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Art HERstory: Lorna Simpson


Art HERstory: Lorna Simpson

Art HERstory: Lorna Simpson

History in the making can be one of the most inspiring things to watch. We’ve all been a part of a historical moment in one way or another. We were alive for 9/11, the passing of Coretta Scott King, and the current BP crisis. Imagine, one day our kiddos and their kiddos will be reading about these events in their history books. Crazy huh? Those historical moments weren’t so great, but the aftermath has brought out some good in everyone. Another person who knows about finding good in the negative is Lorna Simpson (1960 – ). As an African-American born in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, she has seen the historical moment WE read about. She was around for the intense racial discrimination of the 60s and the gender norms that have plagued society forever. Lorna faced the issues head on, and challenges them through her artwork.

"You're Fine" (1988). In my opinion this photograph is one of the most powerful. The words listed on the left of the photo are: physical exam, blood test, heart, reflexes, chest x-ray, abdomen, electrocardiogram, urine, lung capacity, eyes, ears, height, weight. To the right of the photo are two words: secretarial position. Get it?

"You're Fine" (1988). In my opinion this photograph is one of the most powerful. The words listed on the left of the photo are: physical exam, blood test, heart, reflexes, chest x-ray, abdomen, electrocardiogram, urine, lung capacity, eyes, ears, height, weight. To the right of the photo are two words: secretarial position. Get it?

Fresh out of the womb Lorna had all odds stacked against her: black, female, and born in the 1960s. To the shock of society she beat those odds. She earned a BFA in Photography from the school of Visual Arts in New York and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego in 1985. Get this, by the time she graduated, Lorna was already considered a pioneer in conceptual photography. In the face America!

"Waterbearer" (1986). By shooting the back of the little girl in the photo, the speaker has no identity. She could be anyone. Powerful.

"Waterbearer" (1986). By shooting the back of the little girl in the photo, the speaker has no identity. She could be anyone. Powerful.

Lorna broke into the mainstream in the 1980s. Her large-scale, controversial photographs intrigued and shocked people into conversation. Lorna’s work takes the civil issues at the root of society and exposes them, naked and pure, for all to see.  Most of the photographs, felt pieces, and sketches contain basic colors and are shot in front of white backgrounds. Simplicity goes a long way in this case. The pieces are easy to interpret, but have an amazing impact nonetheless.

"She" (1992). A woman in man's clothing. Reminds me a lot of myself. Whats with these gender norms?

"She" (1992). A woman in man's clothing. Reminds me a lot of myself. Whats with these gender norms?

Basically, her work is some eye-opening ish. It’s been exhibited in New York, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, Dublin, and most recently Paris. Its gained its due respect over the years, so I suggest you take a look as well. I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeves next.


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