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JANET STERNBURG

LIMBUS

LIMBUS

JAN ET ST ERNBURG


LIMBUS

JANET STERNBURG


University of Southern California Fisher Museum Staff Selma Holo Kay Allen Selin Camli Stephanie Kowalick Juan Rojas Ralph Gatchalian Maria Galicia

Director Associate Director Marketing and Communications Administrator Registrar/Collections Manager Chief Preparator Administrative Coordinator and Business Specialist Education and Programs Coordinator

Catalogue Design

Haven Lin-Kirk

The USC Fisher Museum of Art would like to acknowledge our museum interns for their help with this project: Madelyne Gordon Tyler Yee

Š 2018 USC Fisher Museum University of Southern California University Park Campus Los Angeles, CA 90089-0292 ISBN: 978-0-945192-48-0 All rights reserved. No part of this catalogue may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or means, electronical, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of The Fisher Museum except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in review.


LIMBUS


LIMBUS

LIMBUS 11 Janet Sternburg

Director‘s Preface

13

Selma Holo

Janet Sternburg’s Photopoetics of Reciprocity

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Eric Gudas

The Photographs of Janet Sternburg

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Antonio Damasio

Both sides of the moon

25

Wim Wenders

About the Artist

55

Acknowledgements 57 Janet Sternburg

Exhibition Checklist

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(previous page) One Way Street, 2000 pigment based color print 53 1/2” width x 35 1/2” height (Framed: 63” width x 45” height)

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LIMBUS

Janet Sternburg I first encountered the word limbus in a book where I learned that the Renaissance physician Paracelsus took its earlier Latin definition -Margin

border

edge --

and gave it a new meaning, a hem in the universe between spirit and body where potentiality gives way to specific, real things. Limb liminal limbo limbic Limbus has the same root as these other words – words that speak to edges, and also to thresholds and way stations, to blurry borders and transitions. To the way that passages interpenetrate inside my own images. Then I learned the way limbus is used now. It refers to the junction of the cornea (think, broadly, ‘eyeball’) and the sclera (the white of the eye). This protean word speaks to optics, to vision, to seeing, to the lens of the eye. To a camera. The limbus is also where the stem cells of the cornea live. From the limbus, acting as pathway, the stem cells replenish dying cells. They also maintain the cornea, replacing cells that are lost via tears. They are infinitely generative. For this show, I began to think about how I could turn a multi-faceted metaphor into something physical. I didn’t know how. Then it came to me: I could make a limbus for each image. Each photograph here – both old and new, shot with low-tech cameras, without manipulation, Is now given a different life with a new way of printing in which the photograph crosses over its own boundaries, bringing elements of the image with it. Borders become active spaces in their own right, pathways, and places of crossing. My limbus.

Janet Sternburg 2018


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Director‘s Preface

Selma Holo

It was thirty years ago, very soon after she had moved from New York to Los Angeles, that I met Janet Sternburg. I was aware that Janet had enjoyed a distinguished writing, theatrical, filmmaking, and curatorial career in New York, and that she had been awarded numerous prestigious residencies so that she could explore those creative pursuits. It took only a single dinner with Janet for me to realize that she had already begun mapping the cultural landscape of her new home. And, it was immediately clear to me that she was ready to launch a new creative chapter for herself. Although I sensed that her new projects would inevitably build on her already considerable achievements, I could not have anticipated the adventurousness with which Janet Sternburg would embark upon as yet unimagined paths. Three decades later, I am gratified to say that I have borne witness to a number of the unexpected twists and turns that her creative life and work have taken, both here in Los Angeles and her second new home, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Janet Sternburg’s writing life did continue apace. When her memoir, Phantom Limb, was published, I read it avidly. When I spoke about it at a book launch at the Skirball Cultural Center, I began to see how this book, about the lasting effects of the life and death of her mother, moved her readers. Booklist described Phantom Limb as “Part moving account of her greater love in the face of her mother’s approaching death, part medical inquiry into neurology, and part spiritual meditation on the struggles and sufferings that living visits on all of us, Sternburg shows that emotional and spiritual integration is possible.” Her feelings flow on the page, one into the other, without sentimentality, but with huge sentiment. There is a luminosity in the recollection; in the capturing of evanescent light; then in the shedding and spreading of that light by the very telling of the tale. And, that is what stayed with me of Phantom Limb: a light surpassing the boundaries of ordinary memory by the transmutation into written language. Optic Nerve: Photopoems, was the next book Sternburg created in her LA years. In it, photographs and poems co-exist in a fluid, non-hierarchical bookscape. Once again, Janet sought out a genre reminiscent of what an ecotone is in nature, a place of convergence and divergence, of erasure of fixed boundaries, a place in perpetual transition. Optic Nerve offers a kind of literary ecotone, one wherein word and image merge and part and sometimes merge again—unpredictably and affectingly. Trisha Brown writing about Optic Nerve, said that “these are brave and intimate poems etched with breathtaking constraint in a calibrated free-fall through the separate terrains of explicit meaning, metaphor and photography with impeccable timing.” 


