public histories. She uses collages of drawings, photographs, and print material to visualize a fragmented and non-linear family history that is anything but singular or private. Visually lyrical, Leonard's art typically has an edge that catches your breath. Memory is crucial to her artistic vision as she utilizes autobiography to explore the layered twists of intimate desires, daily life, and painful loss. In this way, Leonard consistently explores feminist concerns about embodiment, power, desire, and inequality. Newspaper Diary pushes the boundaries of Leonard's previous interests in public and private spheres. The tug and pull of temporalities locates the immediacy of news events within a historical gaze that contrasts ephemerality with durability. At the same time, color, composition, and other aesthetic features reveal historical influences on contemporary ways of seeing. The swirls of smoky red and orange colors in a 2010 news photo of a fire in northern Arizona parallel those in J. M. W. Turner's famous 1835 painting The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons. (p. 11) Rather than attempt to document "the real," Leonard's trompe-l'oeil pictures re-present reproductions, facsimiles, and copies. Visual witnessing in Joanne Leonard's world, then, is always a mediated experience in which history and the present do not so much clash as mingle. fig. 3 JOANNE LEONARD 5 Amid Leonard's meticulous cataloging of the intersections of the local and global, one trompe-l'oeil photograph features a news picture of a barn fire in which the exposed black frames of the structure signal its imminent collapse. (fig.4) Opposite, the spidery limbs of an abstract black sculpture by Venezuelan artist Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt) resonates with the fragility of the barn's blackened frame. Moreover, the many shadows created by the wire sculpture give the appearance in the reproduction of a blur. Throughout the exhibition, such references to the transitory nature of human existence remind us of local moments of change and loss that occur alongside more monumental global events like the Japanese tsunami and the Haitian earthquake. Similarities in composition, lighting, or other formal elements speak across historical particularities. Through such dialogues, Newspaper Diary raises questions by means of aesthetic pleasure to draw out empathetic engagement with social struggles. The rhythmic beauty of linear structures in the picture of Chinese child gymnasts (cover and p. 10) at first glance seems intent simply to be a visual echo of the musical notations on the page behind. Leonard's push here towards abstraction produces an aesthetic encounter that disconcertingly aligns the pleasures of the gaze with the jolt of recognition that these young children are hanging upside down in physically demanding, if not painful, positions. The emphasis in Newspaper Diary on the aesthetic politics of looking becomes starkly evident in the picture of a Haitian man covered in gray ash lying dead on a stretcher in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake that killed thousands. (p. 9) What startles the eye, and the imagination, though, is the similarity in the pose of the earthquake victim to that of the brightly colored painting of a crucified Charlemagne Mass�na P�ralte, a Haitian nationalist who opposed the US invasion in 1915. In works like this one, Leonard uses the language of visuality to provoke an emotional as well as political encounter with histories that stretch well beyond the immediacy of contemporary natural disasters or social crises. Along with confronting the emotional toll of 6 Newspaper Diary against a stormy sky. (p. 12) Leonard placed this delightfully clich�d photograph on top of a copy of Alice in Wonderland, open to a page with an illustration of the Mad Hatter's tea party. Visual wit compels political commentary in works like this one, where the top ledges on the podiums appear like reverse or upsidedown top hats in an echo of the Mad Hatter's. Having just lived through the first decade of fig. 4 daily news as those encounters are weighted down by aesthetic and social histories. Contrasting the durability of books with the ephemeral qualities of the newspaper, Leonard emphasizes both the impermanence and continuities that structure acts of visual witnessing. As we move between historical documentation and ephemera, these trompel'oeil photographs of no-longer-extant collages resonate with palimpsests of loss and pain as well as the joys of the everyday. the twenty-first century, this reminder of going down the rabbit hole may need little more commentary even as the affective impact once again shifts us uneasily between the profound and the quotidian. Newspaper Diary forms a visual archive that mobilizes repetition, association, and connotation to catalog visual encounters with social change, humor also slyly inserts itself into this exhibition. For instance, a trompe-l'oeil photograph reproduces a 2008 news picture of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and President George W. Bush standing behind two tall podiums, appearing small and insignificant JOANNE LEONARD 7 8 Newspaper Diary JOANNE LEONARD 9 10 Newspaper Diary JOANNE LEONARD 11 12 Newspaper Diary JOANNE LEONARD 13 14 Newspaper Diary JOANNE LEONARD 15 16 Newspaper Diary JOANNE LEONARD 17 Ph oto Ca pti on s All images: Joanne Leonard Newspaper Diary: trompe-l'oleil photographs, ink jet prints, 24" x 37" These images represent a selection from the Newspaper Diary exhibition in the Institute for the Humanities gallery in 2012. 8 Picture from Antanarivo and Gainsborough December 1, 2006, news photo: Mother and children in Madagascar, Lynsey Addario, New York Times. Book reproduction: The Painter's Daughters Chasing a Butterfly, Thomas Gainsborough, ca. 1756 in The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Modern Childhood, 1730-1830, by James Christen Steward (University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Berkeley, in association with the University of Washington Press, 1995). 