In 1972, San Francisco artist Lynn Hershman Leeson inadvertently caused an entire showcase of female artists to shut down. The exhibition was at the Berkeley Art Museum (now the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive), and the issue wasn’t one of content or subject matter per se. It had to do with expanding definitions of artistic mediums. The exhibition featured Leeson’s “Breathing Machines”(1965-68), the foundations of which are wax casts of her face that include wigs, glasses and other ephemera. When approached, a sensor would trigger a recording of Leeson speaking and her labored breathing sounds, inspired by her hospitalization for cardiomyopathy, a pregnancy complication. The work in question, “Self Portrait as Another Person” is now on view at “About Face,” a show of Leeson’s work at Altman Siegel gallery. “Brenda Richardson, the chief curator, closed the show overnight and said it wasn’t art,” said Leeson in a recent interview at the gallery, pushing back a lock of auburn hair, laughing at the memory.
At 80, S.F. Artist Celebrated by Industry That Once Shunned Her
Exhibition Review, Profile
Apr 6, 2022