New commentary on Being in Pictures by autobiography scholar, Sidonie Smith

Author’s Forum, December 1, 2010

University of Michigan

Introduction to a conversation with Joanne Leonard about Being in Pictures

By Sidonie Smith

Being in Pictures is so many things. As something you hold in your hand it has heft, weight, authority. Visually it is stunningly beautiful. The black and white photographs studies in light and design and affect and the pleasures of looking. The pieces in color vibrant projects layering media and memory. The page layout contrapuntal. The narrative voice is one of intimacy, but also informative, analytical, the art practitioner as multilingual guide through the life story of a feminist artist. The conversation crosses media – a set of words talking to and about sets of images; but also each telling different stories, drifting to different effect and affect. The project is retrospective in two senses of the word: as an artist’s retrospective of her work and as a life writer’s construction of a past; but it also unfolds through a narrative present in which the artist looks once again at her work and talks to it.

Being in Pictures is a constellation of genres:

It is a kunstlerroman or story of an artist

It is an artist’s retrospective of her life’s experimentation with the image.

It is a family history

It is a story of mothers and daughters

It is a story of the female body, visualized, theorized, juxtaposed, remembered

It is an autoethnography of feminist art making

And it is a meditation on seeing, remembering, and making

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