PROVENANCE: Courtesy of the Artist
This piece started back in March, 2020.Overcome by the harm Trump and the Senate were causing, I became obsessed with my sketches of a person in a vehicle. The sketches evolved into this painting. I now have great difficulty in getting to work.
Lehmann’s first photos recorded the demonstrations against the Vietnam War at San Francisco State College in 1969. Borrowing her son’s camera to record the mayhem she was witnessing, she began to study photography with
Ruth Bernhard ,and later, as a graduate student, at the San Francisco Art Institute. While at the Art Institute she made a series of photographs of professional, middle aged couples in their homes in San Francisco. These portraits, done into the early 70s, mirrored troubles in her own marriage and documented a moment in American history when the institution of marriage became problematic. After two years on the project she became convinced that all marriages were full of distress, irony and humor. She stayed married. Those photographs won her a National Endowment Award, which entitled her to teach at SF State, SF Art Institute, and UC Extension for 20 years.
From 1977 to 1981 she worked on a series of photographs which show people stripped naked and struggling between shame and self-revelation. From her point of view, these formal, frontal, black and white photographs indicate liveliness and presence. Engaged in optimistic attitudes stemming from 1960’s liberation movements, she hoped to re-code the way we think about portraying the face connected to the naked body.
In the nineteen eighties, while teaching, Lehmann underwent a re-education. She read postmodernist theorists like Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, and Julia Kristeva. Influenced by Cindy Sherman and Sherry Levine’s fictional photographs and appropriations she exchanged ideas with Yvonne Rainer and Jane Gallup. The camera became her dedicated copy machine. Along with the performance artist, Linda Montano, Lehmann became a Feminist and did spoken-word performances.
Straightforward copies of comic book and pulp magazine covers were Lehmann’s next project. She questioned this adolescent discourse for boys which depends on obviously misogynistic and heroic/savior attitudes. After she accumulated a universal collection of cartoon and pulp magazines, she was in possession of a treasure trove of unconscious representations. From the misogynistic discourses blaring on the cartoon covers, Lehmann also found a wealth of archaic cliches and stupidity. For an exhibition in 1987 called Gory Allegories at Media Gallery in San Francisco, Lehmann cut up, collaged and re-photographed the material. Some of this was seen in 1989 at LACE Gallery in Los Angeles. In 1991 Lehmann had a show, Thin Skin, at the Grey Gallery at New York University. It consisted of collaged wallpapers and place mats embedded with horror cartoons. For this exhibit Lehmann collaborated with her eldest daughter, Barbara Lehmann, who had become an East Village performance artist and writer. Barbara had an early bout with cancer that made both of them familiar with the horrendous anxiety that can invade a home.
Invited to mount a retrospective exhibit called Amazing at The Lab in San Francisco in June of 2000, Lehmann refined a method of transferring the collaged cartoons onto large pieces of heavy weight drawing paper which she then colored with pastels. For Lehmann the work expanded to a study of the history of art. After preparing this exhibit Lehmann began to paint. Without a camera or computer between her and what her eyes and hands conspire, Lehmann says she feels a sense of freedom.
Nevertheless, the comic book material returned. In 2013 Lehmann finished a version of her book called Leather Nun Lament. The book was featured in San Francisco at Margaret Crane’s 2nd Floor Gallery. A selection from another version along with a performance of dialogs from movies was shown in 2016 in Oakland at the Krowswork Gallery.
Now, with all the horrific revelations revealed during the Trump presidency, Lehmann is contemplating still another version of the book, Leather Nun Laments.