At first blush, Sternburg’s next book, White Matter is less about light and fluidity; it is decidedly more of a weave of story and essay, a powerful synthesis of more than a decade’s immersion in her family’s stories interwoven with history, neurobiology and psychology. A Forbes reviewer wrote, “Sternburg uses all the skills at her disposal, the sensitivity, precision and lyricism of a poet, the hard edges of a photographer, the intelligence and scholarship of an academic, to plumb the many facets of this story and its legacy on her and her family.” She infuses her book with the metaphor of the book’s title. “White Matter” is in fact the brain’s switchboard between thinking and feeling. It is what was severed in the two lobotomies visited on her immediate family, and it is what is now restored in this telling. Ghosts and after-images permeate this book but they are not light-bearing denizens. Rather, they are transmitters of cries that ultimately emerge from years of denial of family and generational truths. In its own echo of the ecotone, White Matter heralds both convergence and divergence, a region of transition from blame to truth-telling to mercy. Which brings me to Limbus. (Did I spend too much time building up to this?) Limbus is the body of work that brings all of Janet Sternburg’s talents together in a medium that she has made her own. Yes, Limbus is comprised of photographs, but they are unlike the photographs one normally encounters today. Using first a single-use camera and now an Iphone, both as democratic a means as exists on the planet these days and, for Sternburg, as revelatory in how she has used their very limits, Janet Sternburg employs this tool of inattention against itself. She uses these low-tech cameras to stop time, to depict it as layers , to force concentration. She looks, she sees; she takes the photograph -- not all that many as she has a precise sense of what she wants. Consequently, we see. What results is something new: another reality, hers—transformed—and gifted to her viewers. Eschewing the written word in this photographic project, Janet dedicated herself here to creating a series of poems that are totally visual. As in her memoirs and artist’s book, she confronts the real and, as in those books, she refused to allow the resulting photographs to exist in the usual relationship of photographs to their normally considered edges/borders. Foregoing this, Sternburg thus challenges the material and the ephemeral to co-exist and, paradoxically allow “potentiality [to] give way to specific, real things.” Sternburg speaks to the idea of thresholds, those liminal and ineffable psychic and physical spaces. She writes too of her love of porousness rather than sharp borders, and of transition instead of fixedness. The truth is that her photographs capture both interpenetrating and thresholds. And, with them now printed very large, carefully framed and hung on the museum wall, she has planted her ideas firmly in our visual field.

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This is her visual ecotone, her Limbus. With them, Sternburg enters into what Herman Hesse has identified as “artists…. who create pictures… in order to salvage something from the great dance of death…”. Sternburg has achieved that in her writing, and continues that project now in Limbus. We at Fisher were the first to purchase one of Janet’s photographs when she began this newest of her artistic adventures. And, we have delightedly followed Janet Sternburg as she has been recognized with exhibitions all over the world: Italy, Berlin, Korea, Mexico, and next India. This, though, is her first museum exhibition in the United States, and we take great pride in mounting Limbus. We look forward, in these fruitful and ongoing Los Angeles years, to following her next steps.

