The following oral history transcript is the result of a recorded interview with Lucy Lippard on 2011 March 15. The interview took place at Lippard's home in Galisteo, N.M., and was conducted by Sue Heinemann for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. This interview is part of the Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts Project, funded by the A G Foundation.
Lippard has reviewed the transcript and has made corrections and emendations. The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.
SUSAN HEINEMANN: This is Sue Heinemann interviewing Lucy Lippard at her home in Galisteo, New Mexico, on March 15, [2011,] for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, card number one.
So, Lucy, I thought we’d just start with your childhood and—
LUCY LIPPARD: Oh, boy. Okay, I was born on April 14, 1937, in New York City. My father was a doctor, and my mother was a secretary, at that point, and for various strange kind of places. When I was about four—four and a half or five—my father went into the Second World War, so he didn’t come back till I was almost nine; so I had a single mother—[laughs]—poor soul—for a long time.
My parents are both from New England. They’re both Yankees. And I’m always being teased about being a Yankee.
Who wants to get into this [inaudible]? [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: So you were talking about your childhood a little bit.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah. So, anyway, we went to Maine every summer, where my mother’s parents had a little house. And when I went to school, my father came back from the war. We moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. Then we moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, about four years after that.
MS. HEINEMANN: So how old were you then?
MS. LIPPARD: New Orleans, I was about nine. In Charlottesville, I was about 13. Then we moved to New Haven when I was—let’s see—15—no, it must have been later than that: 16 or 17. And then I went away to boarding school at that point because they’d moved in the middle of the year, and they thought I wouldn’t have a proper school; I wouldn’t get into college.
I went to Abbot Academy [Andover, MA], which has now been subsumed by Andover Academy, with Phillips Andover. And then I went to Smith College. And as soon as I got out of college—and my junior year in Paris, that was a big moment. I majored in art history so I could go to—my mother had been to Paris for her junior year, and she was very into it. She talked about it all the time. And she’d been a minister’s daughter, so it was a real freedom for her. I was less constrained, but she always said I wasn’t the same after I got back from Paris. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: But I had my junior year in Paris, which was wonderful. And then after I got out of Smith, I went straight back to New York, which I’d been headed for for a while. [Laughs.] I’d wanted to get a job in a gallery, of all things. I was going to be a writer. I thought I was going to write the great American novel. And I wasn’t gracious and pretty enough, and I couldn’t type, to be in a gallery. [Laughs.]
So I ended up, thank God, at the Museum of Modern Art library, which—under Bernard Karpel, who was the great librarian there. He was a little guy. And I freelanced. I worked for them for about a year, year and a half. And this started in September '58.
It was right after they’d had a big fire. In the fall of '58 they had a fire that really did a lot of the museum in, not the art, but the library had to be completely reshelved. And so I got to look at every book in the library, because I was the lowest. There was a staff of three or something, and I was on the bottom rung. I filed the vertical files and I indexed magazines. I’ve always said it was the best art education I could possibly have gotten, contemporary art.
And then I hung out on 10th Street, and I lived on the Lower East Side after a few months, and had a checkered career with a boyfriend who was AWOL from the Navy as a peace protest—[laughs]—and sort of fell into art more than art writing.
The Modern was really a wonderful education. Bill Lieberman, in the print department, got me jobs, and I freelanced after the first year and a half or so. But they also paid for my doing, like, two courses a semester or something at NYU, at the Institute of Fine Arts.
MS. HEINEMANN: The Modern paid?
MS. LIPPARD: Modern did. I was working full-time as a freelancer, living on Avenue D and—[laughs]—
MS. HEINEMANN: What was that like?
MS. LIPPARD: In those days, Avenue D was pretty raunchy. It was before gentrification. It was why people were breaking into every—I lived in these—it was Seventh Street and Avenue D. And people were breaking into places all the time. So I hid my typewriter, which I was basically making a living with, under the—cold-water flats with the bathtub. It had a chrome—not a chrome, but a tin thing over it. And so I’d always put my typewriter in the bathtub because—[inaudible]—without my typewriter—[laughs]—then cover it with dirty dishes so the thieves wouldn’t get it.
MS. HEINEMANN: So you were writing at that point too?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I was always writing. But I didn’t really publish anything until—oh, God, what were the years—'62, I think, I published the first. I went to New York in the fall of '58, and I don’t think I—oh, I wrote some reviews. I thought, Well, I’ll write for one of the art magazines. I’d gotten a short-story prize when I graduated from Smith, so I thought I was hot shit.
And so I sent some things to Hilton Kramer, of all people, who was editor of Arts [Magazine] in those days. And he wrote back a really nice thing. I mean, they were really stupid. I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d been going to the galleries, coming down from Smith and going to the galleries. But these were, like, “So and so paints quite well.” [Laughs.] And he wrote back and he said, “You write very well, and all you have to do is be in the art world for a year or so, for a while, so you kind of get more what it’s about.”
I don’t think I ever kept the letter, but it was a nice letter. And he was absolutely right, but I was so rejected after thinking I was such hot stuff that I didn’t really try to write again for another two or three years, which means that I really knew what I was doing when I did again. And then I went to Art International and Artforum. And so Hilton, even though later we did not care for each other, had definitely a good influence.
But I did editing and bibliographies and indexes and translations and everything at the Modern for several years, really. But I didn’t work—I didn’t have a job. The minute I quit my job, I went to Florence for art history courses with [H. W.] Janson, of all people, again, during the summer. And then that worked toward my master’s.
I think maybe the first thing I published was in the Art Journal. It was something about—I worked on the Max Ernst show at the Modern, and I was doing my master’s thesis on Max Ernst. So—and he came, and I showed him around and stuff.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, that’s—
MS. LIPPARD: And I did some interpreting, because my French was pretty good then. It was on Ernst and Dubuffet, I think, was the thing in the College Art Journal.
Then I got my master’s in February '62. And they said, “Oh, come on and go ahead and do a doctorate.” I said, “I have no urge to teach. I will not need a doctorate.” And that was the end of that. Later I was working on a book on Ad Reinhardt, and somebody from the Institute told me they’d take the book as a thesis. All I had to do was just take a few courses. And I said, “I’m just not interested.” [Laughs.]
So, anyway, then, let’s see, I met Bob Ryman at the Modern, and Sol LeWitt, two major figures in my life. I met Bob right during the fire period. There was a big party when the museum opened again for the staff, and he was a guard at the Modern. So—and he was seeing somebody and I was seeing somebody, so we didn’t really get together then. But then he left as a guard and went to work in the art division of the public library, and I was doing a lot of research in the public library, and we ran into each other again. Pretty soon we started coming in at the same time in the morning. [Laughs.] The librarians were a little like, “Hmm.” And so we started living together in '60, I guess, and got married in '61 and divorced in '68. [Laughs.] And Ethan came along in the meantime.
But the Modern—it was really important, even though I was picketing it a lot later. It was a very small place then. People were really nice to you. The curators—Alfred Barr was very kind to me. I co-authored a book with Alfred Barr and James Thrall Soby in about '59, I think, or something [The School of Paris, 1965]. It was very early, because I wrote the long captions. It was a little book on the collections. And so they let me be a co-author—[laughs]—which I thought was very sweet of them.
MS. HEINEMANN: That’s very generous.
MS. LIPPARD: Very nice of them. I was a year out of college or something. But Bernard Karpel wanted me to be a librarian. I loved being in the library because I loved books and stuff. And it made me a pack rat for life. But I had no interest in being a librarian.
MS. HEINEMANN: So did you also do research for the curators there?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah. And I did quite a bit of research for the art assemblage show [The Art of Assemblage, 1961], which was for Bill Seitz; did research for Peter Selz. And Bill Lieberman was kind of my major—and then Elaine Johnson was a very dear friend and wonderful woman, who was Bill Lieberman’s associate, assistant curator. She died early on of some kind of—some terrible heart, stroke, something or other, or cancer; I can’t remember what it was. But she was a good friend.
MS. HEINEMANN: So that must have been an incredible education, just—
MS. LIPPARD: It was. The whole thing was just incredible. And then, of course, I went to galleries like Fiorio [ph], like everybody did. And 10th Street was just burgeoning. I lived right around the corner from 10th Street. I first lived on Ninth and A, and the place was 18 bucks a month. [Laughs.] I was taking home $45 a week from the Modern when I had my job.
So it was like—that building, they had no bathroom. The toilet was shared in the hall by two apartments, one of which was me, and one was a drunken Puerto Rican seaman who, luckily, wasn’t around that much. But when he came home—he didn’t like his wife, and he would just spend all his time in the toilet. Beer cans would pile up, and it was very hard to get him out of there. [Laughs.] And the bathtub was, again, for the second time—or the first time—in the kitchen, the regular—it was only one room. So that was fun.
Then Bob and I moved to his place, where he lived around the corner, so, I guess, 11th Street, 10th and 11th.
MS. HEINEMANN: That was convenient.
MS. LIPPARD: I was on Ninth and A, between A and B. Yeah, and he was—then we moved together to Avenue D and Seventh, and then to the Bowery and Delancey. If Ethan had been a girl, I was going to name him Delancey. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: And how did Ethan come about?
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, Ethan came about, to everybody’s amazement—[laughs]—because the doctor told me I was sterile. I supposedly had some kind of endometriosis or something or other. And then, whammo. So I stopped using any birth control, and I told the doctor when he told me—I called him and I said, “It feels like somebody’s reaching up from underneath and pulling down.” And he said, “Oh, you’re pregnant.” And I was sitting—Bob was at the breakfast table in the Bowery. I could see his back. It went like—[laughs]—“Oh, my God.” I had never particularly wanted children, but once I got pregnant, I was all for it.
So Ethan was born on the Bowery, or almost he was born on the Bowery. [Laughs.] Bob made the loft into a really, kind of nice—he had a studio in the back, and the front was living. And we made what had been the kitchen, which—there was only a drain in the back, so the shower was up on a high platform so it could drain by a hose into the toilet. [They laugh.] And the so-called kitchen in the front had a bucket on a platform. This is what—Bob figured all this out—on wheels. And when it got full, that was drained from the sink, and we—[inaudible].
So Ethan had that room for his nursery. And then I broke up with Bob when he was two. We had just gotten an apartment on Grand, Grand and Thompson. Bob spent the whole summer fixing it up, and then I walked out on him. [Laughs.] So I got the apartment. He had the studio, and so forth.
I don’t know. Is that enough about my childhood? [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: I remember reading that you were writing while you were pregnant, and—
MS. LIPPARD: Well, yeah. I worked. Bob had always worked. He delivered hats for Lilly Daché, and he did a lot of—and he worked in the library—[inaudible]—as a guard. He was a tenor sax player originally, and he—well, I’d just gotten out of college. I was ready to work. And so I thought he should take time off and paint, which he did from the time we were together, pretty much. And where was I going with this? What did you ask me?
MS. HEINEMANN: That you were writing while you were—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry. Well, and so I was writing—when I first came to New York, I’d get up at four in the morning and write terrible short stories for—I thought—for the New Yorker or Cosmopolitan, or just anything. They were all sort of sarcastic love stories, and they were not at all what anybody wanted. [Laughs.] And so that was interesting. Needless to say, I got nowhere with that.
And then the art writing sort of started to come along. I started writing for Art International in '64. I’ve worked for Artforum a few times, but Phil Leider didn’t like me, and it was mutual. But he apparently hated what I wrote, which I was never aware of until he told somebody years later—[laughs]—that he hated what I wrote. I don’t know how you could hate it. It was just straight reviewing junk. But I did a couple of articles and so on, and then Art International came along just as I was six months pregnant or something. So I took it.
And luckily, Jim Fitzsimmons, who was the editor, was in Switzerland, and he couldn’t tell I was six months pregnant. [Laughs.] I never told him. I met him a couple of years before, and so on, and so I never told him I was pregnant. And then when I finally had the baby—I missed one review, and it was Anthony Caro, whose work I like a lot now. I like his recent stuff. But I didn’t like it at all and what he was doing, and I couldn’t have cared less. So I wrote Fitzsimmons. I said, “I’m sorry I didn’t do the Caro, because I just had a baby.” And Fitzsimmons was horrified. [Laughs.] But it was too late.
I got the Art International job because Barbara Rose and Max Kozloff were doing it, and they both quit—I don’t know if they had fights with Fitzsimmons or something better came along or something—and Max had gotten me to do something at some point at Art International. And suddenly I was the entire New York—
MS. HEINEMANN: Nice. You were—
MS. LIPPARD: —[inaudible]—in my early 20s, mid-20s or whatever I was. So I suddenly became the only New York reviewer—
MS. HEINEMANN: How many shows did you have to—
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, I went to about 30—all the time I lived in New York, for 35 years—I tell people here I’m really not that into going to a lot of shows—[laughs]—because for 35 years or something I went to 30 shows, 20 shows a week. It’s what I did, whether I wrote about them or not. And Art International, I started getting the short reviews into sort of groups that I could make little essays out of, and so on. And Fitzsimmons—Fitzsimmons was a good editor. He was tough.
MS. HEINEMANN: Which art were you being drawn to at that time?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, Dada and Surrealism were my sort of art historical fondnesses. And Karpel, the librarian at the Modern, was also very interested in Dada and Surrealism. So he must have had an effect on that. He got me pushed in that direction or something. And then I met Sol, who was at the desk downstairs at night at the Modern, and so we became friends. And Donnell Library, of course, is right across the street.
So Sol would go across and just—he read like a fiend all his life. But he got all of the nouvelle vague French writers and all kinds of stuff, and then he just passed them on. We lived fairly near him on the Bowery. And he’d pass them on. So he was responsible for another part of my education. [Laughs.] And then, of course, Bob was an influence on me, a good painter.
So I fell in with the kind of Minimalist stuff. One of the first articles I think I wrote was on Jim Rosenquist, who was a friend. And then the first two books were in '66, and they were on Philip Evergood, his graphic work, which Bill Lieberman had somehow gotten embroiled in, and he didn’t want to write it, and he just passed it on to me. These people didn’t know who the hell I was, but I wrote the book and it was perfectly good, I guess [The Graphic Work of Philip Evergood, 1966].
And then a similar thing—things got passed on to me. That’s where the Modern was really helpful. And then some guy—I can’t even remember—he owned Arts Magazine at the time—wanted to do a book on Pop art. And Pop art was—this was in '66, so Pop art had been going for quite a while, and there really wasn’t any great need for a Pop art book. But he wanted to do one, and he hired me to just—it was supposed to be just a little thing. I got all excited and overdid it, as usual.
I got Lawrence Alloway to write on British Pop art, and Nicolas Calas to write about, I think, Dada and Surrealism in Pop art or something. I’ve got the book over there [Pop Art, 1966]. [Laughs.] I forgot. And I wrote the American part, so—and edited it and so forth. And then that came out with Praeger, I guess, and then [with] Thames & Hudson. So that was a big deal, when those two books came out on top of each other.
