Through Biography

Thursday 06-10-09 7 pm
The Drawing Center, 35 Wooster St, NYC
Through Biography

Vin­cent van Gogh cut off his ear and gave it to a pros­ti­tute. William S. Bur­roughs shot his wife. Antoni Gaudí died in a pauper’s hos­pi­tal. Paul Gau­guin, of syphilis await­ing a prison sen­tence. Vir­ginia Woolf walked into the sea with a pocket full of rocks. Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven. Pablo Picasso was a noto­ri­ous wom­an­izer. Mar­cel Proust, a sickly aesthete.

Defined not just by their works, but by the trans­fer­abil­ity of their lives to tale, the artist is a mythic fig­ure in our cul­tural imag­i­na­tion. Savvy to the advan­tages of achiev­ing the sta­tus of a leg­end, many artists have con­structed per­sonas that per­form the per­sonal. Many artists, too, have worked in a diaris­tic or con­fes­sional mode, and many have been made the sub­ject of nar­ra­tion from out­side sources.

What hap­pens when an artist’s per­sonal his­tory becomes a part of their work, whether through biog­ra­phy or auto­bi­og­ra­phy? The Draw­ing Center’s exhi­bi­tion Unica Zürn: Dark Spring serves as stage to the dis­cus­sion of the var­i­ous ways an artist’s life is pre­sented along­side their work and how that con­text can influ­ence our rela­tion­ship to their art. Colleen Asper mod­er­ates the panel, fol­lowed by a Q&A with the audience.


Featuring Jenifer P. Borum, Patricia Cronin, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Gail Levin.

JENIFER P. BORUM is an adjunct instructor at NYU. She holds a Master's Degree in Art History and Criticism from SUNY at Stony Brook, an MFA in Fiction from NYU's Creative Writing Program, and is currently a PhD Candidate in Art History at CUNY's Graduate Center. She contributes regularly to Artforum, Raw Vision, and Folk Art Magazine, and has authored essays for: Souls Grown Deep Vol. I: African American Vernacular Art of the South; Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-Taught Art; and Folk Erotica: Celebrating Centuries of Erotic Americana.

PATRICIA CRONIN's paintings, sculptures and installations have been exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe, and she is the author of Harriet Hosmer: Lost and Found, A Catalogue Raisonné, published by Charta (Milan) this fall. Cronin is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and the Grand Arts Artist Grant. Her first solo museum exhibition, Patricia Cronin: Harriet Hosmer, Lost and Found, is being mounted by the Brooklyn Museum from June 5, 2009 through January 24, 2010. She an Associate Professor of Art at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York.

WAYNE KOESTENBAUM has published five books of poetry: Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films, Model Homes, The Milk of Inquiry, Rhapsodies of a Repeat Offender, and Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems. He has also published a novel, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes, and five books of nonfiction: Andy Warhol,Cleavage, Jackie Under My Skin, The Queen's Throat (National Book Critics Circle Award finalist), and Double Talk. His newest book, Hotel Theory, a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, was published in 2007. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center, and also a Visiting Professor in the painting department of the Yale School of Art.

GAIL LEVIN is Distinguished Professor of Art History, American Studies, and Women's Studies at The Graduate Center and Baruch College of The City University of New York. She is author of many books including Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography and Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist. She is currently completing a biography of the artist Lee Krasner, whom she knew well.