Signature Here Selma Holo

Director and Curator, USC Fisher Museum of Art


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Janet Sternburg’s Photopoetics of Reciprocity Eric Gudas

“Between a writer and her work, between her work and the world, lies the territory of reciprocity.”1 Janet Sternburg wrote these words in the introduction to her anthology, The Writer on Her Work, Volume Two (1991), almost a decade before she began seriously to take photographs. Yet reciprocity seems to me the guiding principle of her photographic oeuvre. Muriel Rukeyser called poems “meeting-place[s] between all the kinds of imagination,” and Sternburg’s particularly poemlike photographs offer a space where the photographer and the viewer can meet and co-mingle.2 Although human beings hover as almost spectral presences in her photographs, those photographs do not seem empty or barren. Rather, I see them as entrances to worlds where distinct subjectivities can encounter each other. And not just human subjectivities, but the vital presence of the object world– whatever spirit inhabits the mountains, sculptures, human feet, projected images, cars, tree-trunks, landscape paintings, telephone poles, and photographs of rooms—to name just a few of the objects that find their way into her photographs’ frames and which sometimes blur together in the reflective surfaces that so captivate her. Sternburg shares her fascination with the reciprocity between human consciousness and the object world with the British Romantics, including William Wordsworth, who evoked A balance, an ennobling interchange Of action from within and from without: The excellence, pure spirit, and best power Both of the object seen, and eye that sees.3 As a postmodern artist—or whatever we call artists in this second decade of the twenty-first century—Sternburg is far more tentative than Wordsworth about the “ennobling” aspect of the interpenetration her photographs enact. Those reflective surfaces often make it difficult to discern what comes “from within” and what comes “from without” in the scenes she photographs. The difficulty that results from the inextricability of “within” and “without” seems to me her work’s very raison d’être. In her own words, Sternburg is obsessed with “an interpenetrating world,” and therefore with the kind of spiritual-aesthetic back-and-forth Wordsworth so ecstatically celebrated.

1 Sternburg, Janet, Ed. The Writer on Her Work. Vol. 2: New Essays in New Territory (New York: Norton, 1991), p. 17. 2 Qtd in Gander, Catherine. Muriel Rukeyser and Documentary: The Poetics of Connection (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), p. 41. 3 Wordsworth, William. The Prelude: The Four Texts (1798, 1799, 1805, 1850). Ed. Jonathan Wordsworth (London: Penguin Books, 1995), p. 509. 4 Sternburg, Janet. Overspilling World: The Photographs of Janet Sternburg (Berlin: DISTANZ, 2016), p. 23.


As I looked at this show’s photographs with the artist at her studio in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo, she gestured around at the solid walls and window frames as necessities of the object world that holds us up. And yet, she mused, “We don’t have borders in our minds.”4 Her photographs celebrate the porousness of consciousness itself by making that very porousness its subject. In “Orchard,” for instance, the painting of an orchard with a rustic building on it intermingles with apartment buildings reflected in the glass behind which the painting lies. Both the painted house and the apartment buildings have rows of windows and roofs that almost—but never exactly—line up. The photograph dramatizes that moment before the mind sorts out pure, undifferentiated perception into categories like “painting,” “building,” and “window.” The moment itself is a kind of mental border—cross it, and you have a credible, coherent, hierarchically organized version of the “real.” But Sternburg want us to linger in the limbic—“pertaining to, or having the character of, a border”—moment of consciousness and perception.5 I find in her photographs an impulse to trust and honor “the object seen” and not simply to subsume that object into “the eye that sees.” The very title of her book Overspilling World implies the notion of a realm separate from the photographer, one which compels her even as she creates it anew in her work. If she’d cropped out the reflected rooftops, chimneys, telephone poles at the bottom of “Ventura,” for instance, we’d be left with the swirls and patters of pure abstraction that almost overwhelm the photograph; yet the rooftops remind us of the porousness of the border—or limbus, to use Sternburg’s title for this show—between visionary abstraction and everyday-ness. Sternburg uses the term “scrupulous imagination” to describe the imagined conversations among her family members, conversations at which she could not have been present, in her book White Matter: A Memoir of Family and Medicine (2014).6 Her photographs have a similar scrupulosity. “I work with single-use and iPhone cameras,” she writes, “because their limitations give me what I want, images that are close to the way our minds work.”7 But for the mind to work in Sternburg’s photographs, it needs an “object seen.” She is not a photographer of the mind only, but rather of the limbic state between inner and outer. Certainly, in some of her photographs, she works in the tradition of street photographers such as Saul Leiter who, like Lee Friedlander, is fascinated by storefront windows as the intersection of the artificial world of commerce and the vagaries of urban life. In “Stream,” my favorite of Sternburg’s storefront photographs, what actually lies behind the window—a rather conventional painting of a mesa,

5 Janet Sternburg, interviewed by Eric Gudas at Los Angeles, CA, 31 March 2018. 6 “limbic, adj.”. OED Online. March 2018. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/108420?redirectedFrom=limbic (accessed April 05, 2018) 7 Sternburg, Janet. White Matter: A Memoir of Family and Medicine (Portland, OR: Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts, 2014), p. 229 8 Sternburg, Janet. Overspilling World, p. 23.