MS. HEINEMANN: Did you find yourself looking at Pop art differently when you had to write about it?
MS. LIPPARD: No, I liked Pop art. I thought it was exciting. I liked Minimal art too. I’ve never been just—one-shot, sort of. I never have figured out what my taste is. It tends to the nutty, like Dada, which I liked better than Surrealism, and the very pure Minimalism and stuff, and not a whole lot in between—some in between, but early influences.
Sol was a huge influence. And then Eva Hesse lived up the street in the Bowery. A guy named Ray Donarski was very much part of our gang; wasn’t that much of an artist, but a nice guy.
And then I worked with Kynaston McShine when I was at the Modern. He had come in. He’s just about my age, so he must have come in really young too. But he came in as an assistant curator, I guess. And we worked on the assemblage together somehow. I don’t remember what his—I think we did.
Then the two of us were working on a show, I think, that was going to be for the circulating exhibitions, traveling exhibitions, on what I called—I wrote an article called “Third Stream Art[: Painted Structures and Structured Paintings.” Art Voices 4, 1965], I think, which is a jazz term for mixing genres. And it was about painting become sculpture, painted sculpture, and through the mess—the transition between 2- and 3-D, which became Minimalism, which was Minimalism.
Barbara Rose wrote “ABC Art” [Art in America, 1965] at about the same time, and that was a much better—it was in a better magazine. [Laughs.] I think that was in Artforum or Art in America, and mine was in Arts, which was not as good a magazine. But we were both sort of onto the same stuff, and we were both living with artists who were onto it as well.
MS. HEINEMANN: Did you ever find that difficult, writing about people’s work when you knew the people?
MS. LIPPARD: No, never. Dore Ashton was the only woman role model when I got to New York. Barbara and I were almost the same age. Barbara started earlier than I did because she knew a lot more people and everything. But Dore was the only slightly older woman who was really publishing. She was writing for the New York Times. And she was fired by John Canaday because she knew too many artists. It made it sound like biblical knowing, like she was—she “knew.” And she was married—[inaudible]. She was married to an artist and I was married to an artist and Barbara was married to an artist. This was a new kind of thing, I think.
So the fact that she was fired for knowing artists, when I learned everything I knew about art in the studios, I thought was just such bullshit. I really did learn far more from the artists—and going to shows and stuff—but the artists I hung out with. People used to say, “How did you know such and such was going to happen? You wrote about such and such before it had happened.” Well, it obviously already happened, but it was just in the studios. If you went to the studios, you could figure out what the hell was happening. But so many people just waited till it was in museums or something, or galleries.
MS. HEINEMANN: Did you make an active effort to go to studios beyond just friendship?
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, yeah. In fact, in those days you sort of automatically did. If you went to somebody’s studio, they’d say, “Oh, you know what? So and so’s upstairs. You should go up and see him,” or “If you like this, you might like that,” and so on. So people would pass you around from friend to friend. It was much more collegial than it is now. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: It was smaller, in a way, though, too.
MS. LIPPARD: [To her dog.] You cannot have that cookie. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Now, when did you start getting involved with political—
MS. LIPPARD: Well, that really was—by '67 or something, Rudolf [Baranik] and Don Judd and Max Kozloff, all of whom I knew, were involved in the Angry Arts movement against the Vietnam War, but I wasn’t quite yet. And I got involved—I’ve always been—my grandfather was the last white president of Tougaloo College in Mississippi, which is a historically black college, I think. And my mother had worked with what was then called "race relations" and stuff. So I had a very good background in civil rights.
And I remember running into a friend from college right after I’d graduated in the early '60s, and she said, “Are you going to go on the Freedom Ride? I’m going on it.” And I said, “No, no, I’m too involved in the art world.” [They laugh.] And I always thought afterwards, Oh, God.
But I didn’t get really involved in politics until—I was a good liberal, but didn’t do anything until '68, I went to Argentina. I’ve sort of told this story endlessly. But it was during the Argentine—during the dictatorship and disappearances and so forth. But I just didn’t know much about that. It was in the summer of '68; so Jean Clay, who had been on the barricades in Paris in May '68 and was the other critic, and we were asked to go down to Argentina to judge a show. It was a most peculiar experience, because we went, and they said, well, they didn’t want us to see any artists while we were—during the show. We thought, Well, that’s okay. Maybe that’s some—you know. And so we had some connections down there.
So we did the show, and they kept pushing this one guy, Roger Coliacelo [ph], something like that, who was a sort of—this thing was funded by a plastics corporation, but it was at the Museum of Fine Arts there in Buenos Aires. We were put up at the Ritz Hotel and treated very nicely and so forth. But there were a group of prizes to be given, and we didn’t give any of them to Roger Coliacelo.
And so at the last minute there was a dinner party, just before we were supposed to announce the prizes, and they came. They said, “By the way, we’ve just got another prize.” They just instituted another prize. And so we kind of said, “Okay, we’ll do it too. Let’s see. Who should we give it to?” And they said, “Well, what about Roger?” [They laugh.] I had no idea what was going on about that, but he was their baby. And we refused to give it to him. I don’t know if Jean remembers it all this way or not, but I certainly do.
And so we didn’t give it to him. Next day we had a press conference, and I spoke—we both spoke some Spanish. And so I think we both spoke in Spanish. Maybe Jean was in French. But he—I gave my little talk in Spanish. Actually, Susana Torre had helped me write part of it. I think it was a talk. And then we announced the prizes or something like that. And after the things had been—the press was there. Then there was supposed to be another dinner party. And we were standing around waiting, and they canceled the dinner party. They didn’t want to see us again, period. So we contacted Jorge Glusberg, who ran this CAAC—Centro de Arte y something Contemporáneo, and he took us—we’d heard about the Rosario group, which was then very involved in—my brain’s going. Let me come back to this. It starts with a T and it’s in northern Argentina.
MS. HEINEMANN: Tucuman?
MS. LIPPARD: Tucuman. So they were involved in the strike in Tucuman. And we didn’t have time to go all the way to Tucuman. We already had our plane reservations. But we went halfway to Tucuman with Jorge, and some of the artists came down, and we had an afternoon of talking with them. And I was deeply impressed. I can’t remember that I spoke that good Spanish, but I was deeply impressed with what they were doing, which, since then, has been written about a lot. But I didn’t quite understand altogether.
But I remember one thing they said was, “We’re not going to make what you call 'art' again until there’s justice in the world.” And I thought, Oh, boy—[laughs]—that sounds good to me. I was already involved in Conceptual art. This was summer of '68. So I’d already—that’s another whole story we can go back to.
But I wanted to start a series of exhibitions that would be "suitcase" exhibitions. We started in one city. Artists would get together a suitcase full of stuff. There would be an exhibition. And they would—we’d try to get free airfares [so] that they could take it to another city, and then somebody else could take another one to the next city, and it could be either a big one or a little one, but the work can all fit in a suitcase. And people after that said, “Oh, you must have been thinking about Duchamp.” I wasn’t thinking about Duchamp at all. I was thinking about Conceptual art. And I went to Lima after Jean went back to Paris.
The funny thing is, when we got back, our planes were the next day, I think, after we did the Rosario thing, and we went down to the desk to check out. And they said, “But you haven’t paid.” And we said, “No, we’re not paying. The museum—[inaudible]—or whatever is paying.” And they said, “No, they haven’t paid. You can’t leave.”
And so we called the number of somebody we had thought of as—it was a secretary or something for the thing. We picked up the phone and we said, “Hello.” And it was clear that we were foreigners. And the person on the other end went, “Sssss.” And I said—I was on the phone. I said, “Hello? Hello?” And there was this—and I handed it to Jean. He listened. It was, “Sssss.” And that was it. We couldn’t get through to those people. There was somebody saying, “Sssss.” It was a weird situation.
So then we called this other person who was sympathetic, or we called Jorge or somebody, and they got—he got us in touch with somebody who could call and pay the bill, and we got away. But there were soldiers at the gates of the Ritz Hotel with rifles. I had no real idea what was happening. Of course, Susana—I must have had some idea, because Susana knew. Sol had met Susana and her then-husband, Alejandro Puente, when he was in Buenos Aires sometime in the '60s.
MS. HEINEMANN: So Susana was in Buenos Aires?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, originally. And she was—at 19 she had designed an apartment building that was being built. [Laughs.] She was a prodigy. Anyway, sometime in the early '60s, Sol had been down there. And when he came back, he called me and he said, “Well, I just met the Argentine Lucy Lippard”—[they laugh]—which is far from the truth. But we got to know each other. He said, “She needs to find an apartment. Is there anything in your building?”
So the building on Grand Street, there was an apartment underneath us, and it was owned by Leo Rabkin, who’s another artist, an older artist, who’s, I think, still alive. He must be 100 by now. But anyway, so we got Susana the apartment underneath where I lived with Ethan, and Bob was already—I had just broken up with Bob and was seeing somebody in Maine. Susana and Alejandro were there, and so we became bosom friends. And then eventually they broke up, and he went back to Buenos Aires, and Susana and I stayed friends. [Laughs.]
So that was how I got to know Susana. And through Susana I met a lot of the Latin Americans who were in New York, the avant-garde Latin—Hélio Oiticica and Eduardo Costa and Fernando Masa [ph], who was married then to my still very close friend Anne Twitty, who’s a writer and translator. So I got another whole mixture there.
Let’s put this up here. Sorry. The dog is tripping up the wires. [To the dog.] You can go into your bed, sweetie. Go in. Go in. [Laughs.] Just watch him with that cord, because he is going to want to go in there.
Anyway, that was Susana—[inaudible].
MS. HEINEMANN: And the Latin American artists—
MS. LIPPARD: And the Latin American artists. And so that gave me a good grounding in Latin American art.
MS. HEINEMANN: But you had spent time in Mexico too.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah. But—oh, that’s right. I forgot about that. Yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you want to say something about that?
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, that was another major—everything at those ages is major. [Laughs.] When I got out of college—when I’d been in France, in Paris, I had a boyfriend who was Swiss, and we went down to Spain for three weeks or something before my parents showed up. I loved Spain and I learned some Spanish, and so when I graduated from college a year later, I was dying to go back to Europe, but I couldn’t afford it. So I thought maybe I’d try to go someplace else where I could speak another language.
One of my friends in college had a brother who had been with the American Friends Service Committee. They were the pre-Peace Corps kind of things that they did. In fact, when the Peace Corps started, we were all sent questionnaires about how things had gone and so on.
But—so he showed me how to get into the AFSC summer program sort of thing. So I ended up in Mexico—got a scholarship, and they sent me off to Mexico. We had, like, a week in Mexico City, and then we were all broken up and sent off to these little tiny villages. And a group of, I don’t know, maybe 10 of us altogether—it was a very young family. It was our kind of den mother and father, and they had a couple of little kids.
And so I went to San Salvador el Verde, which was right across the arroyo from San Salvador el Seco, which is green and dry. We never went to San Salvador el Seco. I mean, it may have been further away than I thought. But El Verde had a beautiful big church and had once been a major Spanish town of some kind, and was practically deserted. People had built little houses on the grid, in the ruins of these much grander places. And we made friends with a family. We slept in these kind of ruins, and made friends with the family and worked building latrines and teaching English, sort of. [Laughs.]
Another woman and I went across the barranca [arroyo, gully] to a little tiny town—I can’t remember the name of it—which was basically an indigenous town. They didn’t speak Spanish any. But we did, so we took—I think it was her idea; it was a wonderful idea—we took National Geographics with us, and we lugged them over to this little place. We’d walk over and take backpacks full of National—and we’d show them things like—we’d take a soccer ball and say, “El mundo es rondo.” [They laugh.] And then we’d show them deserts and mountains and all these things that they’d never seen.
It was really sort of green and dry, a little bit like New Mexico. It was in the province of Puebla. So that was an amazing experience. That was really interesting. And it was my first experience about the Third World. I mean, Spain was, but I didn’t think—I thought of Spain as Europe, not the Third World. And I wanted to stay there. In Mexico City I had applied for a job in a gallery. And the woman said, “Well, your Spanish is good, but it’s very rural.” [They laugh.]
Then my best friend from college, roommate and best friend, got married in Connecticut, and I had to go back for that. So I never got back to Mexico for years and years. But in, I don’t know, 2002 or something, Jim and I went to Mexico, because we had some friends teaching at the University of Puebla. And I insisted on going to San Salvador el Verde, which had changed a great deal. There was a real road to it, and there was a gas station. It was no longer this desolate little place.
I just sat in the zocálo [square] with Jim and I said to everybody who came by, “Do you know the Morales family?” And about the third person who came by—I was looking for Seme [ph] Morales. And they said, “Oh, yeah, I can tell you where he lives.” [Laughs.] So I went over and opened the door. He recognized me. This is after 40-some years. And it was really—no, it was more than that. It was about 50 years. So that was a lot of fun. And he died of colon cancer quite soon after that, so it was nice to have seen him.
Anyway, that was just an amazing whole thing, just unlike anything. And also it was Quaker. We had consensus, which I was never very good at—[they laugh]—as you can imagine. And now I’m working—everybody here tries to have consensus, the way they run their meetings. And every time they do, I go—I went through this again last week—“Oh, consensus.” [Laughs.] “I’m not very good at consensus, I should tell you.”
MS. HEINEMANN: [Inaudible]—gave you some experience.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah. Well, all of it did. I think it’s a good idea, but the Quakers took it to a point of no return. If you didn’t agree—I would always say, “Well, I don’t really agree, but I’ll be glad to do it if the majority wants to do it,” and so on. “But I’m not going to say I think something I don’t think.” But they wanted you to think that. [Laughs.] They wanted you to sit around long enough. And people worked on me and so on, to try to get with the group. [Laughs.] That’s what I was never good at.
And years later—well, actually, not that many years later, but 10 years later at least—that was in the summer of '58—I was in—it must have been '69—I was in DC for a big anti-Vietnam march. And this guy comes over and he says, “Are you Lucy?” He was the father of this little family, and he still worked for the AFSC and so on. He said, “I never expected to see you here.” And I thought, Oh, you son of a bitch. You thought I was some kind of right-winger? [They laugh.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Because you didn’t like consensus.
MS. LIPPARD: Because I didn’t like consensus. [Laughs.] We used to sit on the top of this flat building—[inaudible]—and we were right at the—pretty much at the foot of the—[inaudible]—you could see Povocateco [ph] in the distance, and it was just heavenly. And we’d have these silent things, which was always nice, and deal with consensus. [Laughs.] So that was—yeah, that was Mexico.
MS. HEINEMANN: So going back, because you mentioned your involvement with Conceptual art—you’d gone back to New York.
MS. LIPPARD: That was Sol again. Sol had started—[to the dog:] Do you want to go in your bed, Chino? Come on.
