Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance
Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Editors
Charts the ways that woman artists have represented themselves and their life stories


The essays in Interfaces explore twentieth-century women artists' self-representation at the interface of visual image, written text, and performance. Fourteen contributors consider how these artists use multiple media—painting, photography, performance, sculpture, story, song, poem, manifesto—to create hybrid self-portraits that intervene in critical debates about subjectivity, feminism, and the history of representation in the West.

The artists discussed include modernist iconoclasts Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven performing dadaist parodies, Claude Cahun reframing photographic self-portraiture across gendered divides, Frida Kahlo making diaries that fuse words and images, and Charlotte Salomon painting a vivid song-play of Nazi-era Berlin. In the later twentieth century, experiments in self-representation redefine the terms of autobiographical subjectivity. Laurie Anderson's innovative works put the personal self into question. Hannah Wilke performs femininity as masquerade, while Jo Spence points up its distorting mirrors. Orlan's surgically remade face undercuts the disciplining of beauty. Adrian Piper corners the racist bias of the viewer, while Lorna Simpson exposes the ambivalences of American citizenship. Susan King, Joan Lyons, and Erika Lopez make artistic lives in and as books. The performative interventions of Bobby Baker and Blondell Cummings remake the scene of domesticity, while Louise Bourgeois constructs topographic spaces that trouble it. Faith Ringgold, Jenny Saville, and Janine Antoni weigh in on the female body of evidence. Lorie Novak queries the terms of identity in cyberspace, Cindy Sherman in the everyday life of photographic subjects.

The editors' introduction breaks new ground in theorizing terms and modes of the visual-verbal interface within the history of women's self-representation in the twentieth century. Interfaces is a landmark contribution to both scholarly discussions of self-representation across the disciplines and to classroom study of women's artistic production.

Sidonie Smith is the Martha Guernsey Colby Collegiate Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan.

Julia Watson is Associate Professor of Comparative Studies at The Ohio State University.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . this volume embraces new genres for inclusion in, and raises questions for, the increasingly slippery category of autobiography. The range and number of artists included in the volume is impressive, and I am glad to have been introduced to those I did not know or had registered as peripheral figures. . . . The artists included in the volume are a fascinating and compelling collection, and I expect to dip into this volume in the future. . . . The volume is ambitious and large. . . . [I]t significantly expands and complicates the autobiographical. The editors continue to challenge contemporary understanding of this category, and open the door to putting the category relative to women's art and performance under postmodern scrutiny. The volume introduces many more producers of autobiography into the field, and it helps the literary community (the art community is already there) get accustomed to blurred boundaries between the visual and the textual."
    --Ellen G. Friedman, Biography
  • ". . . offers stimulating essays on a range of visual and performance artists working within the autobiographical tradition, useful appendices, and a theoretically rigorous introduction. . . ."
    ---Theatre Journal

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Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4.
  • 496pp.
  • 6 drawings, 94 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06814-2

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  • $34.95 U.S.