Suzy Lake: Standing Her Ground
Reckitt, Helena. 2017. Suzy Lake: Standing Her Ground. In: , ed. Suzy Lake. Steidl. [Book Section] (Submitted)
Abstract or Description
Written for the exhibition catalogue of Detroit-born, Toronto-based artist Suzy Lake artist, ‘Standing her Ground’ considers the artist’s career-long exploration of gender, ageing, and identity. It ranges from Lake’s performance and self-portraiture works of the early 1970s, with which she first reached international attention, to late career depictions of herself that contest the invisibility and denigration of the ageing female body. Highlighting how Lake approaches the camera as a witness to staged events, the essay underscores the playfulness of her conceptual approach, along with its formal experimentation. It considers themes that have recurred throughout her practice – from subjectivity’s embodied realm, to identity’s construction through interpellation and repeat performance, and the nature of the picture and the frame. It also discuses some aspects of her art that have been overlooked, including her collaboration from 1988-1992 with the Teme-Augama Anishnabai Band of Bear Island, Northern Ontario, in support of their struggle for land rights. Reflecting on the time-lag that it took for Lake’s art to receive widespread attention, the essay compares the criticisms that Lake faced, of narcissism and exhibitionism in her self-portraiture works, with that meted out to male artist contemporaries who also made art with their bodies. While male artists' activities were regarded as universal, the essay argues, Lake’s seemingly could only be read through the lens of gender. Developing this feminist focus, the essay discusses the key role played by feminist art professionals and curators in contributing to the resurgence of interest in Lake’s wake that followed her Inclusion in the major survey exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution in 2007.