So, anyway, by '66, Sol was really becoming well known and being very successful. When I first met Sol, he hadn’t—he was older than the rest of us, but he hadn’t hit his stride. He was doing sort of funny Jasper Johns-related, targety-looking things with thick paint, different colors of the Jasper Johns targets that were—really red, yellow, and brown; red, yellow, and blue. Then he did some funny little structures. He just hadn’t quite figured out where he was.
This table I have my feet on is a Sol LeWitt, by the way. And then he made a whole series of things that were lacquered, that looked a little bit like this table, that were wonderful.
And then he really kind of came into his own with the permutational structures. He was traveling all over Europe and showing and everything, and he kept meeting people who were sort of—he met the Art and Language group. He met the—[inaudible]. So he would bring back news and connections and so forth. And then there was Bob Smithson and Dan Graham and various people around.
And so, anyway, I got very immersed in that. It was such a perfect match for a writer. I never wanted to be an artist, but I could play with artists—[laughs]—doing collaborative things with them, and so forth and so on.
So, anyway, when I was in Argentina, I went to Lima and I met somebody. Somebody had given me the name of a guy in Lima who was willing to do this suitcase thing. And I came back to New York and did a show with Bob Huot, who’s still a good friend, Robert Huot, and Paula Cooper, which was a kind of Minimal show against the war. Ron Wolin, who was a Socialist Workers Party guy, had gotten hold of us somehow—I can’t quite remember; we didn’t know him at the time much—but to do a benefit show for the student mobilization against the war in Vietnam.
So Paula, for some reason, ended up—[laughs]—doing it. She had just started her gallery on Prince Street, which was just up the block from me. And we did this beautiful Minimal show with Ryman and LeWitt and [Carl] Andre and Hans Haacke and various people; maybe—I did two shows with Paula, so I’m always getting them mixed up. But anyway, what was in the big room, and Bob Huot and I think—oh, a couple of other people sort of—well, anyway, I’ve had the list someplace. I’m sure it’s—
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah—
MS. LIPPARD: It’s been six years or something. Our statement, which I wrote, was something to the effect of, “These are not political artists so much as they are donating their very best work for a political cause,” or something like that, the idea being that they do what they did best, instead of trying to do anything else, which I came to disagree with—[laughs]—to some extent. And so that show was in November '68.
Then I met Seth Siegelaub around that time, and he was beginning to do his sort of dematerialized exhibitions. And so I talked about my suitcase thing and he talked about his stuff, and we had a meeting of the minds, and later of the bodies. [Laughs.] And we sort of lived together for a couple of years off and on, very irregular. We’re still good friends. I’m very fond of Seth.
And so he was really, in a funny way, the ultimate Conceptual artist, because he was the one who figured out the vehicle by which to get this stuff out into the world, because otherwise it would have just been all floating around—[laughs]. But he put together these shows that didn’t exist, and books that were shows that happened all over the world, and really revolutionized that whole—because there had been some shows with Conceptual—and then '69, late '69, I did a show in Vancouver which started the whole Number show business, but that was later.
And then, at the same time, in January '69, the Art Workers’ Coalition started. So I came back from Argentina with this bug in my ear about how artists should have something to do with justice and have some role in the world, which I hadn’t really thought. It wasn’t a new idea, hardly. But I hadn’t thought about it before, and nobody had been doing much about it in that period.
And then Ron Wolin and I went on to do another—there was a show that Angry Arts did, mostly—came out of Angry Arts. Angry Arts was, I think, '67. And then Ron Wolin and I did something in, maybe that was '68 or '69—the Collage of Indignation , a whole lot of different artists. It was sort of floor-to-ceiling, salon style; did poster-like pieces with art—some of it was more art than poster; some of it was more poster than art—
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah, I’ve seen some pictures—
MS. LIPPARD: —against the war. And that was, I think, around that time I met Leon [Golub] and Nancy [Spero]. And May [Stevens] and Rudolf [Baranik] I had met around the same time, '67 or so. I had more to do with Rudolf at that point than May, because he was more out there politically. Ron and I did a second Collage of Indignation II . The first one had been the Loeb Student Center [NYU]. Ours was up at that place in, oh, Columbus Circle, that big museum, funny-looking museum up there.
MS. HEINEMANN: I forget what it was called [New York Cultural Center].
MS. LIPPARD: I don’t know how we got that. But we were really commissioning people to do posters; we had all—like Bob Ryman did one, which was this—I think they were all the same size. We gave them paper or something. But he just wrote across it in sort of pale blue—and he has very awkward handwriting—“P-E-A-S-E.” [Laughs.] It was very Minimal; the only political piece Bob has ever done.
And then, actually, I had my—in the guest room out there I’ve got a portrait of Ethan, who was then about six or five, by Alex Katz, which had “Peace” under it. [Laughs.] I have this sketch for it. I made my parents buy it. They didn’t like it, but I made them buy it. It’s a pencil portrait. I said, “This is your grandson by a famous artist. You need to have this.” [They laugh.] It was like 300 bucks or something.
And at this point, there’s just so much going on that it’s really hard to remember everything that was happening. But by '69 Willoughby Sharp and Takis and a couple of other people started the Coalition, not on purpose. They did this protest at the Museum of Modern Art where they withdrew Takis’s piece from the—what was it called—kinetic art show [The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, 1968-69]. I forgot the—because they owned this little piece of his, and he didn’t feel that it was justifiable to put that little tiny piece in when he was a major innovator.
[To the dog:] You want to go in your house? Go in your house, damn it. Never mind. [Laughs.] There’s going to be a lot of dog in this.
So, anyway, then a lot of artists started grouping around that, and that became the Art Workers’ Coalition. Then in April we did a huge—[inaudible]. By that time I was radicalized, certainly. [Laughs.] And in April we did this huge open hearing, which has been published—[inaudible]. So they had two volumes that were published by the—
[To the dog:] Chino, you’re being a nuisance. [Laughs.] Let’s just ignore him and see what happens.
MS. HEINEMANN: So you were doing the open hearing—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, we did. And then we published that. We have transcripts of everything that was there. And then we also did another documents thing, which was all the stuff that was published about us. And then later, in the women’s movement, somebody—I can’t remember who did it—did a similar thing. These weren’t bound books. They were stapled books and booklets; did one for the feminist movement called “Her Story”—[inaudible]. And then—I don’t know—things were happening fast and furious from then on.
MS. HEINEMANN: Was this around the time that you did the Six Years?
MS. LIPPARD: No. Well, Six Years was sort of about this period. It was—Six Years was '66 to '72, and it came out in '73, so—
MS. HEINEMANN: Uh-huh. [Affirmative.]
MS. LIPPARD: They’re doing a big show on Six Years at the Brooklyn Museum.
MS. HEINEMANN: Really?
MS. LIPPARD: There’s been so much fuss about these Number shows that I did, and the Six Years and all of that stuff in the last few years, in Europe and Canada more than here. And I—[inaudible]. And then the Modern is doing a PAD/D show of some kind, and it’s something from the archives. And I just keep thinking, Ah, I don’t want to go back in the past all the time.
MS. HEINEMANN: So what were the Number shows?
MS. LIPPARD: The Number shows were—came out of Seth’s and my kind of intellectual collaboration and his—Seth represented—Seth had been a rug seller. He hadn’t gone to college. He’s very, very bright, a real character. Anyway, he came to represent Lawrence Weiner, Robert Barry, Doug Huebler, and Joseph Kosuth. And these were four of the most disparate people you could imagine, but they’d all been—Joseph was much more in the art world. He was at SVA [School of Visual Arts], and he’d started this little museum of something or other. And Doug lived in Massachusetts and Bob lived in New Jersey and Larry was in New York.
So it was a very fringe group. I think Bob and Doug and Larry had all been doing Minimal sculpture. Kosuth started pretty much with word stuff. And somehow they all—I don’t really know how they all got together, but Seth got them together and had a show that was—he rented office space. He rented uptown and just had a show in it with some other people. But they were his sort of stable, so we spent a lot of time with them. So I was definitely influenced by them.
And, of course, there were no women, and so I—I got to know a bunch of people in Canada. I had done some work with a wonderful woman, Doris Shadbolt, who was married to an artist, Jack Shadbolt, in Vancouver. She was a curator with the Vancouver Gallery of Art, the museum. They’d asked me out to lecture, and I wrote an essay for something in my kind of formalist period. [Laughs.]
And I had somehow—I don’t quite remember how—I met Iain Baxter, who was the—Iain and Ingrid Baxter, who collaborated as the N.E. Thing Company. I think I heard about him through Sol’s networks or something. And at some point they asked me if I would do a show out there, and they’d also—no, maybe they didn’t ask me at that point.
I also knew people in Seattle, and this wonderful woman—now I can’t remember her last name, Anne—anyway, in Seattle, who was on the board of trustees with the Seattle [Art] Museum—I don’t remember if they asked me or I asked them or what. But suddenly I was doing this giant museum show in the—not in the museum, but in the space center where the World’s Fair thing had been. It was a huge exhibition.
MS. HEINEMANN: The Space Needle?
MS. LIPPARD: It was near the Space Needle. It wasn’t the Needle itself, but it was a big exhibition. It was the hall, exhibition hall, for the Seattle World’s Fair. And that must have happened very quickly, because that was in '69. I did this huge show. And they didn’t have the money to have the artists come out and make things, so I made things. It was all Minimal and Conceptual stuff, and outdoor—a lot of outdoor things.
MS. HEINEMANN: What do you mean, you made things?
MS. LIPPARD: I constructed them. The artists would say, “I’d like to”—I remember one, which didn’t come out well at all, was an ark spray-painted on trees, huge ark. These were great big land art sort of pieces.
MS. HEINEMANN: So the artists gave you instructions, and you—
MS. LIPPARD: Instructions. And I had a bunch of helpers; Anne Focke, who was later a real figure in the Seattle art scene and so on, was my kind of assistant. She was very young, and she was my—so she and some other people. But first I did it, yeah, in Seattle. There were huge pieces done outdoors, and I got—
MS. HEINEMANN: What was the show called?
MS. LIPPARD: 955,000 [557,087]. And these were the Number shows. I was in the throes of Conceptualism. I did four Number shows, and they were named after the population of the city that they were in—
MS. HEINEMANN: Ah, okay.
MS. LIPPARD: —which is very hard to remember. [They laugh.] But I had done another show just previous to that at Paula Cooper, the second Paula Cooper show, called number 9, or number 7 . I guess it was number 7. And I don’t know—can’t remember, for the life of me, what the number seven meant. It was probably the seventh show Paula did there or something. And that was for the benefit of the Art Workers’ Coalition. So that had already started by then. And that had sheaves of Conceptual stuff that was a small room with just hundreds—not hundreds, but a lot of artists were.
There was a middle-sized room with some more Minimal stuff, and there was a big room that was empty. It had a disappearing gas piece by Robert Barry, and Hans Haacke had a fan in the corner, and it was moving air. And Sol, I think, did his first wall drawing. So there were—it looked like an empty room, pretty much, but it had—and Larry Weiner did some other thing over there. So that was the first Number show. But the population thing was—who knows why I did that.
And then Seth helped me do—the catalogues were all index cards, just loose, and they were—the idea was that the text and the cards could all be shuffled. It didn’t make any difference what you came across first. Each of the artists designed their own card, and sometimes it had to do with the work that was there; sometimes it was another work; sometimes that work didn’t get done.
I can’t remember what the hell was in these shows. And everybody’s so interested in them. None of us, not even the artists, can remember them now. [Laughs.] It was a huge group of people: Eva, Bob, I think probably—and Sarah all the gang, sort of.
Oh, and I forgot, though, in 1966—we should go back again. Remind me of that later, I’ll finish the Number shows. So, anyway, then in January of '70 I did the same show, with quite a lot of variation, in Vancouver. And that was called—now I can’t remember. Vancouver was 995. I’d better look these up. Seattle was—
MS. HEINEMANN: You can fix it later.
MS. LIPPARD: —857 [557,087] or something, and Vancouver was 955,000. And those were really big shows. There was shipping to be done and all this endless construction of things. In Vancouver I had two young Greek artists helping me, one of whom is Christos Dikeakos, who’s become quite well known and is a really good artist. Ethan came out for a while on one of those. Seth was there, I think, for part of Seattle, but not Vancouver. And anyway Bob Smithson did his first—his only—glue pour piece in the Vancouver show.
In Seattle I did a piece for Carl Andre, and he said it was supposed to be so many timbers of so much length. And I went to—two or three people had timbers, because it was the Northwest. And luckily somebody had a connection to Virginia Wright and the Weyerhaeuser gang, so they got me these—we had a truck with giant timbers on it. So I did Carl’s piece. It was supposed to go over the crest of a hill, and these timbers were [inaudible] and so on.
And when he saw it, he said, “You know, that’s your piece, not mine.” I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “I said timbers. I meant cut timbers.”
And so—but he’d used the word “timber,” I think, and so that—so he always said that wasn’t his piece. [They laugh.] It was a beautiful piece. And so it was that kind of hit-or-miss, kind of nutty—I don’t know how these museums—I don’t remember any museum people being around at all. It was just me.
MS. HEINEMANN: So how did you get into curating from—
MS. LIPPARD: Well, I don’t know. In October 1966 I did a show at the Fischbach Gallery called Eccentric Abstraction.
MS. HEINEMANN: Okay.
MS. LIPPARD: That was because Donald Droll was in our little gang. He was a very sweet guy who was the assistant director of Fischbach at that point. He was a friend of Eva’s and mine and so forth. And I had gotten interested in—well, I was looking to see where Eva’s work fit in, I think, since she was a close friend and lived right down [in] the Bowery. And I had my first trip to California that year. Was it Berkeley? Actually, Charles, my old lover Charles, he was a student at Berkeley. And he heard me. [Laughs.] So it was my first lecture trip.
And so I went to a lot of studios and stuff and saw a lot of Bay Area Funk, which wasn’t quite what I was thinking about, because I was so into Minimalism. But I did find Don Potts, who was a guy I’ve never heard much of since, did these beautiful—they weren’t really Minimal, when you look back at it, but they were very sexy. They were sort of pressed wood of some kind and kind of wavy wood things, very, very simple.
So I wrote an article in Art International [November 1966] around the same time as I did the show, which had just a tiny text, just almost square thing. And people always mixed up the show with the article. I should never have titled them the same thing, but who knew—[laughs]—it was going to be of any interest to anybody.