9 Haiti crucifixes 10 Music and boys 11 Turner and fire 12 Bush and Angela Merkel (earthquake victim on bars (cover image) with top hats (lecterns) June 22, 2010, news and murdered Haitian June 12, 2008, news August 11, 2010, news photo:"Smoke and hero) photo: President Bush, photo: Gymnasts 4 to January 15, 2010, news photo: "A body in Port au Prince, Haiti, covered with dust from collapsed building," Damon Winter, New York Times. Book reproduction: Crucifixion de Charlemagne P�ralte Pour La Libert�, Philom Obin painting, 1948 in Peintures Ha�tiennes by Warren E. Leon (Delroisse, 1978). Flames in Northern Associated Press. Book reproduction: The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons, J.M.W. Turner, 1835, in Turner by Barry Venning (Phaedon, 2003). 7 years old in Zheijiang Province, China testing their talents at a sports school, Reuters. Book reproduction: Numbers: The Universal Language by Denis Guedj (Harry N. Abrams, 1997). Arizona," Matt York, who met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel....responds to Tehran's nuclear program, Johannes Eisele, Reuters. Book reproduction: The Nursery "Alice" by Lewis Carroll and Sir John Tenniel (Mayflower Books, 1979). 13 Madame Curie and women in science December 19, 2006, news photo: "Women in Science, the Battle Moves to the Trenches," Max Whittaker, New York Times. Book reproduction: Madame Curie in her Laboratory, 1912, in Madame Curie: A Biography by Eve Curie (Doubleday, 1937). 14 Anne Frank's tree October 2, 2007, news photo: "A New Wave of Support for Anne Frank's Ailing Tree," Herman Wouters, New York Times. Book reproduction: Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary - A Photographic Remembrance by Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven (Viking, 1993). 18 Newspaper Diary Figures within Essays 15 Bronze baby and Julia from Joanne's Being in Picutures December 30, 2011, news photo: Bronze statue of Eros sleeping, 3rd century B.C. to early 1st century A.D., Metropolitan Museum of Art Rogers Fund, 1943. Book reproduction: "Julia, half asleep" in Being in Pictures by Joanne Leonard (University of Michigan Press, 2008). 16 Diego Rivera and 17 Fork-making machine factory in Slovakia and Russian montage November 25, 2006, news photo: Trnava, Slovakia Peugeot factory, Didier Mallac, New York Times. Book reproduction: Detroit Industry, Diego Rivera mural, 1933, in Diego Rivera: The Detroit Industry Murals by Linda Bank Downs (WW Norton, 1999). February 13, 2011, news photo:"Worker at the Sherrill Manufacturing flatware factory in Sherrill, N.Y., which closed its doors eight months ago," Dick Blume, Post Standard. Book reproduction: Electrification of the Entire Country, Gustav Klutsis, 1920, in "Soviet Practice 1919-1937," by M. Tupitsyn in Montage and Modern Life 19191942 (M.I.T. Press, 1992). 1 Cat's tongue November 12, 2010, news photo: A Study of Cat Lapping, NewYork Times photos from video by Reis, Stocker et al, courtesy, MIT and Science. Book reproduction: Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 2004). 2 Tsunami and fire 1899 and 2011 March 12, 2011, news photo: Natori, Japan, "House swallowed by a tsunami set off by an earthquake," Kyodo News via Associated Press. Book reproduction: Japanese kawaraban (tileblock printed newspaper) showing the Great Edo Earthquake, 1855 in Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes by Kerry A. Emanuel (Oxford University Press, 2005) 3 Haggadah with Pope and Rabbi April 19, 2008, news photo: Pope Benedict XVI met with Rabbi Arthur Schneier at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, Chang W. Lee, New York Times. Book reproduction: Sarajevo Haggadah by Eugene Werber (Prosveta,1983). 4 Burned barn and Gego sculpture April 14, 2011, news photo: Barn blaze in Salem Township, Michigan, Salem Township Fire Department. Book reproduction: plate 6, wire drawing, 1977 (untitled) by Gego in Gego: Between Transparency and the Invisible (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2006). JOANNE LEONARD 19 Joanne Leonard Joanne Leonard is a photographer, photocollage artist, teacher, writer, and feminist whose work has contributed to a wide variety of fields from fine art to autobiography studies. Her work has been included in the San Francisco Museum of Art's Women of Photography (1975), Lippard's From the Center (1976), Janson's History of Art (1986), Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1991), Hirsch's The Familial Gaze (1996), and Chaney's Graphic Subjects (2011). In 2008, her gorgeously produced visual memoir Being In Pictures: An Intimate Photo Memoir, with foreword by Lucy R. Lippard, was published by University of Michigan Press. In the 1960s and `70s she taught in the San Francisco Bay area including at San Francisco Art Institute and Mills College. She is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, where she taught for thirty-one years. From an early point in her years of image making, Leonard used photo collage to (con)textualize her own photo images, combining them with news photos as in the 1970s collage Red Triptych. Journal of a Miscarriage (1973), a wordless journal made entirely in photo-collage, and Julia and the Window of Vulnerability, a 1980s photo collage expressing anxieties about the threat of nuclear war, are works that furthered her explorations of photos from everyday life and images from world news in television and print. Sixty works created from 1990-92 make up Not Losing her Memory. These works overlaid photographs of women in Leonard's family with dialogue from broadcasts of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings. A small cache of news clippings from 1877 play a central role in Leonard's film-like Reel Family, a twenty-two-foot-long translucent collage made in the year 2000. Joanne Leonard's studio at 1250 Main Street, Ann Arbor Now her Newspaper Diary, a series begun in 2005 and continuing, suggests her expansive engagement with the daily newspaper and a vast archive of images in books. Ne w s p a p e r D ia ry CURATOR Amanda Krugliak PUBLICITY Stephanie Harrell CATALOG DESIGN Savitski Design � 2012, Regents of the University of Michigan J O A N N E L E O N A R D