“With a practice spanning more than forty years, Hershman Leeson has worked in performance, moving image, drawing, collage, text-based work, site-specific interventions, and later new media / digital technologies, and interactive net-based works, making her one of the first truly multi-disciplinary artists. In the pantheon of feminist artists, she also holds a special place, having investigated the question of gender, identity politics, and selfhood – a key field of interest in her practice – in-depth, over time and with a complexity that far surpasses many of her peers. This complexity is best manifested in Hershman Leeson’s seminal project The Roberta Breitmore Series (1974-1978). Nearly forty years on, the importance of The Roberta Breitmore Series cannot be over-estimated. The questions it raised about the ungraspable, fluid state of identity, about ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’, the difficulty to often draw the line between fact and fiction, biography and autobiography, the impossibility – perhaps – of entirely achieving that ancient Greek dictum of ‘knowing thyself’, the question of how appearances deceive, and the fundamental constructedness of identity remain; perhaps now stronger than ever given the advent of the internet and the emergence of virtual identities; and of course the increased importance attached to image and self-styling in our ‘lifestyle’ conscious culture of appearances.
From 1974 until 1978, the artist conceived of, constructed and ‘developed’ a fictional persona and alter ego: that of Roberta Breitmore. The creation of Roberta Breitmore consisted not only of a physical self-transformation through make-up, clothing, and wigs which enabled the occasional role-playing, but a fully-fledged, ‘complete’ personality who existed over an extended period of time and whose existence could be proven in the world through physical evidence: from a driver’s license and credit card to letters from her psychiatrist.”
Katerina Gregos, October 2011
Selections from the 171 photographs, documents and performances that comprise this artwork.