So the show at Fischbach, which Donald got me to do, and Marilyn [Fischbach] went along with it, was Eva, Louise Bourgeois, Alice Adams, Keith Sonnier, Gary Keane, Bruce Nauman, Don Potts, and Frank Lincoln Viner, who lived upstairs from me in the Bowery. It was a beautiful show. Alice was doing—had been a weaver. She was Jim Rosenquist’s sister-in-law at that point. That’s how I knew her. She did these big wire kind of—wire-and-rope kind of things that were just beautiful, chicken wire and rope. They weren’t—the idea of the whole business was that I wanted Minimal kinds of forms but with a sensuous, sort of sexual, aspect to them. And that was why it was Eccentric Abstraction. They all did things like that, and—
MS. HEINEMANN: I think it’s a great name. [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah. [They laugh.] Somebody did a show called that—somebody in SoHo, years and years later, without even crediting me. I could have killed him. But it was—so I didn’t want to be a curator, particularly. Actually, I’d done a couple of shows for the Modern and for traveling exhibitions.
I started to tell you about Kynaston McShine and me working together, and got off on something else. The show that we were starting to do together—and then he was hired at the Jewish Museum—was Primary Structures, in 1966. So that was '66, too, and Eccentric Abstraction was '66. And it was all about these things I was not discovering that were happening in the studios, but people thought I was discovering them, this Minimal moving in toward what got called post-Minimalism, which I never use. I hate that term. I hate “post” anything. [Laughs.] But—
MS. HEINEMANN: “Eccentric Abstraction” is much better.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I liked “Eccentric.” So—and Ad Reinhardt, who I was writing a book on at that point, was horrified, because he didn’t like anything that was the least bit eccentric. [They laugh.] In that sense, everything had to be straight and pure. He used to kid me about being eccentric—[inaudible].
So, anyway, I wasn’t that interested in being a curator. And in those days, writers didn’t curate. The other funny thing is, when I came to New York and started writing, everybody assumed I was Jewish, because the writers were all Jewish and the curators were all WASPs. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Interesting.
MS. LIPPARD: Writers didn’t curate gallery shows like they do now. Everybody curates now and so on. But they just—Gene Goossen had done a show, and Lawrence Alloway did shows a little bit. But the idea of a very young writer just up and doing a show was peculiar.
[END DISC 1 TR01.]
MS. LIPPARD: And actually those shows were around the same time, too. So Hilton Kramer wrote about it, I think in—I think somebody wrote about it and sort of bitched about the fact that—“She’s not a curator. What does she know?” And it’s true. I’ve curated 57 shows now, and I still know nothing about museology or anything. [Laughs.] I have no idea what I’m doing.
MS. HEINEMANN: You did go to the Institute.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, but it wasn’t museum stuff at all. It was all straight art—very, very classic art history. In fact, at the Institute, one of the professors, when I was proposing a thesis topic, they said—I suggested Max Ernst, because I could kill two birds with one stone. I was learning a lot while I was working on him at the Modern. And this one German guy said, “Max Ernst?” He said, “Who could take Max Ernst seriously?” [Laughs.]
And this is 1959 or something—anyway, where was I going with that?
Anyway, I didn’t think of myself as a curator. I still don’t think of myself as a curator. I like to think of it as organizing shows. I don’t see myself as a curator. But I got the Bard Curatorial Excellence Prize a couple of years ago—[laughs]—last year I guess.
And there’s been a lot of fuss made out of these Numbers shows. So the Number shows—back to the Number shows—I did curate off and on quite a bit from then on. But the number shows were 557,087—that’s what was in Seattle—and 955,000 was Vancouver. And then I did one in Buenos Aires, which I can’t—3,000,084 or something or other, I can’t remember, through this guy Jorge Glusberg, who I’d met down there.
It wasn’t Latin artists. I never saw the show. It was all done from New York. But it was people who I had not put in the other two shows, because by then I knew a whole new batch of young Conceptual artists, and that show was totally Conceptual. No Minimal—nothing had to be shipped. It was sort of the suitcase show, years later.
And then I did one last one called c. 7500, which was CalArts, and I never saw that either. Well, I saw it once. It traveled all over, but it was started at CalArts. And that was all women Conceptual artists, because people would say, “There are no women Conceptual artists.”
MS. HEINEMANN: And when was that?
MS. LIPPARD: And that was in ’73 or ’74—’3 to ’4, I guess—’73 and ’74.
MS. HEINEMANN: So when did you start becoming more involved with the feminist movement?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, well, that was another whole story. The Art Workers’ Coalition used to meet at this place called The Museum on Broadway, which is long gone—it was kind of a hippie, funky, not-quite museum. It definitely wasn’t a museum, but it was barely an exhibition space. But it was a funny—it was [inaudible] and people from the East Village Other [underground newspaper] and a whole lot of odd souls.
And so when the Coalition became an organization, Willoughby Sharp then got out of it. [Laughs.] He really started [it], but he didn’t have anything to do with the Coalition itself. Hans Haacke was very, very prominent in it, Carl Andre. Sol came to meetings. Sometimes Sarah—[inaudible]—would come and sneer at us.
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: And so anyway, we started doing all kinds of actions and stuff. The Coalition was complete anarchy. We had different committees. There was the decentralization committee, which was going to get art to the people, and there was the action committee, which did just whatever the hell it felt like. [Laughs.]
Nobody could veto anything else. So whatever the committee decided to do, they’d just do it. And there were a lot of different factions. It was just like all left politics. Everybody was doing something different. And the Guerilla Art Action Group was part of the action committee, and I was part of the action committee and the decentralization committee.
And I got very bossy and I got very involved in that whole thing. [Laughs.] And where was I going with this?
MS. HEINEMANN: What were some of the actions you did?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, we did this thing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we broke into a trustees’ dinner. Kes Zapkus was very involved in this, an abstract painter—Kestutis Zapkus, a good friend. This wasn’t planned, but again, we never knew what anybody was going to do. The Met was beginning to charge a lot of money. And so we did—anyway, we thought the Met should be free, which it had been.
So we had an action against them, but we were also against them because they closed—it was Christmas vacation, when all the art historians from around the country—you know, teachers—come into town to see everything, and they closed the whole French wing to have a dinner for the trustees. So we heard about this and we decided to break into it.
And it was a riot. We were skulking around the doors and in and out of galleries and so on, just to get at this one place, and the guards were all around it and so on. And they didn’t know we were doing this, but it became fairly obvious something was going on. [They laugh.]
So we raced in, and Jan Van Raay, who took all the documentation pictures for the Coalition—she just assigned herself that—had a real camera, and there were a lot of the rest of us just had fake cameras or cameras with no—nothing in them. And we pretended we were taking pictures of the trustees all sitting with their wine glasses and everything in the midst of this art.
And Kes Zapkus took in a bunch of cockroaches for—“to keep Harlem on your mind,” he said as he tossed them on the table, because Harlem on Your Mind  had been the previous show, and there’d been a lot of protests about that too. We really went—this all started as museum protests rather than anything else.
And so we were all racing around taking pictures, and the trustees were all like, “Oh, my God, what is this invasion?” And the guards came in and hauled us out, and Jan Van Raay—and they were grabbing at her camera. And she got the film out somehow and gave it to me. And I went in the ladies room and stuffed it in my—no, I guess we both went in—made it into the ladies room, and she handed me the thing and I stuffed it in my underpants or something.
But somehow we got the film out. So there are a few pictures of it. I don’t have any. But there’s one of me and Kes. The Guerilla Art Action Group got blamed for everything because they were the most radical. So they thought they had put the cockroaches out, and they got blamed for that and so forth. So that was one thing.
And then they closed down the whole museum. They shut the doors to the museum so nobody could get in or out. [They laugh.] It was at night. It was an open night. [Laughs.]
And we did stuff at the Modern. There was the sit-in around Guernica.
You’ve probably seen pictures of that. I wasn’t around then. I was out of town or something for Joyce Kozloff and her baby, Nik—who has since written a book on Hugo Chavez. [Laughs.] And Jon Hendricks and Tom Lloyd and Jean Toche, probably Poppy [Johnson], sitting in front of Guernica, and there was a whole lot of—and then Tony Shafrazi, who was at that point a drug-ridden nut case.
He threw blood at Guernica, and that was in a later thing. That wasn’t—again, it wasn’t our action. But he just did it, and he was coming to meetings. So it ended up being by AWC.
We did a thing about Attica—Scott Burton handed out dimes in front of the Modern because of the Rockefellers being—we did big protests about the Rockefellers and a show they did at the Modern on Abstract Expressionism, which we called it “Blackmail,” and we did a lot of publicity around that.
But what they did is they said, “Well, we’re going to have a big show of Abstract Expressionism or New York School, or whatever, and it’s all going to come from the collection.” So anybody who was not in the collection [and] was dying to be in the show had to give them something to be in the show. [Laughs.] So they built up their collection nicely.
And then we had some of the Abstract Expressionists on our backs because they didn’t like us standing up for them, because they wanted to be in the show. It was crazy times. Bob Rauschenberg was called in by the museum to be an artist representative who wasn’t in the Art Workers’ Coalition. We claimed we stood for all artists who didn’t stand up and say they stood up for themselves. And Rauschenberg was supposed to vote with the museum and he didn’t. [Laughs.] So he was a good guy. There’s an awful lot that went on.
MS. HEINEMANN: Wow, it sounds like it.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, and so that was—it was Argentina, then the Vietnam War, and Conceptual art and so on. Joseph Kosuth actually did a little Art Workers’ card, like a fake membership card to MoMA with “Art Workers’ Coalition” stamped in red across it, because we thought all artists should get in free. So we used these things and—[laughs].
And there were a lot of very—and then the And Babies poster—that was a little tiny committee, which was Frazer Dougherty and Irving Petlin, I think, mostly. I don’t know if somebody else was on that or not. And the Modern—the staff at the Modern was against the war basically, and the staff had voted to distribute this poster, which was a My Lai photograph which just said, “And Babies, and Babies.”
And then there was another one done later, with the same image that said, “Four More Years,” about Nixon’s reelection and Vietnam. But the Modern, anyway, was going to distribute this, and the lithographers union contributed the printing or something. Irving Petlin was a major figure in all of this. He was a wonderful organizer. And Max—Max wasn’t as involved in the coalition, but Irving really was.
Anyway, he’d gotten all this stuff set up, and then [William S.] Paley—who was the president of the board of trustees at the Modern at that point—took one look at this idea, that the Modern would have anything to do with this, and had an absolute fit.
So we just distributed it ourselves. It was one of the most successful actions I’ve ever been involved with. We got them printed, and everybody who came to town—every artist, everybody we knew, anybody from anywhere—we gave them a roll of them and said, “Take them home.” And so they went all over the world.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, wow.
MS. LIPPARD: And just, "Take a roll of them."
MS. HEINEMANN: How many did you have printed?
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, we had thousands, and so they were distributed by artists’ hands—[laughs]. It was really very exciting.
And then the decentralization committee was another funny story. Tom Lloyd was on it. He was a black artist, abstract, sort of, light artist, I guess, who died recently, or a few years ago. And he came rushing out. He was not—reserved kind of guy. One day I was in the loft, and there’s this doorbell rings and rings, and it’s Tom Lloyd. And he’s wildly excited, and he’s, “Can I come up?” And I said, “Yeah, sure,” but I was like, “What?”
And so we never saw each other except at meetings and stuff. So he comes running up, and he said, “We’ve gotten some money for”—the decentralization committee was to make the museums take stuff in their basements and redistribute it to neighborhood museums. So Spanish Harlem would get a lot of pre-Columbian stuff and so forth.
And needless to say, we weren’t getting too far with this. [Laughs.] But so he came rushing up, and he said, “We’ve got some money to do this,” and I said, “Really? From what?” And he said, “The Rock Brothers.” And I said, “The Rock Brothers? That’s the Rockefellers.”
And he said, “Oh.” [Laughs.] So needless to say, we couldn’t take the money from the Rockefellers. But he was so excited, and they were trying to co-opt us, give us a grant of some kind. I can’t remember how that came about.
But a lot of people came and went in the coalition. And so in ’69 a bunch of women—Juliette Gordon and Nancy Spero—and I’m forgetting the other leaders. There was one other woman who was very much a leader—started WAR—Women Artists in Revolution. And I was not into it.
I wasn’t a feminist yet, and I really sort of—I’d just been radicalized. I thought I was not a woman. I was a person, and I was—[laughs]—I was all excited about the politics part of it, and it was sort of embarrassing to think women would get together and do anything.
So anyway, I supported them sort of feebly, because I had to. But I wasn’t really going to get into this.
And so then I went to Spain for—through Jean Clay, who I juried a show with in Argentina. He and his wife—he had told me—he said, “If you ever want a place to go write, we have a house in a little village in southern Spain, and we only use it in the summer. So if you want to be there in the winter at any point.” So I took him up on it, to his horror, I think—[laughs]—to his wife’s horror.
And so Ethan and I [inaudible] off to Spain for four months in 1970, in the middle of the winter. And Ethan just turned five. And so I wasn’t around for the art strike and that whole business where Bob Morris and Poppy Johnson—and Poppy was, you know, a girlfriend of Jon—this name thing really drives me crazy. This is where I’m getting old.
Anyway, it’ll come back—Jean Toche and Jon—I just mentioned his name—who were the Guerilla Art Action Group. She was with him, and then she got involved with Bob Morris because she was—apparently they had a big meeting at Loeb Student Center, and Bob Morris, for no good reason, because he hadn’t been involved with the coalition or anything, was elected as the figurehead. But he’d given a very good speech or something about the war.
So he was elected as the figurehead for the art strike. And then some woman in the audience leapt up and said, “What about women!” [ Laughs.] And so Poppy Johnson, who was 19 but really good—really out there and beautiful—so she was elected vice chairman of the art strike or whatever. And then she and Bob Morris eventually got married very briefly.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, I didn’t know that.
MS. LIPPARD: Very short-term thing. We’re not going to get off on that. So where were we going?
MS. HEINEMANN: So you were in Spain.
MS. LIPPARD: I was in Spain. I was in Spain for Kent State and all of that stuff. So I wasn’t—which was what brought on the art strike. And so I wasn’t around for any of that. And then I came back. Anyway, oh, while I was in Spain, I was writing a novel.
I saved up money and sold a Don Judd that I had bought when I got a Guggenheim in ’68. I bought a Don Judd with it. I should have kept it and worked on that. [Laughs.] So anyway, I was there to write this very—
[To the dog:] Hey, sweetie—come on, come on. [Laughs.]
I was there to write this extremely Conceptual novel, which was descriptions of photographs. It was supposed to be actually just sort of photographs and an index, and you were somehow supposed to get the narrative with these descriptions. I had done a show called Groups [c. 1970], which was a similar kind of thing, at SVA around that time.
So I went off to Spain and had saved up all this money. Ethan and I went off, and Seth was in Europe someplace; we were on an off-again thing. We stopped in Paris for a few days, and then we took the train down to Spain. And we got to this little village somehow. Rented a car—ran into an old motorcycle. It’s another long story. [Laughs.]
And I was writing this really abstruse little book. But feminism was chewing at me, sort of. And as I was writing it, I found—it was slightly autobiographical. There was a character I sort of identified with—“A”—nobody had names, of course, being very Conceptual. [Laughs.]