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plains, and winding stream—takes up very little space. What predominates is what, presumably, lies behind the photographer: a yellow wall, whose curves pick of some of the painted mesa’s upward-jutting shape, and a burst of greenery behind that wall— greenery in the shape of trees whose trunks lie unseen, but whose verticality is picked up in the strong lines of the window’s bars. In the bottom left corner sits a light-blue VW bus whose rooftop is overlaid with the painted stream which begins to look, simply because of its proximity to the vehicle, like a highway. Where are the people in this picture? You, the viewer, are the absent presence, standing in front of the framed photograph in the gallery, just as Sternburg herself stood, arrested, by a store-window in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This shared space of spectatorship—of looking through a reflective surface to see unexpected symmetries, hybrids of nature and artifice, patterns of color—constitutes the “territory of reciprocity” I mentioned earlier. Over and over again, as I stand before Janet Sternburg’s photographs, I feel the presence of a collaborator, a non-intrusive guide, a presiding spirit who invites me to join her. I feel increasingly unconstrained as I commune with these photographs, and I begin to understand Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s declaration, “The medium by which spirits understand each other is not the surrounding air, but the freedom they possess in common as the common ethereal element of their being, the tremendous reciprocations of which propagate themselves even unto the inmost soul.”8 “Reciprocation” refers to “reflexive or mutual action or mode of expression,” and I experience that mutuality when I look at the these photographs which, although they show traces of spirits and seem to emanate from ethereal realms, stay rooted in the world in which we actually live.9 That very rootedness, paradoxically, allows the photographer and her viewers to dwell at the wavering limbus or border between the actual and the imaginary, between inner and outer—without impatience and with infinite pleasure. Author bio: Eric Gudas is the author of the books Beautiful Monster and Best Western and Other Poems. His writings have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Raritan, and elsewhere.

9 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Biographia Literaria or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions (1817) (Princeton: Princeton University, 1984), p. 244. 10 “reciprocation, n.”. OED Online. March 2018. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/159541?redirectedFrom=reciprocation (accessed April 05, 2018).


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The Photographs of Janet Sternburg Antonio Damasio

I woke up one day, at home in Los Angeles, I looked toward the window and I saw a Janet Sternburg piece, a jewel of a piece, a morning gift. I got up to see it closer but by the time I got near it vanished. Day after day it returns, with some minor variations, if only I care to acknowledge it, and I often do. What I get to see, easily and predictably, happens on the glass surface that covers an old painting, hanging on the wall perpendicular to the window. And what do I see so vividly within the frame? I see a reflection of a morning sky, whatever sky that morning has to offer, cut by a vertical column, no doubt made of old wood, well turned and polished, with an indigo blue patina, as if it had been extracted from a palatial four poster bed and planted against the open landscape. Provided I approach the piece cautiously, by stealth, I manage to hold on to some version of it; I may even add details that spill into the glossy surface from the resident gouache of Arbit Blatas that lies underneath, an image of the Luxembourg gardens, lush in the July green and teeming with Parisian denizens. By then the vertical wood column reveals its origins: the reflection of a drawn and collected curtain, standing quietly against the wall opposite the piece. Janet Sternburg has devoted her career as photographer to finding and capturing this sort of image, unexpected, often messy, assembled from reflections on glossy surfaces or from the juxtaposition of forms admitted into an ensemble by the gift of glass transparencies. The stories that her photographs tell are not straight and to the point. They too are messy. They can turn on a dime and become another story, ready to suit your fancy. The faces, the objects, and the scenes we most often see in classical photography, have largely conformed to equally classical story-telling. Janet Sternburg’s photographs require different narratives and take us to places that painting and drawing have been exploring for over a century but that photography has not chosen to occupy except in the movies. And yet, in our day to day, the mind’s eye often sees what Sternburg sees and captures with her cameras. We simply tend to carefully edit the scene, rub it clean so that the objects and events in our mental world can stand neat and unambiguous and so that the interpretations they allow us to construct flow logically and swiftly. We spend a good deal of effort removing “Sternburg” from our visual experiences. Obediently educated by design and fashion we sanitize our visual experiences. Only when we let our guard down do we catch glimpses of the universe Sternburg relies on to construct her art. I can not say that the photographs of Janet Sternburg were an immediate success with me. It took me a while to realize what she was up to. I needed to learn not to miss the clarity and polish that I had grown accustomed to. Only then could I begin to admire Sternburg’s work and become enthusiastic about it. Now I know that Sternburg is an original and that she has opened a new branch in the tree of photography.


