From a five-year-long performance piece as alter-ego Roberta Breitmore to paintings with movement-tracking eyes, Lynn Hershman Leeson’s decades-long practice encompasses an expansive and hugely influential swath of the new media arts and film landscape. Leeson spent forty years interviewing iconic feminist artists and curators such as Judy Chicago, Hannah Wilke, and Marcia Tucker. Receiving the Creative Capital Award in 2008 gave Leeson the resources to turn the interviews into a feature-length documentary, Women Art Revolution. The project went on to screen at film festivals across the globe to critical acclaim.
Join Creative Capital on December 4 at 6pm in our Downtown Manhattan offices for a screening of Art21’s “San Francisco Bay Area” episode of Art in the Twenty First Century, featuring Leeson, and artists Stephanie Syjuco and Katy Grannan.
Leeson told us about the decade since she received the Creative Capital Award and how it helped shape her artistic practice.
On the 40-year-scope of Women Art Revolution
Women Art Revolution began because I felt that what was happening in the women’s movement in the ‘70s and ‘80s was really important, and I would just interview people when they came to town. I wasn’t a filmmaker; I didn’t have a plan to make a film, but I wanted to make a record of it, like a scrapbook. I wasn’t really expecting it to become a fully-fledged film until much later.
How Creative Capital Shaped Her Practice
Creative Capital showed me the value of collaboration, and helped me work less in isolation by connecting me with other artists. Through the Creative Capital Award, I was introduced to a lot of people who helped me strategize how to finish and release Women Art Revolution in festivals all around the world. Even to this day, people are still asking me for the film, and it’s being watched globally from South America to Israel.
Is the Art World Improving for Women?
I think the art world has improved, but we still have a long way to go in terms of equality. I think it was really helpful to create Women Art Revolution, because nobody else had put together this history of feminist art and the women’s movement in art. These interviews are the only ones that tell an accurate story of what happened, at a time when nobody thought the feminist movement was important enough to record. We’ve come a long way in forty years, and Women Art Revolution has helped give credibility to women artists and their significance, but it certainly is not the final episode of this story.
Making Art in San Francisco
Her latest work, VertiGHOST, is featured in the “San Francisco Bay Area” episode of Art in the Twenty-First Century, discussing her critique and rework of Hitchcock’s famed film, Vertigo. Leeson’s media art has been highly influential in this generation of computer-based artists, using methods such as surveillance tracking, artificial intelligence, and interactive digital interfaces to create work that confronts where we are in society.