And it really—writing this thing converted me to feminism in a funny way. The book became a lot less abstract; it was this book called I See/You Mean, which I only published years later, with Chrysalis Press in the late ’70s . So I rewrote it, and it became a sort of feminist tract at one point. But it was still very abstract, with a lot of descriptions of photographs. Do you have a copy of that?
MS. HEINEMANN: I do.
MS. LIPPARD: [Laughs.] God.
MS. HEINEMANN: I copyedited it for you. [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: Oh that’s right. I forgot. Oh, funny, yes, because that was—of course, that was Heresies, yeah [Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics]. [Laughs.] But anyway, that was the book that in some peculiar process made me a feminist.
I came back and Poppy and Faith Ringgold and Poppy Johnson and Brenda Miller, who had all been involved in the coalition, had started thinking about how to organize, because WAR was not being successful. WAR was—they weren’t that involved in the art world, in a funny way.
And so nobody would listen to them. So we decided that we would—they dragged me in as soon as I got back from my Spain and Maine in the fall of ’70. And I was converted. [Laughs.] And we started Ad Hoc Women Artist Committee. That was the Whitney protests. We did some good stuff on that. You want me to go through all that, I guess?
MS. HEINEMANN: I’m not sure how long this tape goes. Maybe we should change the thing.
[END DISC 1.]
MS. HEINEMANN: This is Sue Heinemann interviewing Lucy Lippard at her home in Galisteo, New Mexico, on March 15, for the Smithsonian Institution—
MS. LIPPARD: Two thousand eleven. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: —Archives of American Art, and card number two. So Lucy—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: We were talking about the Ad Hoc Women’s—
MS. LIPPARD: Women Artist Committee.
MS. HEINEMANN: And the Whitney demonstrations.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah. So anyway, Poppy and Faith and Brenda and I decided we would do something on our own, because the Whitney did not—it was a sculpture—they did annuals then, and it was sculpture one year and painting the next, and it was a sculpture year. And everybody knew women didn’t make big sculptures and so on.
So first we wrote them letters and got them to go to some women’s studios; we did manage to get the curators to go to some women’s studios. But they didn’t do enough, of course. And so we started—we did several things.
We did a fake press release on the Whitney letterhead, which said that the Whitney, because it was founded by a woman and the president of the board of trustees is a woman, was very proud to be the first museum to have half women and half—and non-white and half of those non-white, or something like that.
And we sent this press release out. We asked a lawyer friend if we could get in real trouble for this, and he said, “No, it’s just a hoax.” But he didn’t tell us that if you quoted somebody directly, you were liable. So we quoted the director of the Whitney saying this, who was not a happy camper at this. And we sent these things out to the media, and the Whitney tracked it down. And so we got some coverage.
Then we printed up invitations to the opening. They found out about this somehow. And so they had a sort of machine at the door where they would pass the tickets under, because they used different ink and so on. So when we found out they were—at the opening, we were outside screaming and yelling. And we had a generator. This was so complicated, and Mark di Suvero and Kes Zapkus were, for some reason, helping us.
We’d gotten a generator. Kes brought it up, and we had no place to plug it in. We were going to project women’s slides on the outside of the Whitney. So no place to plug it in, so I went into this—there was a small gallery right next to the Whitney, and I went running in with my huge cord, with this long cord, and I said, “Hi, I’m Lucy Lippard, and I’d like to plug this in.” [They laugh.] And they were so baffled that they let us plug it in.
And so we did some projecting. And then it started to rain and we were afraid we were going to get electrocuted. So we sort of didn’t do that much. But so when we found out that they were doing this thing on our invitations, and our people weren’t going to get in, we traded them with well-known people outside. And we’d say, “Hey, would you mind taking a fake one? They’re going to check you and then they won’t let you in, and you can say who you are,” and so forth.
So we had famous artists and stuff doing that. And then a bunch of us got in, and Poppy was—I was outside the whole time. Poppy and Faith, I think, both had a sit-in inside the show. And then every weekend after that, we—the Whitney is set up perfectly for this, because there’s that silly drawbridge. So you can close it off very easily. [Laughs.] So we would put a picket line across the drawbridge, and the cops would come, and all hell would break loose.
And then we—I think this was Nancy Spero’s idea—we put eggs and Tampax—new Tampax, not, as the rumors would have it, used Tampaxes—clean Tampaxes marked “50 percent women,” and the eggs said “50 percent women,” and we planted them around the museum. And then I did some lipstick stuff in the ladies rooms saying, “50 percent women” and so forth.
And we did some fake docent tours. And we just kept at them the whole time it was up. And it was a hell of a lot of fun. It was some of the most effective things we’ve done, I think. So that was the Whitney one.
Then we kept on doing stuff, and the group got quite large. It started out with being more kind of Minimalist feminist people I knew, and who knew and hung out in the same group. And then it got bigger and bigger. And it was good. And the Whitney—
MS. HEINEMANN: So how many were—
MS. LIPPARD: The Whitney actually got the number of women up something like 400 percent, which didn’t mean a lot of women. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: But there was some response to it?
MS. LIPPARD: There was a response, yeah. Yeah, it did. It worked on some level. And then in—that was in ’69—no, that was in fall of ’70. Then in the spring of ’71 I put together a women’s show [26 Contemporary Woman Artists] for the Aldrich Museum [of Contemporary Art] in Ridgefield, Connecticut. They asked me to do a show, and I said, “Yeah, I’ll do a women’s show,” and they were like, “Bleh,” you know. [Laughs.] But I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t.
And so I put women in. Then I thought, Oh, my God, I know so many women artists. How am I ever going to choose this, and I’m going to get in all kinds of trouble. So I decided to make it women who’d never had a one-woman show in New York or solo show in New York.
So, and that included Howardena Pindell and Alice Aycock and Jackie Winsor, I think. I’d have to look back at the list. But there were a lot of well-known people, including three or four black artists. And so that was another big thing, because Aldrich—Larry Aldrich—didn’t want it there and treated people very badly and was going to buy something.
I think Mary Miss was in it. I’m trying to remember, because she certainly hadn’t had a show yet. Adrian Piper was in it. I’d have to look back at the catalogue. But it was called—I think it was numbers again—14 Artists, or something, Who Happened to Be Women or something like that. And it had a seal. Susana designed the catalogue. And it had a seal. This is actually something Suzanne Lacy had done a little earlier in California—a seal on the thing so you had to break the seal. You had to kind of break the virginity seal on the catalogue. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: That’s great.
MS. LIPPARD: But Suzanne had done it with a rape book or something, which made even more sense. But this was—and what else on those?
MS. HEINEMANN: When did the Women’s Slide Registry start?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, that started with the Whitney stuff. We asked people to just send in their slides. It was in my house for a long time, and then it was at the Heresies office in the late ’70s, and then it went to Rutgers [University], which is where it lives now.
MS. HEINEMANN: How many, in the end, were in it?
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, God, lots. I really don’t remember.
MS. HEINEMANN: Thousands?
MS. LIPPARD: Hundreds anyway, yeah. And I met a lot of people I still know, and we all still know by—they sent things in—artists we’d never heard of, because Poppy and Faith and Brenda and I, when we were planning the Whitney and the Ad Hoc business, we sat down to make a list of all the women artists we could think of and send them stuff about the meetings.
We were appalled. Even me, who knew the names of hundreds of artists by now—[laughs]—we really couldn’t think of that many women artists. It was horrifying. And then we’d ask people and they’d say, “Oh, I went to art school with a lot of women, but I don’t know what’s become of them.”
And so they’d dig them up, and they came out of the woodwork for the registry. So that was a big deal. The whole registry idea then spread, and eventually Artists Space had a registry, not of artists—I think our registry was at Artists Space briefly, maybe not. Anyway, they started a registry of unaffiliated artists. So the whole registry idea just spread to the real world.
MS. HEINEMANN: So the Women’s Slide Registry was the first registry?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah. And then Judy Chicago and Mimi Schapiro came to town, and wanted to see the show in Ridgefield. So we went up. And Grace Glueck came with us from the Times. And I can’t remember why. She wanted to write about it.
So we all—we looked at the show. Actually, a few months before that—there’s this whole parallel universe in California, which I was in touch with because I knew Judy in the late ’50s in New York in the Lower East Side. We were kind of Lower East Side hippies together. And then we’d reconnected when I went out in the late ’60s to a wedding in Malibu and ran into her again.
She came up to me and she said, “Lucy, did you used to go out with a guy named Neil [ph],” who was my AWOL sailor who ended up in jail. [Laughs.] I thought I’d gotten that part of my life behind me. I looked at her and I said, “Yeah.” [They laugh.] And it was Judy, who now lives in New Mexico. You know she lives in Belen.
MS. HEINEMANN: I didn’t know.
MS. LIPPARD: She was here a long time before any of us were. So anyway, there’s this parallel universe out there. Judy came to New York, and Dorothy Seiberling, who was a—what was she—writer, I guess, a woman involved—feminist woman, more sort of bourgeois feminist woman. And anyway, she had a gathering at her house for Judy and Mimi and they showed slides and did the whole From the Center[: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art, 1976] business about the central imagery. And we were—
MS. HEINEMANN: And was this after Womanhouse ?
MS. LIPPARD: No, no this was—this was before Womanhouse, I think. I’d have to check. This is where Moira would be coming in—[laughs]. But anyway, we New York women were all kind of horrified. I knew about it because Judy and I were in touch by then. But everybody was like, “We don’t want to do that stuff,” and the cunt and vagina stuff was creepy for New Yorkers. The New York art world was so male.
In a funny way, the California art world was more male. So they could just—they really could go off and do a separatist thing. In New York, it was very male, but still very intertwined. It was harder to be separatists in New York. So anyway, people were like, “I don’t know about this,” and so on. It may have been the same visit when Judy and Mimi came up to see my show.
And I had been denying all of this stuff. And they went running around the show going, “There, there, there,” you know—[they laugh]. And it wasn’t that much, like, central core imagery, but there’s a lot of stuff that you really did recognize as what—and I finally wrote about it, because I saw it. I didn’t want to deny it anymore.
MS. HEINEMANN: What was that article?
MS. LIPPARD: I wrote about it in the—God, I don’t know. It’s probably in From the Center.
MS. HEINEMANN: From the Center.
MS. LIPPARD: I think I wrote it for a show that I didn’t do at the thing at Columbus Circle, whatever that was called. God, my memory is getting terrible. It’s a good idea to do this now. [Laughs.] So anyway, so I kind of got on board with the West Coast stuff, and then I went to Womanhouse, because there are pictures of me cutting, maybe, a cake and everything—cutting the cake at Womanhouse—and Judy and I were in touch.
We were sort of trying to organize the country. So when they came to the Aldrich show—that’s what I started to say—we had lunch, and we started thinking, “Okay, how do we get the East Coast and West Coast in much closer contact, and how do we get the rest of the country involved?” So we started something. Some bag came up and it was going to be East-West Bag, and then Judy said, “Why is the East Coast always the first?” [Laughs.]
So then we realized that West-East Bag was WEB and you know—[laughs]. So we started WEB, and Judy never did much work on that, or neither did Californians. I think they must have done one issue. So it was sort of a newsletter, and it was edited in a different city all the way across the country. We had it in Alabama and Chicago.
That’s how I met Ellen Lanyon, because I asked friends from Chicago and I said, “So, who should do this?” And they said, “Oh, Ellen Lanyon is a great organizer.” I didn’t know her or her work, I don’t think, at that point.
But I was going to Chicago for something and I got hold of Ellen and said, “You have to do this.” And so she did, and she ended up by being my downstairs neighbor in New York and a good pal and cohort and so on. So that way we got—we did get people from all around the country involved.
MS. HEINEMANN: And how often did that come out?
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, I don’t even have copies of it anymore. It must be at Rutgers or the Archives of American Art. It went for a couple years anyway. But I had to do all the organizing and I got tired of that. But we did have different states and so forth. And it was a great—oh, and they all started registries. That’s what got me going on that.
MS. HEINEMANN: And so at what point—when did you—
MS. LIPPARD: See, this was ’71 to maybe ’73 or something. I really have no memory of when it stopped or how long it went.
MS. HEINEMANN: So then when was From the Center? When did that come out?
MS. LIPPARD: Seventy-six.
MS. HEINEMANN: So first you did the Six Years.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, Six Years was ’73, and I’d done some books before that.
MS. HEINEMANN: Right.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, but in terms of this stuff, Six Years, and then the Eva Hesse book [Eva Hesse] came out in ’76, too, I think. Eva died in 1970. I think the Hesse book was ’76. I’ve got it right here.
MS. HEINEMANN: When did Heresies start coming into this?
MS. LIPPARD: Let’s see. In ’70—there was a period there where I couldn’t sit down at the kitchen table without starting something, I mean, without something being started. It wasn’t necessarily me. But Printed Matter started—we started that first, and then that was—
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you want to say a little bit about that?
MS. LIPPARD: Sol LeWitt and I started it first, although a lot of other people have credit for being in there at the beginning. But Sol and I started it, because I remember we were sitting around this table. He was doing artists’ books. He’d gotten—I mean, Ed Ruscha invented the genre, but Sol was doing a very different kind of artists’ books.
The dealers were sort of giving them away as promo for his work, so that collectors would get interested and stuff. And he thought about them as works of art, and he didn’t want that kind of—that was his reason supposedly. So we were talking, and he said, “Maybe we should start something to do.” It was really, I think, Sol’s idea.
So we got all excited about it. And we immediately got Edit DeAk and Mike Robinson in, because they were doing Art-Rite then, the little funny little magazine. And we figured they knew more about publishing, and they were young, and so forth. And then other people came in. Eventually Sol was with Pat Steir, and she got very involved. She thinks she started it now, for some reason.
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: I’m not quite sure where that came from—and Irena von Zahn, who was somebody’s friend from somewhere—Mimi Wheeler, who was an old girlfriend of Sol’s. Irena von Zahn was the first hired person, and Sol really backed it, but we started the thing.
And we started it—we wanted to publish artists’ books, and so we had a little office in the Fine Arts Building where Artists Space was at the time, or Artists Space was there later, I guess, maybe, and the New Museum, I think, was in that building. Its first office was there. So it was a little hotbed.
And then at the same time, Martha Wilson at Franklin Furnace was also very interested in doing something with artists’ books. So we got together and we kind of split the turf. We were going to publish, and she was going to do an archive.
And we did publish a few books—one of Ellen Lanyon’s and one of Michelle Stuart’s. But publishing was another whole thing. Oh, Amy Sandback, Amy—what was her name—Amy Sandback, Fred Sandback’s wife—but she didn’t—Sandback wasn’t her name. Anyway, she got involved, and she’d been printing little book things too.