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I enjoy decoding an occasional image, feeling a bit like a magician whisking away a curtain. For example, with Stream (Plate #?), I am standing on a sidewalk in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I am looking into a window of an art gallery that displays a small painting of a mesa and a stream. Parked on the near side of the street behind me is a Volkswagen bus; on the opposite side of the street, a yellow scalloped wall encloses a nunnery. Further yet, behind that wall is a stand of trees. But look now – that navigable space has collapsed into interpenetrating layers, the window becoming both a reflective surface and a screen on which my perception and the world meet in fertile confusion. Janet Sternburg

Stream (Left) 2001 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in


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Both sides of the moon

Wim Wenders

“For now, we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Corinthians, 13,12 Photography is such a simple thing, it seems, especially nowadays when there are more pictures taken on our planet, on a single day, than in the entire 19th Century, when photography was such a novelty and blew people’s mind. It still blows mine. Whenever I look at a photograph that catches my attention I can’t help starting to think about what that really is, the “act of taking a picture”, and what a photograph presents, or what I probably should say: “re-presents”. Even simple images can become quite complex the more you enter them. The longer you look at them, the more layers they open up to you. One thing that baffles me the most: Each picture reveals the eye that took it! You can see in each photograph the invisible portrait of the photographer, as if the camera was able to take a secret reverse angle of the man or the woman behind it. Maybe that hidden lens doesn’t show the photographer’s features, but it reveals his or her mind, and sometimes even more: his or her soul. It shows the intention behind the picture, it lets you see the attitude, mindset, opinion, emotion, perception or stance, (none of these words alone grasps what I mean) that originated and guided the act of taking this very picture. In photographs you can discover (or uncover) the photographer at work. He is seen “behind” the picture. Yes, every photograph shows both its visible content, upfront, and behind it the invisible desire, wish, intention that took it. Every photograph is a double image, it shows a view and its viewer, an angle and its reverse angle, and in the (dangerous) American terminology of “shooting a picture” it represents a shot and the reverse shot. That “and” is what really gets me in every photograph. A photograph can shows a coin and its other side.


What about the photographic self portrait? Its history is endlessly fascinating! I’m not talking about the “selfie”. (The history of narcissism that has led to this contemporary phenomenon still needs to be written…) I’m talking about real photos that photographers take (or have taken) of themselves. They can either do them (clandestinely) with the help of a remote control (I’m not interested in those here, they need a whole extra chapter) or they can take them (openly) in a mirror. And only then will you actually see the man or the woman and his (or her) camera. (Here’s that “and” again…) In the mirror they can see (and capture) what only its reflection allows them to see: their own faces. They also see something else in the mirror at the same time that their eyes can never perceive, otherwise: what is behind them. But right now, they don’t care about that “background”. The photographers in the mirror are mostly concentrated on their own expression and strictly look at themselves (or their own reflection) in the mirror. In the (for once visible) camera they capture themselves, sure, but also how they want to present themselves, how they want to be seen. So these self-portraits show both upfront: the portrait as explicit and intended reverse angle in the reflection and in the photographer’s face the intention that has remained so mysterious and (almost) invisible before. Here it seems no longer guesswork, it’s no longer “behind”. IS it really? Of course even those intentional self portraits include their secret inversion. If you look closely “behind”, at that implicit secret reversal, that hidden image might expose a different intention than the one the photographer’s face might try to convey. The photographer takes the chance to be corrected by his own picture. You might discover in the other, unintended reverse angle that he (or she) is “acting”, or pretending. Like every actor, the photographer takes the risk, in such a self-portrait, that he (or she) is not believable, that you can “see through them”. And yes: that’s yet another way to define a photograph: You can see through them… Which finally gets me to Janet Sternburg.

