Suzanne Lacy

Suzanne Lacy: Spaces Between

Sharon Irish
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttttvfg
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  • Book Info
    Suzanne Lacy
    Book Description:

    In this critical examination of Suzanne Lacy, Sharon Irish surveys Lacy’s art from 1972 to the present, demonstrating the pivotal roles that Lacy has had in public art, feminist theory, and community organizing. Irish investigates the spaces between art and life, self and other, and the body and physical structures in Lacy’s multifaceted artistic projects.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7348-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvii)
  5. INTRODUCTION. POSITIONALITY, PERFORMANCE, AND PARTICIPATION
    (pp. 1-22)

    In a 1975 performance titledUnder My Skin: A True Life Story, artist Suzanne Lacy peeled off her “face” (Figure 1). Having applied white glue to her skin, she then pulled it off after it dried, transparent against her own white skin.¹ This self-flaying image evokes Lacy’s urgent need to remove the barriers between herself and her surroundings, to climb out of her skin, to look under her skin, for deep truths. Congruent with her desire to erase boundaries was a frustration at the very impossibility of doing so. In a series of performances in the mid-1970s, includingUnder My...

  6. 1 VISCERAL BEGINNINGS
    (pp. 23-36)

    Each person’s particular body and life experience matter. That is not to say that one’s race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or family history determines everything, but these social categories and fundamental facts are key. They have always been important in Suzanne Lacy’s work. Identifiable features such as white skin and ample breasts carry significant, multiple meanings in U.S. culture, for example, although these bodily characteristics hardly sum up anyone’s identity.¹ Since race and gender have been among the central concerns of Lacy’s art, I begin, as she did, with her white, female body.

    Suzanne Lacy was the eldest child of...

  7. 2 EMBODIED NETWORKS
    (pp. 37-60)

    In 1973, with an MFA from CalArts, Suzanne Lacy moved into the fragmented art world of Los Angeles. To be sure, there were some established art schools, museums, and galleries, but the far-flung city also had many pockets of temporary and shifting art spaces and gatherings focused on a particular event, cause, or group, often dispersing afterward.¹ Demonstrations and protests were mounted, and alternative schools, exhibition spaces, and educational efforts were created. For example, the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists (which included Sheila de Bretteville, Ruth Weisberg, and June Wayne) had protested the exclusion of women in 1970 from...

  8. 3 THE URBAN STAGE
    (pp. 61-82)

    Sociologist Wini Breines described feminism in the mid-1970s as “a tidal wave at its crest, evident locally and nationally in the thousands of activities and projects initiated by feminists.” The International Women’s Year Conference in Houston, Texas, in 1977 had twenty thousand women in attendance. Women were joining in analyses and protests of violence against women, feminist publications were expanding exponentially, and women were also challenging other women “to understand their racism and convert the movement into one in which women of all races and ethnicities were recognized, were affirmed, and could operate fully.”¹ Converting that movement involved telling long-ignored...

  9. 4 CONVERGENCES
    (pp. 83-106)

    Previous chapters have explored ways that Lacy extended herself in space, over time, and through collaborations. While the forms and strategies of Lacy’s new genre public art are many, I have chosen to focus on embodiment and spatiality in Lacy’s art because I find them to be among the most powerful modes for communicating socially and aesthetically.¹ This chapter is about Lacy’s uses of converging bodies in spaces, both as an artistic as well as a social form. Knowledge about and critique of our embodied states are crucial to our life’s work. Our somatic practices occur somewhere, and those spaces...

  10. 5 WE MAKE THE CITY, THE CITY MAKES US
    (pp. 107-128)

    Suzanne Lacy began working at the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC, now the California College of Art) in 1987 in Oakland and continued at that institution in one capacity or another until 2002. Following her deepened engagement with public policy issues duringWhisper Minnesota, she wanted to further explore the strategies and implications of her work in public. She recounted to Moira Roth that a 1989 series of events that she curated in Oakland,City Sites, was similar to Ariadne, the social art network she had cofounded with Leslie Labowitz in the previous decade: “It’s a way to...

  11. 6 TURNING POINT
    (pp. 129-146)

    In 1988, critic Lucy Lippard reflected on the transition in Lacy’s art from her early pieces where “she symbolically and literally gave away parts of herself and collected parts of others (sometimes in vampire guise) . . . [to] her large-scale participatory organizational pieces . . . [when] [s]he turned . . . to the beneficent and outreaching aspect of her collective persona.”¹ In early performances such asNet Construction(1973), Lacy exchanged literal body parts; inLearn Where the Meat Comes From(1976), she enacted chef, lamb, and vampire. By the 1980s, Lacy’s time was increasingly consumed by participatory...

  12. 7 TEENS AND VIOLENCE
    (pp. 147-168)

    With Lacy’s move to the Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, among other cities) in 1987, she found herplace: activist, working-class, edgy. She was hired by the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC, now the California College of Arts) to be dean of the school of fine arts, and then founded the Center for Art in Public Life in 1998, prior to her departure in 2002. From the late 1980s until 2002, though she continued to travel, of course, Lacy was no longer commuting to teach at various institutions: she was at home in Oakland.

    Lacy’s new...

  13. CONCLUSION. SPACES BETWEEN, STILL (INTER)ACTING
    (pp. 169-174)

    At the time that Suzanne Lacy began her art practice in 1972 in California, many social and cultural currents were moving through and around her overlapping circles of multimedia, conceptual, and performance artists, feminists, community activists, psychologists, designers, and theorists. For Lacy, a white, working-class woman, aspects of her identity were starting points as well as tethers that informed and tied her early work together. Centered in her body, she also investigated and continues to explore intangible experiences that might be called spiritual. Because of her belief in interconnectedness, Lacy’s spiritual practice has never been disengaged from her body. Philosopher...

  14. CHRONOLOGY OF SUZANNE LACY
    (pp. 175-184)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 185-230)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 231-254)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 255-266)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-268)
  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)