And so a lot of people who knew something about it got involved. So then we got an office. Then we decided to be a bookstore and sell ours, but distribute them. Maybe that was early on, that and publishing were our piece of the pie. So we went over [to] Lispenard Street where—by where the back door of the post office is—and got a nice little storefront with a big window.
And then started this great little store, and I did the—I curated—I don’t think of it as curating, but I organized the windows. The windows faced out to the street, and artists did political pieces in the windows. They were almost all pretty heavily political. Andres Serrano did one that was censored by the people next door. [Laughs.] So we just turned it in, so you had to go into the store to see it.
It was a great little place. Ingrid Sischy was one of our first directors. And so was Jack—oh, what’s his name—Barton—no, that’s not quite right—[Bankowsky] who was editor of Artforum at one point. Mike Glier was there, and Mike Glier was very involved. He and I did an artist book show at Franklin Furnace called Vigilance —[laughs]. I think it was called Vigilance, yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: And what—what kind—
MS. LIPPARD: We had a big banner with the [Antonio] Gramsci [quote: "Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will"] across it. We had all these little tables with books, and in the middle of each table was sort of an icon for the kind of books that were on the table. It was a trophy of some kind, and odds and ends. Anyway, it was sort of an artwork in itself.
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: So a lot of people got involved in that, and the windows were my thing. The bookkeeper was Carol, who became Sol’s wife and mother of his daughters and so on—Carol Androccio. And Sol was—he backed it and everything. He was at board meetings and so forth, but Sol was never an interfering kind of a backer.
Carl Andre came in at one point. When we got him in, we decided we wanted him out. But we couldn’t get him out because you had to have a full board vote or something to get him out, and he was on the board with some complicated business. [Laughs.]
And then anyway, it got to be more businesslike, and we moved from Lispenard to Dia [Art Foundation]—the space that Dia, I think, gave, as I was pretty well out of doing much by then, on Wooster Street. Julie Ault did windows there for a while. Julie was involved then. We were a very mixed set. But in the meantime, we had started PAD/D [Political Art Documentation/Distribution] and—well, then we started Heresies in ’75.
That was the same year as Printed Matter started. No, it was—’76 was Heresies, and we started with just, again, sitting at a kitchen table at Joyce Kozloff’s house, is how I remember it. Everybody remembers it differently. And thinking, Well, we should have a voice.
We wanted to get—feminism was beginning to kind of flag, and we wanted to have something more political, and a real publication—more theoretical, more political. And so somebody said, “It needs a voice and a space.” So Mimi was going to start the school, which she did briefly. And we started the publication—The Feminist Art—what was it called—Art Institute or something.
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah.
MS. LIPPARD: And that didn’t last that long. Mimi had arrived from California a year—that year, I think—and she already knew Joyce and me and so forth.
So Heresies—we had big meetings for about a year—open meetings—and picked up people as they sort of wandered in and out of the meetings. And at one point we said, “Okay, we’ve got to start [a] collective and whoever wants to be in it, is in it,” and that was about 15 of us, nine of whom were Aries. [They laugh.] We’re always like that.
MS. HEINEMANN: I didn’t know that.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, it was a bad idea. It was Betsy Hess and Joan Braderman, me, May, Michelle was briefly in it, Mary Miss. And then when we tried to think of a name for the journal, I was somehow desperately involved in calling it Pink, because I loved the West Coast rehabilitation of words, like "pink" and "propaganda" and "girls" and "cunt" and what have you. [Laughs.]
Nobody really liked it, but it got voted in, and then at either the next meeting or later at that meeting somebody said, “That’s a horrible name,” and Mary Miss came up with Heresies, which was from Susan Sontag, some quote from Susan Sontag.
And so we used Heresies, thank God. It turned out that what turned the tide, for me even, was that there was some kind of a semi-pornographic magazine in England called Pink and so—[laughs]—which Joan Braderman knew about.
But anyway, that’s how I met—well, I met Betsy Hess because I was writing briefly for Seven Days because she and Peter were editors of Seven Days, and I did sort of art things for Seven Days and then got her involved in Heresies.
I think she brought Joan in, and there were just—people just floated in and out of these meetings. And then the first issue came out. I had a hysterectomy, and I got out of the hospital and went and pasted up Heresies, I think.
MS. HEINEMANN: Really?
MS. LIPPARD: And we did it in May’s—as I was talking about—in May’s loft, with Rudolf being the gofer and running up and down those six flights of stairs. Were you there at that—you were there. So you were in the original—
MS. HEINEMANN: Not the original.
MS. LIPPARD: You weren’t there for that issue, or you came in at that issue?
MS. HEINEMANN: You brought me in to help with the copyediting.
MS. LIPPARD: Ah, yes—[laughs]. Well, that was the first issue, so you were virtually a founding member. Sabra [Moore] always gets really pissed off because people don’t consider her a founding member. I had to twist Joan’s arm to get her into the movie [Joan Braderman, The Heretics, 2009]. I shouldn’t be saying this, I guess. And then Sabra was really annoyed that people—Pat Jones, who was the office.
MS. HEINEMANN: Patricia, yeah.
MS. LIPPARD: Patricia Jones, and various other people weren’t in it. Carolee Schneemann for some reason was in the film. She never had anything to do with Heresies.
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah.
MS. LIPPARD: She did give us something for an auction once, I remember, when we did that sort of scale auction thing at 112 Greene. I have nothing against Carolee, but she should not have been in the film when all kinds of people who were in Heresies were left out. I just hated it. We had a lot of problems around that.
MS. HEINEMANN: But I guess we should talk a little bit about Heresies.
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, yeah, yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: Just because the two of us know about it.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, right. Nobody else does.
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.] But people listening to this tape won’t.
MS. LIPPARD: Well, stop me when you hear something that doesn’t sound right. After the first issue, we had—after each issue, for the first few, we had these big open meetings and people critted it.
MS. HEINEMANN: Well, maybe we should talk about the first issue a little bit, just because—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, let’s see, what was the first issue? The first issue was really just politics. It was articles about feminism and politics, left politics.
MS. HEINEMANN: How did you get the articles for it?
MS. LIPPARD: That was the original. Well, that was the original collective. I mean, I think that’s why Mary and Michelle and people got out eventually, because it was too political and—because Joan and I and Betsy were socialist feminists, and we were noisy. The collective sort of formed, and then the people—somehow we arrived at that subject, by the endless Heresies process. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Yes.
MS. LIPPARD: And somehow these people volunteered to work on it.
MS. HEINEMANN: And how did you make the call for the articles initially?
MS. LIPPARD: I don’t know, just word of mouth. I guess maybe we put an ad in or something. I really don’t remember. I can’t remember either whether Chrysalis was pretty well—the same time. I can’t remember if Chrysalis was just before us or after.
MS. HEINEMANN: About the same time, I think.
MS. LIPPARD: It was pretty much the same time, but I don’t think they started it at exactly the same minute. So I don’t know whether we used them for a model at all. And then, of course, it was designed—every issue was edited by a different visiting collective, which had to include certain people from the mother collective on it.
The articles would come creeping in, and everybody would read the articles. Each article would have a folder, and on the front of the folder would be a piece of paper. This is always one of my favorite parts of this. People would read the article and comment on it: “Absolutely not,” or, “This is shit,” or, “I love this,”—[laughs]—and so forth. The comments were always all over the board.
And then the endless editing process started, where some people really enjoyed being edited. The academics liked the way we edited because we tried to make it less academic. But a lot of the other people thought they were wonderful writers already and should not be touched and so forth.
So there was that. So anyway, each collective was different, although some of us were in a lot of collectives. I was on an awful lot of them. And eventually, I don’t think even the mother collective did have to be on it. I think there were some that—
MS. HEINEMANN: Well wait, the Third World women’s issue—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yes. So anyway, that was how that came up. It was the first meeting. It was at A.I.R. [Gallery], I think, after the first issue, and women of color were standing up and saying, “Where the hell are we?” And we said, “Okay, you do an issue.”
And then we did racism as the issue after that. That was quite a bit after. The Third World women was first. So people stood up and said they would do that. The collective was terrible then. I really don’t understand. I look back and I think, Why didn’t we have more people of color on that.
MS. HEINEMANN: I think it was partly the time, that there was a lack of consciousness.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, and we were very—a lack of consciousness. But some of us were politicized enough. So we really should have known better. But it was always this thing, “Oh, so-and-so is too much of a troublemaker; so-and-so is hard to get along with; so-and-so hates white people.” And we’d go through people, and nobody would be quite what we wanted.
Faith Ringgold—I had worked with Faith with no problem at all on the Ad Hoc Women, and there were three white women and one black woman. But Faith was all too used to that. But then she started—this is going back to 1970—but she started her own little group, which was she and her two daughters, called WSABAL—Women, Students, and Artists for Black Art Liberation, I think it was.
The whole women’s movement was like that. I remember even WAC having some really stupid discussions around that time. So that was the—
Let’s see, the second issue was—
MS. HEINEMANN: Women’s space—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, that was the architecture—well no, it wasn’t architecture.
MS. HEINEMANN: Well, not architecture. It’s women—
MS. LIPPARD: Pat Stier did the cover.
MS. HEINEMANN: It was the personal and space and—
MS. LIPPARD: Person and political or something.
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah, and just the concept of space.
MS. LIPPARD: I have them all out there. We should sort of be looking at—and the third one was the lesbian issue, which Harmony [Hammond] was—and she was one of the first. She was in the original collective. She was there right at the beginning. And so she was holding out for a lesbian one the whole time. And Su Friedrich was there, I think, early on right there.
MS. HEINEMANN: She came with me.
MS. LIPPARD: Amy Sillman was in it then. I know I’m forgetting millions of people.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, Marty.
MS. LIPPARD: And Marty Pottenger. And Marty and Betsy [inaudible] for the young ones. And then May was the oldest. And May is 13 years older than I am, and Betsy is almost—Betsy just turned 60, I think. So she’s like—or maybe she’s 65.
MS. HEINEMANN: No, she’s younger—
MS. LIPPARD: She’s younger, yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: —than I am.
MS. LIPPARD: Well, then she’s about 13 years younger than I am. So I was kind of right in the middle. I was there for her birthday two years ago, and I can’t remember how old she was. [Laughs.] Terrible. That’s right. She wasn’t 60 yet. I think this may be her 60th, and I’m going to be leaving New York that day. That’s too bad.
Anyway, so the lesbian issue, and then Harmony did the big lesbian show at 112 Greene, which was the first lesbian show in New York, really. And then the issues came rolling out. One of my favorites was “Mothers, Mags & Movie Stars. “
MS. HEINEMANN: And why?
MS. LIPPARD: We had some of the most fascinating—it was supposed to be about class. And we had some of the most fascinating discussions with this broad—that makes a 26-year age difference between the youngest and the oldest.
And we were trying to figure out how—America doesn’t like to think about class or try to think, Okay, how do we define class from a feminist viewpoint? So we started to look at our mothers and grandmothers, and everybody wanted to be working class. [Laughs.]
And you know, they had a farm so they’re working class. Yeah, but they owned the farm, so does that make them more—and we just went through all these endless little permutations of these—the discussions were really interesting, and I think the issue came out well too. And so forth, so anyway, that’s—which issues do you remember best?
MS. HEINEMANN: Well, I remember the ninth issue that we—“Power, Propaganda and Backlash”—
MS. LIPPARD: Yes, yes, I like that one too. There were a few. Spaced every now and then would be these sort of really political issues. And we never really were that theoretical, but we had amazing people writing for it. Sally Stein, Chellis Glendinning, all kinds of—you’d go through it and you’d find sort of the usual suspects and a lot of other really good scholars that were in there.
And we turned down things by good scholars too. [Laughs.] Like too dry or too ordinary or whatever, and each—remember how each editorial collective statement in the front of each one got into it again, like, “Well, we didn’t agree about anything but we”—[laughs]. And the crit-self-crit just drove me nuts, like consensus. I’ve never been any good at that. I love collaboration, but when it gets standardized, I’m not fond of it.
But anyway, the crit-self-crit was at the end of every meeting. We went around, and everybody said how they felt the meeting had gone and how slighted they felt because somebody talked too much and nobody listened to me—[laughs]—and, “So-and-so hurt my feelings,” and there’d be tears and rage. [Laughs.] It was quite a trip.
MS. HEINEMANN: You actually were active in Heresies longer than most people.
MS. LIPPARD: Than anybody, I think.
MS. HEINEMANN: How did you—
MS. LIPPARD: But then I was—by ’86—because ’86 I went to Boulder for the first time—for the second—for January through May—and then from then I was in Boulder for five months. So I wasn’t around that much. I never actually got off the collective, I don’t think. Maybe I did. I don’t remember.
MS. HEINEMANN: I mean, also I think you probably worked on more issues than anybody.
MS. LIPPARD: More issues than anybody, I think so, yeah. [Laughs.] Well, it was perfect for me. I always say Heresies was the first time I felt like I could really write anything I wanted to, because when I wrote for the art magazines, I couldn’t be that political. You had to really tiptoe around, even for Art in America.
I wrote feminist stuff for them, but it had to be—it wasn’t like articles on—it gave me permission, in a funny way, to write about political issues without having to write about art. It was sort of the beginning of some of that for me.
MS. HEINEMANN: So do you think that Heresies actually affected how you thought about art?
MS. LIPPARD: I don’t know if it affected—the whole feminist movement did. But I don’t know if Heresies, as such, did. Heresies, for me, wasn’t much about art. It was really about publication and organizing. It was a great way of organizing women artists or feminist artists or whatever. But I just felt much freer. I was writing things that I could just never have written before. And they got printed—[laughs]—partly because I was on the collective.
MS. HEINEMANN: But you had to read all of the comments.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yes. [Laughs.] And I worked on the ecological issue, which is where Sabra Moore came into the picture. I worked on a lot of them.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you look back at that issue now, given your—
MS. LIPPARD: I haven’t looked at it for ages. I loved the cover. The cover—Mount St. Helens had just erupted. So it was the perfect feminist ecological cover. [Laughs.] I don’t think we were very savvy about a lot of ecological stuff. Eco artists now know so much more than we had any notion of at the time.
MS. HEINEMANN: But it was pretty new then.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, it was. The first time I heard the word "ecology" was Iain Baxter in Canada in the late ’60s. He had a scientific background. He majored in biology or something. And that was the first time I ever heard the word.
It comes from the Greek word for home, I think. So I love that.
There’s the architecture issue, which Susanna more or less spearheaded. Susanna was in at the beginning too. I keep forgetting who was there at the very beginning. I think she was.
MS. HEINEMANN: The racism issue was an interesting one for me.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah, it was a good one. Didn’t Cindy Carr do something in that? Remember we had a—did you go to the—there was a little consciousness-raising deal around that issue. I think it was mostly just the white folks in Heresies.
MS. HEINEMANN: Maybe.
