Thursday, October 1, 2009

Notes From the Archive: Greer Lankton

In 1996, the Mattress Factory had the good fortune to work with Greer Lankton as part of a group show that was guest-curated by Margery King. Greer's piece in that show, It's all about ME, Not You, was a large-scale recreation of her Chicago apartment/studio and housed dozens of the artist's hand-made doll figures, photographs, collectibles, and -- perhaps the focal point of the installation -- an addict in a bed surrounded by pill bottles. Shortly after the show opened, Greer Lankton passed away and upon the close of the show, we put the entirety of her piece in storage.

The Lankton Family has generously given Greer's final piece to the Mattress Factory and with the amazing help of several other supporters, we will be adding It's all about ME, Not You to the museum's permanent collection. The opening reception is next Friday, October 9th. You can RSVP and share the event with your friends over on FaceBook.

My role as archivist here at the museum involves documenting, preserving and cataloging artworks or, in most cases, artifacts of artworks. Because of the volume, diversity and fragility of the materials she used, Greer's piece has proven to be a labor of love for me. Many of her doll sculptures are made from delicate materials like toilet paper so implementing proper handling and preservation processes are very important.

And from an interpretive standpoint, this piece is dynamic to say the least. Curator Margery King states in her original exhibition essay:

When faced with the prospect of creating her first large-scale installation at the Mattress Factory, Lankton knew that she wanted to re-create her studio, in an ideal form, designing an environment of "artificial nature/total indulgence," filled with "dolls engrossed in glamour and self abuse." Like the artist herself, Lankton's dolls and environments possess a disarming mix of innocence and decadence, hope and pathos. She said her work was "all about me," reflecting her life as an artist, a transsexual, and a drug addict. But beyond this, from her position as an outsider, Lankton eloquently explored and questioned accepted norms of gender and sexuality, as well as the powerful imagery of popular culture and consumerism. Her work also describes the difficult mandate of these pervasive, seductive models and the pain of those who do not conform. It is tempting to think that Lankton created her installation at the Mattress Factory as if she knew it was her last (she died in late November, a month after the exhibition opened), filling the space with a retrospective selection of her beloved dolls and everything that was most meaningful to her.

In this video, shot at the 1995 Whitney Biennial, Greer talks about two of her sculptures: a bust of Candy Darling and one she calls Blue Babe. The audio and camera quality are a bit shaky, but it's really great to hear the artist herself speak about these works. A great moment comes at 1:06 when a gallery attendant tells Greer not to touch the art and she says simply, "It's mine!" Coincidentally, this Candy Darling sculpture is now on view as part of It's all about ME, Not You.

Speaking for all of us here at the Mattress Factory, we feel very lucky to have the ability to show It's all about ME, Not You permanently. Greer's work has touched many people's lives over the years and we look forward to helping enable that connection for new generations into the future.

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1 comment:

Sylvea Johnson said...

Greer is such a fascinating artist. I would love to have been at the re-opening of her exhibit, but I will definitely be there at some point.