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No, not because you can see her and her camera sometimes in the reflection of a window. She doesn’t take self-portraits. Appearing herself in the reflection is often involuntary, that’s not at all what she’s after, on the contrary… It would be way too easy to state that by taking pictures of reflections she is reflecting on the act of seeing, and is proving that cameras can make the invisible visible. Oh no, it is way more complex than that! Some of her photos make you really dizzy, you get totally lost in them. The Cheshire Cat is grinning at you at every corner as you enter this cabinet of mirrors. We’ve all seen reflections, have seen ourselves reflected, have seen in mirrors or windows or puddles or other surfaces the most amazing apparitions of unexpected other worlds. But these were certainly always sudden discoveries, surprises. Janet is more persistent. She has been chasing these reflections and double and triple images and she seems to have developed a seventh sense about them. She sees them where we don’t, she sees them out of the corner of her eyes, she smells them. And yes, sometimes you discover her shadow in these pictures, and sometimes it is her own shadow or outline that allows you to see through her and thus see what she can’t see at that moment. I love the double meaning of the word reflection. If you “reflect” on something, are you the mirror or what the mirror reflects? Do you try to think what you don’t know yet? Does that thought reflect on you? Doesn’t every thought and reflection first of all reflects me, the thinker? The word comes from the Latin “reflectere”: in the context of light it means: “bending back, turning away”, and in the context of thinking it has been used since the 17th century, apparently, and according to the online Etymology Dictionary a “reflection” is a “remark after turning back one’s thought on some subject…” All my detours (well, call them my reflections) are trying to find a way to talk about her book OVERSPILLING WORLD. All of Janet Sternburg’s photographs here somehow confirm what I tried to say about the visible and the invisible in photographs, the “behind” and the “in front”, but they also contradict me. These are utterly contradictory photographs, that’s for sure.


They all seem to be more interested in seeing what photographers normally can’t see, or overlook. Photographers don’t have eyes in the back of their heads. Janet Sternburg does. This book makes you understand the act of seeing and the reflection that might lead to a photograph in a whole new way. This book about the nature of photography is intense and confusing, but definitely essential. It makes you reflect upon photography, it reflects all our ideas about it and throws them back at us. It shows us a kaleidoscope of reflections, image upon image layer upon layer, light upon light, and world upon world. It shows the moon and its other side.

Wim Wenders Film director and photographer

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Amphora, 1999 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Chandelier, 2016 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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“ I want my work to dip into that transparent stream, where the other side is not the reverse not solely the reflection but the revelation.�

Janet Sternburg for Limbus

Mountain, 2002 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Lantern, 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Fire Man, 2013 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Palais Royale, 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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[image] For Position Only // ARTWORK TK


Radiant, 2014 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Siren, 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Tightrope, 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Twig, 2002 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Ventura, 2014 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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Wall, 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in

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About the Artist Janet Sternburg is a polymath: an artist of photography, a writer of literary books, a maker of theatre and films, an educator, all in the service of a singular vision which has always been at the forefront of cultural change. Since 1998 when she began taking photographs, her work has appeared in a portfolio in Aperture (2002), and that same year in a cover story and portfolio in Art Journal. Her photography has been exhibited in solo gallery shows in New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Milan, as well as at cultural institutions in Mexico and Seoul Korea where she received a commission for a full-building installation using projection and multiple monitors. A monograph of her photographs, Overspilling World: The Photographs of Janet Sternburg, was published in 2016-17 by Distanz Verlag with a Foreword by Wim Wenders. An acclaimed writer, her books include the classic two volumes of  The Writer On Her Work, (1981 and 1991). Two critically praised books followed combining memoir and essay, both interweaving family, medical science and history: Phantom Limb (2002) and White Matter (2016). In her book Optic Nerve: Photopoems (2005), she experimented with inserting images within the body of her poems, continuing her ongoing involvement with word and image. Other creative and cultural work includes her feature length documentary  El Teatro Campesino on the Chicano theatre troupe (1969), for National Educational Television, broadcast on national public television and selected for the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. Her Cine Golden Eagle award-winning film about Virginia Woolf, The Moment Whole (1971) prefigured an idea that imbues her photography, in which she continues to explore the layers of time and space that are present in a single moment.  Sternburg lives in Downtown Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She has been the recipient of many grants and artist residencies (among them, the National Endowment for the Humanities and The MacDowell Colony), and was given the honor in 2003, early in her life as a photographer, by The Utne Reader (“A New Lens”) as one of forty international artists and writers who “with depth, resonance, ideas and insights, challenge us to live more fully.” 