MS. LIPPARD: And I remember a lot of soul-searching and Cindy’s heartfelt, really tearful, I think, tale of coming home from kindergarten or something and her best friend was a little black girl and her mother wouldn’t let her see her. When she found out she was black, she wouldn’t let her see her anymore or something. I’ve always remembered that. It really stuck.
Cindy wasn’t in this movie. Of all people not to be in this movie. She was a major figure in Heresies for a long time. And we all worked our asses off. I don’t know much about the last few years, two or three years.
We were so into handing it on to a younger generation or another group or whatever. And then it never really quite worked out. The time had gone. I learned from that that you stop things when the time has come. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Although it’s interesting to me because I think there are a lot of young people looking at Heresies who might have seen the film—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: Who—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, who are excited by it. But they won’t do the same thing, by a long shot.
MS. HEINEMANN: No. So let’s go back to From the Center, because that—we sort of went into Heresies and then—
MS. LIPPARD: I’ll actually get the book out. It’ll help me.
MS. HEINEMANN: Because that was like a—it included a few pieces that you had in Heresies, or—
MS. LIPPARD: No, that was Pink Glass Swan[: Selected Essays on Feminist Art, 1995]; [From the Center] came out before Heresies.
MS. HEINEMANN: Okay.
MS. LIPPARD: Our first issue was January ’77, and [From the Center] was more or less finished in ’75.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh right, right.
MS. LIPPARD: [From the Center had] a lot of monographs, general essays, which were mostly prefaces to catalogues and things I wrote for Ms. briefly—the thing on the LA Women’s Building, a thing on landscape painting.
MS. HEINEMANN: You had some fiction in there.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, at the very end I had fiction—"Waterly," "Caveheart,",and "Index." [Laughs.] And then I did some film stuff. There’s Yvonne Rainer and Nancy Holt, Remy Horn—not Remy Horn. What was her name? Rebecca Horn. But there are a lot of—it’s a very good—the monographs are sort of interesting in themselves.
Irene Siegel, who was from Chicago, Eva Hesse, Adrian Piper, Jo Baer, Joan Mitchell, Hanne Darboven, Ree Morton, Jackie Winsor—you don’t have to write all these down. You can look at the index, the table of contents—Mary Miss, Judy Chicago, Pandora—I don’t remember—oh, that was, I think, about Marj Strider—May Stevens, Louise Bourgeois, Rosemarie Castoro, Faith Ringgold, Yvonne Rainer, Nancy Graves, and Nancy Holt and Rebecca Horn.
It’s a very odd mixture, but I—that was another thing I was doing from ’70 on. I spent really most of that decade writing primarily about women. And just because there were so many gaps to fill and I could get things published, for the most part, because—yes and no.
I remember Max Kozloff, when he was—of all people—when he was editor of Artforum or co-editor or whatever he was—he said, “No, no featurettes,” because I wanted every single issue to have a short essay on a woman artist, preferably by me. [Laughs.] And I had a huge list. And he said, “No, no. No featurettes.” I could have killed him, and I think Joyce got on him at one point too. [Laughs.]
But I did do a lot of—these are the first four years or so—lots of things on women. And then by the end of the—then I went to England in ’77, the end of fall ’77, and lived there for a year. So I was out writing another novel, which I never published, called The First Stone. It was about three generations of women and how politics affected their lives. It was a big mess of a book. The New Press considered publishing it, almost published it.
Esther Broner was a good friend, who is a wonderful fiction writer, and she read it and she said, “You have no gift for dialogue,” and it’s true. [Laughs.] I always was terrible at dialogue. And she was wonderful at dialogue. And I never published it and I never—I spent the whole year writing it. I had a wonderful time writing it, although the thing that came out of that year was Overlay, the book Overlay[: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory, 1983].
But I wrote this novel and a few essays and things to make some money. And then I just—I had a field day writing it. And when I finished writing it, I didn’t really care whether it got published or not. It was very odd. I’ve never quite understood that. I messed with it for another two or three years. I showed it to people, and I rewrote pieces. And I realized it’s kind of a big mess, and I didn’t want to spend my life doing this.
I really wasn’t that good at writing fiction, period. And so I started another fiction thing in the ’80s. That was really awful. I found a copy and it was so terrible. [Laughs.] But The First Stone had some good stuff in it. A lot of people—a lot of women really liked it who read it, but it would have taken a lot of work to be a decent book. And when The New Press said they decided not to do first novels, that was their excuse. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: It wasn’t your first novel, though.
MS. LIPPARD: No, but it was—nobody counted I See/You Mean. [They laugh.] It was I See/You Mean, although Chrysalis said it was virtually self-published. [Laughs.] You copyedited; I designed the cover. I mean—[laughs].
MS. HEINEMANN: So talk about the year in England a little bit, because that seemed to be—
MS. LIPPARD: Well, it was, again, a wonderful year. That’s the year that set me off on the track I’ve been on ever since, really, in a funny way, partly. I wanted to write this novel, and I’d saved up enough money so I probably could do it if I had a few other gigs. And Charles and I were going to go live in the Southwest. We were going to live in northern Arizona or northern New Mexico, because we’d been down here a fair amount. And then he got a DAAD scholarship.
MS. HEINEMANN: What’s that?
MS. LIPPARD: It’s a Deutscher Akademischer [Austausch Dienst]—the Berlin—it was a big deal. So it’s a year in Berlin. And I balked at going to Berlin, because Berlin then had no country. I wanted to go live in the country. And there was no country in Berlin. [Laughs.] It was before the wall was down. And so we compromised that I would go somewhere nearer to the U.S., and I wanted Ethan to go to a school where he could speak the language.
So I focused on England; and Ethan was 12 at the time. It was a series of kind of fascinating coincidences. I was at a dinner party somewhere—people I didn’t know very well or something. And there was this couple there who—he said he had something to do with Pantheon, and I said, “Oh, really?” I said, “Oh, Pantheon does some very nice political books.” I was very patronizing about it. “Who directs the thing?” and it was André Schiffrin, and he said, “I do.” I said, “Really?”
So I thought—so then I met his wife, who was very outgoing, and she’s Spanish but lived in England most of her childhood because her father was on the wrong side of the Spanish Civil War. And Elena said—I said that I was going to go live somewhere in England next year and I had absolutely no idea where.
I had a friend who had wanted me to look at something in northern England, and I really didn’t care. I just wanted to live in the country and it had to be cheap. So Elena, who I didn’t know at all, said, “You must stay with these friends of mine in Totnes, in Devon, and I will give them your name and you can stay and you can look for a house there, because Devon is wonderful.” So I thought, Okay, what the hell?
So that sort of focused me on Devon. And then I went, and my friend Anne Twitty was living in London then. So she and I rented a car and drove down. Ethan wasn’t with me. And we drove around and we stayed with the Boyers [ph], who were in Totnes, who were Elena’s friends. And we drove around and we had, like, two days to find me a place for the next September. This was in the spring.
Devon is roads with high hedges on the side—little tiny—they’re called "lanes," and they have high hedges. You can’t really see over them. And I had had a dream about the house that I wanted to be in, that I thought I was going to be in. It was a little stone house—gray stone house down in a pit—in a valley of green hills.
Devon looked like that, and there were stone houses all over the place. So we got to the top of one hill. We’d seen several houses and the people had been very stuffy. One man said, “What do you mean, 'A man from Berlin will come now and then'?”
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: So we didn’t see anything that I had envisioned at all. And we came over the top—we were just driving aimlessly around and came over the top of this hill. And I looked down, and there was this stone house in the green hills. And I said, “Oh, my God, there’s the place I dreamed about.” And Anne is an amazing sort of spiritual person. She could channel and all kinds of stuff. So anyway, I don’t know if she channeled. I don’t think she would call it that.
But she was an amazing person, in touch with other worlds. [Laughs.] So she took this all just fine. And she said, “Well, great. We have to drive down there, and you’re going to have to ask them if you can stay there.” And I said, “I can’t do that.”
And so we got down. It was at a dead end, so we had to stop. And there was this farm—all these stone buildings—an old, old farm—12th-century stonework. And so I was sitting in the car and Anne’s going—I was too shy to do that. And then this woman’s face appeared at the window of the house and looked out.
And it was such a nice face. It gave me courage. So I went in. I knocked—pretended I was looking for something else, and I said, “Well, while I’m here”—and she couldn’t understand how I’d gotten there if I was looking for that and so on. But I said, “Well, while I’m here, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a place for my son and I to stay a whole year in a little cottage or something.” And she said, “We have a cottage for rent.”
So I ended up—to make a long story short—when we went back, I sent them some money, and it was a heavenly little place, a little duck pond out in front and green hills. It was just heavenly.
And anyway, when Ethan and I went back, we sent them money, and they knew when we were coming. [Telephone interruption.] And when Ethan and I came, I couldn’t find the place, because it’s this network of little lanes. And Ethan said, “Oh, my God, Mom, did you dream it?” [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: But we had a wonderful year. I wrote, and I walked all over the place. I met a few people. I didn’t really know a lot of people. And now and then I’d go to London and visit—Susan Hiller became a friend. I can’t remember how. And Margaret Harrison and Conrad Atkinson I knew through politics stuff.
And, yeah, this was all before I did the Issue[: Social Strategies by Women Artists, 1980] show at the ICA [Institute of Contemporary Art, London]. So anyway, Ethan went to the cooperative—oh, what do they call it; not the cooperative—the ordinary public school, in a little black suit. [Laughs.] You had to have a black uniform, hiked for a mile up the farm road to get the bus and so on—a completely different life for both of us.
And I walked all over the place. And in England, as you know, you can just walk. And I adopted their border collie—there’s a picture of him right there—and just walked. It was the most heavenly year I’ve ever had. I stumbled on, literally, these stone rings and rows, and started realizing how much they looked like a lot of contemporary land art that interested me.
Then I stared reading a lot of anthropology and stuff, and Overlay came out of that. When I went back to New York—this was [where] both PAD/D and Overlay came from. When I went back to New York, I met André again and he said, “What are you working on?” And I said, “Well,” I said, “I’m doing this book that nobody is interested in because they don’t know what it is.” I said, “If I could show them pictures, they’d know what I was talking about.”
So he said, “I’ll come down and look at the slides.” So he came down and I gave him a slide show. And people warned me. They said, “André does not make up his mind easily, so don’t expect anything right away.” And so as he walked out of the door, he said, “I’ll print—I’ll do the book.” [Laughs.] So I had Nan Graham as an editor, which was a real boon. She was wonderful.
And so that’s how I got involved with Pantheon, and then I probably went with him when he started The New Press. So Overlay was—the year in England was another major turning point. And I can do PAD/D after you—we can do PAD/D tomorrow. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Okay, yeah, and I also want to know a little bit more about just how you do all the research for your books, because you bring in so many different sources.
MS. LIPPARD: Well, I’ll show you the workroom and you’ll get that.
[END DISC 2.]
MS. HEINEMANN: This is Sue Heinemann interviewing Lucy Lippard at her home in Galisteo, New Mexico, on March 16, 2011, for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, card number three. So we’re ready to go.
MS. LIPPARD: Okay. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: And I was thinking—I think we didn’t fully talk about PAD/D yesterday.
MS. LIPPARD: No, I don’t think we really got going on PAD/D yesterday.
MS. HEINEMANN: And I thought maybe that would be a place to start.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, and also it ties—I was talking about England, and that’s one of the sources of PAD/D.
So when I was in England, I visited London now and then, and saw friends who were involved in political art—Conrad Atkinson and Margaret Harrison, in particular—[inaudible]—and Alexis Hunter and Susan Hiller and various other people.
And I realized how much more sophisticated the British political artists were than we were at home. There’s a lot more respect for community arts in Britain than there is here, and certainly than there was then. And so they were doing interesting combinations of community arts and political art, which we sort of separated out. And these were much more effective for input of both parts.
So when I got home, I thought, Well, I’ll do a show called, I think—everybody has the name of this wrong, and they should look it up. But Some British Art from the Left [Art from the British Left, 1979], I think is what it was called. And it was at Artists Space, when it was over there in the Fine Arts Building—a little, little space. And I sent out a card with an image from Rasheed Araeen showing a black man being manhandled by cops. Rasheed was the founder of Black Phoenix and also of thirdspace—the magazine thirdspace.
And then on the card I just put the names of the artists, the title, the place. It was just a postcard, and I put a note on it saying, “Anybody interested in starting,”—something to the effect of, “Anybody interested in starting an international archive of socially concerned art, come to Printed Matter on such-and-such a date.” And it was a Sunday or something, when Printed Matter was closed.
And so we met at Printed Matter, and I got up and made a little spiel about this, and I said, “And the one thing I’m not going to do is start another organization; this is just an archive.” And so Clive Phillpot from MoMA, I think, was there right at the beginning.
And by the end of the meeting it was another artist organization. That’s what people wanted. I met Jerry Kearns through that, and we did a lot of work from then on together—and Greg Sholette, who was the young Turk. They were sort of—a very close friend but sort of were the younger people somewhat opposed to Jerry and I, who were seen as commissars. [Laughs.]
Jerry was just coming out of the Black United Front in Brooklyn, where he was a dedicated communist-left, and I was coming from my sort of liberal-leftie art place. And anyway, so we started this organization. At first it was called Political Art Documentation, because it was supposed to be just the archive. And then I think Clive thought of the name PAD/D as in launching pad or something.
And then we added distribution a year later or so, when we realized we were going to do a lot of other—by that time we were doing a lot of other stuff. And what we mainly did—we organized around issues and stuff. We did exhibitions, public exhibitions, and a few, couple at least, at the War Resisters League building on Lafayette Street, where we had a—first we got an office in El Bohio through Seven Loaves.
El Bohio was on—oh, God, is it 12th Street and C—somewhere right in there. It was a big community building. It was an old school building that had been handed over to community organizations, and somebody gave us—Seven Loaves, whatever that was, I can’t remember—gave us a room. And then eventually we ended up having an office in the War Resisters League building.
And that had a gallery on the bottom floor which was run by Karin DiGia—Ralph DiGia’s wife. And so now and then we would have a show there.
The first show we did was called Death and Taxes , and it was public. It was just anybody who wanted to do anything around the city—we did some things in windows. Herb Perr and Irving Wexler were there from the very beginning, and they were stalwarts.
I did things in women’s restrooms and the stalls, where—it was when Reagan was being elected. It became kind of clear that he was going to be elected, and so I put these things up saying, “Don’t believe the polls. Think for yourself”—[laughs]—my trademark cartoon balloon which I’ve used in activist stuff for years and years.
Yeah, I didn’t mention, back in the feminist days, at some point at Heresies I was doing sort of comic strips starring somebody named Polly Tickle—[laughs]—who I think was a woman of color. I can’t remember. I guess—no, I guess she was just a person.
