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Joan Jonas (American, born 1936)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American performance and video artist, film maker, draughtsman and printmaker. She studied sculpture and art history at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA (1954–8). In 1958 Jonas travelled to Europe before studying sculpture at the Boston Museum School (1959–61) and various subjects at Columbia University (MFA 1964). She was particularly influenced by her experience of the New York art scene in the early to mid-1960s and by the work of John Cage and Claes Oldenberg and their interest in ‘non-linear’ structure. Believing any potential for innovation in sculpture and painting to be exhausted, Jonas turned to the relatively unexplored area of performance art. Her early performances (1968–71), called Mirror Pieces, were held in large spaces and included large and small mirrors, either as a central motif or as props or costume elements. From the early 1970s her works became increasingly symbolic, game-like and ritualistic: in, for example, Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy (1972) Jonas took the role of ‘Organic Honey’, a part-real, part-mythical and part-fantastical woman, who explores the possibilities of female imagery and eroticism, keeping her narcissism in check by scanning her own image in a video monitor. Jonas’s performances, films and videos are characterized by de-synchronized, non-linear, fragmentary features. She also often used drawing as ritual in her performances; the motifs of dogs, the sun and moon, the skull, landscapes and hurricanes, for example, have appeared in her works.

Cecile Johnson
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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