JANET STER NBU RG

LI M BU S PAG E FIFT Y S IX


Acknowledgements Janet Sternburg First, my thanks must go to Selma Holo, Director of the USC Fisher Museum of Art. She is a visionary, an inspiration, and an overriding presence who gives deep thought and support to whatever she undertakes – in this instance, the presentation of my work. I particularly cherish the moment when we looked at an early model of the show – a classic modernist presentation – and she sent me back to my studio, saying, “No, Janet, this exhibition should be as unique as your work,” which I took to be both appreciation and assignment. Hence Limbus. Thank you again, Selma for giving me this challenge and opportunity, and for your insights which have had a deep impact not only on this exhibition but also on my practice. At the Fisher, this show has received superb assistance from the museum staff. I want to thank Kay Allen, Associate Director, who handles budgetary matters with grace; Selin Camli, Marketing and Communications, for understanding and conveying my concept; Stephanie Kowalick, Collections Manager and Registrar, who is a force for the good and for scrupulous attention to getting everything right; Maria Galicia, Education and Programs for ably coordinating programs with shining enthusiasm; Juan Rojas, Chief Preparator, who lends his expertise to installation with generous authority; and Raphael Gatchalian, Executive Assistant, for smoothing the way and making everything easy. I have thanked individuals, but I must thank you all as a team: you are great colleagues. A very special thank you goes to Grant Johnson for lending his fine eye and insights to this exhibition. Haven Lin-Kirk deserves not only praise for a beautiful catalogue but also recognition for turning her already-claimed attention as newly appointed Dean to the design of the publication. The catalogue essayists have each contributed unique insights: Eric Gudas, poet and essayist, who astonished me by his mind-reading acuity when he made one of my key thoughts – reciprocity – the focus of his piece; Antonio Damasio, neuroscientist, author, and humanist , who many years ago opened the world of neurology to me as field of study and metaphor with his book, “Descartes’ Error;” and Wim Wenders, documentary and feature filmmaker and photographer, who has done me the great honor of writing about my work. The gestation and production of Limbus has benefited from extraordinary artists: Evans Wittenberg, master printer (Figures on a Landscape) who, for this exhibition, became a collaborator on borders and traces; Michael Cataldi (Paradise Framing), for his scrupulous and shining work; and David Muenzer, my associate, to whom I have turned for so many aspects of Limbus, from model-building to sophisticated expertise both intellectual and practical, as well as benefiting from his enthusiastic support. I want to pay tribute to participants in Limbus’ public program, an outgrowth of K.C. Cole’s Categorically Not series: K.C. herself, science writer of books and journalism with a special interest in physics; Juan De Lara, USC Assistant Professor with a special interest in race and ethnicity; and Young-Ae Park, choreographer, dancer, and educator. I am also indebted to philosopher Jane Bennett for the inspiration of her book, The Enchantment of Modern Life. As with everything, I owe abiding thanks and give abiding love to my husband, Steven D. Lavine.


JANET STER NBU RG

LI M BU S PAG E FIFT Y E IG H T


EXHIBITION CHECKLIST One Way Street 2000 pigment based color print 53 1/2” width x 35 1/2” height (Framed: 63” width x 45” height) Stream 2001 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Amphora 1999 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Chandelier 2016 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Mountain 2002 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Lantern 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Fire Man 2013 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Palais Royale 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Radiant 2014 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Siren 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Tightrope 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Twig 2002 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Ventura 2014 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in Wall 2011 pigment based color print 74 x 48 in


JANET STER NBU RG

LI M BU S PAG E S IX T Y


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