So anyway, so Death and Taxes was, I think, the first big project we did. It was citywide and so forth. And we published Upfront, which was first called First Issue, and then the second issue of First Issue got kind of complicated. [Laughs.]
So we wanted it to have a double meaning about “this is the prime issue” sort of, but it didn’t work. So we changed it to Upfront. And that magazine—I can’t remember how often it came out, but a few times a year—well, maybe three or four times a year, or maybe it was just random. I don’t remember. And that was an organizing tool.
Then we also did a—woman named Judith somebody and I, primarily, did something called Red Letter Days for a year or two. I can’t remember which year, sometime in the early ’80s, which was a calendar, a sort of one-page, one-sheet—or two, back and front—calendar of all the socially concerned art-related events that were happening in the city.
We printed it out and then we xeroxed it. And then we sat there for an afternoon every time we did it and drew red circles around the red-letter days with a magic marker, and that gave it a certain panache. [Laughs.] It made it look more interesting, and they were all hand done, and we handed that out at Franklin Furnace and various—they were in piles in places.
That was fun. I don’t remember how long we did that, but it was—what is her name—it may come to me. It’s sort of floating in the back of my mind. I think one of the best things we did was—Greg Sholette was really behind this one—was something called The Lower East Side Is Not For Sale, or the Not For Sale Project, in which they did a whole lot of street pieces. And they had openings for museums.
Like, they had—the Guggenheim was at the corner of 10th and Avenue D or something, and we had little plastic cups that people had wine at the opening and the wall—it would be on one of these walls that everybody put posters up on, and it would be full of art and posters. That was a bigger project, and Greg would be the person to ask about that.
But we did, I don’t know, all kinds of stuff. And then we had Second Sundays; the second Sunday of every month we had a thing in Franklin Furnace’s performance space that was just a meeting, but something always happened—there was a performance, or there was a panel, or somebody spoke on a particular issue, and so forth.
And we started—that was actually at Printed Matter—and I remember Marjorie Kramer, that piece about Freedom of Information Act and all the stuff that’s blacked out on the Freedom of Information Act. She did a whole series of pieces. She did a Printed Matter window, and I remember her talking about that.
Another one at Printed Matter, one of the early ones, was Jon Hendricks—that’s whose name I was trying to remember the other day—and Jean Toche for Guerilla Art Action Group—GAAG—they did a piece where they brought stamped envelopes for everybody to request their file, their FBI files. And there are a lot of different stuff.
I actually have a chronology of PAD/D that—MoMA is doing something based on PAD/D now, and they sent me this really messed up chronology. I haven’t had time to look at it, but it’s—it’s sort of a chronology—[laughs]—and with a lot of things that I didn’t even remember we did. We were very active.
We collaborated with Group Material and with Artists Against Apartheid and so forth. And then in the later—in 1984, Daniel Flores and Doug Ashford from Group Material, and I started Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America, which PAD/D was also sort of part of. And that was a vast campaign, national campaign. It had something like 30 shows in New York alone.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, really? I didn’t remember that many.
MS. LIPPARD: And we had poetry readings and performances and musical events and God knows what else.
MS. HEINEMANN: You had that big show too.
MS. LIPPARD: And a big show, yeah. The show took place in a whole lot of different galleries. Coosje van Bruggen was Claes Oldenburg’s wife, art historian and writer and so forth. She was very active in that. So she got us some very upscale galleries which we would not have gotten otherwise. [Laughs.] And Claes did the poster for Artists Call, which was people pulling down a banana monument for a banana republic.
And a bunch of us went to Nicaragua. I went to Nicaragua twice and El Salvador once, and we were going to Cuba a couple of times during that period. Rudolf and May and I and some other people put together—again, Rudolf probably did most of the work—put together a collection of American art to give to the Cuban people. It had small pieces, but I think we had a lot of big names.
We’d call people up. Bob Rauschenberg said at one point—he said, “Oh it’s you.” He said, “I told my assistant not to answer your calls,” because he said, “Every time you call, I have to sign something or give something.” [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: He was always very sweet. He usually did. But anyway, and for a while in there I was—right at ’85 or so, ’84—I was on the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is an organization I hugely admire. I don’t know what I was doing on the board—I was useless—but it was because of Artists Call. Michael Ratner was one of the honchos who liked Artists Call, and he’s coming to speak here in May. So I hope to see him.
MS. HEINEMANN: Can you talk a little bit maybe also about the work that you did with Jerry Kearns?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, Jerry and I then started—I guess it started when he had been doing a show which I think he called Image War. We did several Image Wars eventually—but at UMass [University of Massachusetts, Amherst], where he teaches. And when we started working together, I got involved in it, and it traveled or something. I’d have to look this all up. And it was political art, real polemical political stuff.
We also did a show—we did a lot—we did several shows at District 1199, because we got involved with Bread and Roses and Moe Foner. They had a wonderful union hall up on 43rd Street. We did shows there; we did one on labor.
Hans Haacke’s piece about the Lower East Side, the absentee landlords and the shuffling around of slum properties to be sure that nothing was ever improved, that piece, which had been originally scheduled to be shown at the Guggenheim and was the reason the Guggenheim took him down—we had that at District 1199. It was interesting.
Although people there were not really enthused about it, because they said, “Yeah, we knew about that.” Showed it in an art context and people thought, Oh, boy, isn’t this interesting; who knew? although everybody in the union knew. [Laughs].
And then Candace Hill-Montgomery and I did a women’s show about women workers—Women Working Together or something like that [Working Women/Working Artists/Working Together].
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah. There’s a poster about that in the Julia Bryan-Wilson book.
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, there is? Yeah, and then Jerry and I did a comic show—Keith Haring did the whole molding around the room with his little running figures, creatures, and Peter Gourfain did some great stuff. I had known Peter as a Minimalist artist back in the ’60s, and I hadn’t heard much from him since then, since the ‘70s or sometime. And he wandered into the gallery at 345 Lafayette at one point—339 Lafayette—345?
Anyway, and he said, “What are you doing here?” and he said, “Have you got politics?” [Laughs.] And I said, “Yeah, have you?” [Laughs.] It turned out he was a total radical by then, especially with the Irish causes and so on. So we’ve been good friends ever since and comrades-at-arms. And around that time, too, we collaborated with—there was the June 12, 1982, million person march against nuclear weapons at—it was just huge. It was an amazing thing.
I marched with the Third World People’s Coalition or something like that. And PAD/D—a lot of PAD/D members just did different things. Jerri Allyn was involved in PAD/D and she did the Sisters of Survival thing, nuns in different colored habits who whooped it up around various issues, especially nuclear stuff. And I don’t know, we did an awful lot of stuff in those days. There was just something happening at all times.
MS. HEINEMANN: How did you manage it all?
MS. LIPPARD: I don’t know. Well, Ethan was pretty much out of the house by then, or he was in the house, but he was on his own. [Laughs.] So I didn’t have babysitting, and I just worked pretty much the way I live now. I’d work for six or seven hours, and then the rest of the time was everything else.
MS. HEINEMANN: Because you were writing during that time too.
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, I’ve always written, because that is how I make my living, I point out to people. People say, “Oh, you’re so disciplined,” and I say, “Yeah, if I weren’t disciplined, I wouldn’t be eating.” [Laughs.] So I’ve had that same, more or less, schedule for most of my life. Get up early, write until early afternoon or midafternoon in the old days, and now it’s early afternoon, and then go out and rabble-rouse.
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.] Is this around the time that you were working on Mixed Blessings?
MS. LIPPARD: No, that was later. Mixed Blessings[: New Art in Multicultural America] came out in 1990. It certainly all came out of that period. There were two major periods of radical politics. One was the late ’60s, and one was the early ’80s or up to ’85 or so.
And Mixed Blessings, as I say, came out of a lot of work that PAD/D did and so on. But it also came out of—I’d always known African-American artists and I knew some Latina/Latino artists and some—and there were Asian groups like Godzilla and stuff.
There was just a lot going on in those days. As PAD/D, we were in touch with the Asian American Art Center and the American Indian Community House Gallery, which at that point was on West Broadway. And the Museum of Hispanic Art, which was on Broadway, and then, of course, the Studio Museum was just starting up in those days. All of these things were going in the ’80s, and that’s when I started writing. So I finished it, I guess, in ’89—’88, ’89.
MS. HEINEMANN: And how long did it—there’s so much research that goes—as I was saying at the end of yesterday. That’s what amazes me, is you bring together all this disparate—
MS. LIPPARD: When I published The Lure of the Local[: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society, 1997] in the late ’90s, I wanted to call it All Over the Place, and the publisher said—who is a friend—he said, “Lucy, that’s a little too close to the truth.” [Laughs.] So that was André Schiffrin. And what I do—and then somebody else said, “It looked like you clipped out of every newspaper in the world or something and put it all together.”
And I said, “Well, that’s sort of what I do.” I have drawers full of newspaper clippings on subjects that I’m interested in, and sometimes I never write about them. So that’s why that workroom looks the way it does.
It’s just piled. I can’t stop clipping things out that are related to books I’ve already written and books that I might someday write and so forth. So it’s not really—I have no methodology. I’m always telling people it’s sort of, one thing leads to another.
MS. HEINEMANN: But I think the thing that interests me is, even though you sort of work within a collage-type technique—
MS. LIPPARD: Yes.
MS. HEINEMANN: —you do have a thesis that comes through.
MS. LIPPARD: Well, I don’t know. I never seem to have a thesis. People are always saying—Jim, who is a theoretical mind, always says, “So what’s it about? What’s the thesis?” And I say, “I don’t know; I have no idea. There is no thesis.” It’s just a matter of putting it together. Mixed Blessings had a reason. It had an issue, but it didn’t really have a thesis as such.
MS. HEINEMANN: But you did organize it in different—you had different chapters that brought together different ways of naming and telling.
MS. LIPPARD: Right and mixing and landing—that was the I Ching. Yeah, I don’t know. I often have a visual image of a book before I start writing it. I get the title and the sort of idea about what I want it to be. That does not go for the last book. But so Mixed Blessings—those sidebars and the long captions I just always use now, because I usually use artwork as sort of illustrations rather than any kind of theoretical thing.
So I plunk them into the text where they belong, and then I have to say something about the artwork, and so I put it in very long captions, like paragraphs. I started that with the Eva Hesse book and liked the way that worked out. That book had an odd organization too.
The text flipped over chunks about art—the pieces themselves and so forth. In The Lure of the Local I had this thing called "Vein of Maine" running across the top of it, which was the history of that little place of mine in Maine, to sort of parallel the very local with all the other stuff I was writing about.
MS. HEINEMANN: One of the things that I remember with Mixed Blessings that impressed me was that you had talked to so many of the artists.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, well, I did. I knew them. That’s mostly the kind of research I do. When I was writing mostly about art, I knew the artists, and if I didn’t know them, I looked them up and got to talk to them. The same thing with Mixed Blessings or any of these books.
The Lure of the Local is less so, in a way, because by the time I’m living down here, I don’t have a huge community to just wander out into the streets and pick people up. So that’s a different thing.
MS. HEINEMANN: I guess I’m trying to be somewhat chronological and thinking that also around the same time as Mixed Blessings, Get the Message[: A Decade of Art for Social Change, 1984] came out.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I think that was before. That was before Mixed Blessings. Get the Message was the hardcore political thing. [Laughs.] That came out of, really, the work Jerry and I did together, and we did shows all over the country. We did one at SPARK in LA. We did one in Banff and other places and then the Union. If I could list them, I would. But I can’t remember them all.
And then at some point—we’re still in the ’80s; let’s stick to the ’80s for the time being—I went back to England. I used to go back in spring vacation. Ethan and I would go back because we had made some really good friends on the farm where we lived. And so I did a show at the ICA in London called Issue something, something. It was a feminist art show. It was a feminist activist art show. And so that was fun.
One of the things I remember about that is a lot of the artists came. Mierle Ukeles was one of them. She’s Orthodox, and so she couldn’t ride anything on Saturdays.
So I remember on the Saturday we were installing, I guess, we all—a whole bunch of us; American women barging across London—walked her back to where she was staying or where—most of the way or something. I remember walking across London and whooping it up in the dark because Mierle couldn’t take a bus. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: So you brought over artists from the United States?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, Sandy Nairne was a guy who was head of the Institute of Contemporary Art in London and he’s head of the Portrait Gallery [National Portrait Gallery, London] now. And again, Suzanne Lacy was in it. I can’t remember whether she went or not.
Not everybody went—Adrian Piper, Candace Hill-Montgomery—God, a Turkish and French—Nicole Croiset and—God, anyway, I’ll get that name for you—a couple—not a couple but two women who worked together. One was Turkish and one was French. And then, let’s see, several Brits—Margaret Harrison, Alexis Hunter, Monica Ross—somebody Ross—and a lot of them were working collaboratively—and Mierle—oh, yeah, and what’s her name, Miriam Sharon, from Israel.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, right.
MS. LIPPARD: So it was a very international kind of show, heavy on Americans, of course. [Laughs.] But that was fun to do, and we had a panel and stuff. Oh, and then another thing that was really important to me was, when Jerry and I were first working together in the early ’80s, we met Arlene Goldbard and Don Adams, and they were running something there, social policy art—what is it—cultural policy wonks.
That’s what their field was. They were a couple. And they ran something called NAPNOC, which Neighborhood Arts Programs National Organizing Committee, which, thank God, the name—we got too many knock-knock jokes. So they changed it to the Alliance for Cultural Democracy, which was ACD.
I can’t remember exactly how we met. Somebody we knew knew them or something. And they sat Jerry and me down and said, “You guys think you do political art. You don’t know anything about the community arts movement all the way across this country, which is often just as political as you think you are.” [Laughs.]
And we went, “Oh, really?” So anyway, they educated us and they continue—they’ve split up now, but Arlene does a blog that’s a really interesting blog about cultural policy and other stuff. But anyway, so they drug me—Jerry I don’t think ended up in the alliance, but he did some stuff.
And we did something called the February Nineteenth Movement. I think it was the Nineteenth—a great big sort of activity community arts conference, one-day thing, at 1199—let us have their auditorium because we were doing all this work for free for them.
Anyway, once we got involved with them—I got involved with them—I started realizing how provincial New York was. We always think we’re the center of the world, and there’s all that stuff going on around the country that was really inspiring that really was getting culture across to people in very inventive and funny and political ways that artists hadn’t even thought of because it involves so much more real community organizing.
That was an inspiration to me, and they’ve continued to be an inspiration. So a lot of things came together. Jerry, with his very hardcore left politics—harder core than I had been before—and then ACD bringing in the community stuff and so forth, and then the Center for Constitutional Rights and all the issues that were going on in New York.
And the Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America had a very broad steering committee. Coosje was on it and Julie Ault and this Brazilian musician—God, this name thing drives me nuts. Don’t get old.
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.] I already am.
MS. LIPPARD: Thierry—what was his name? Oh, anyway, I’ll think of it eventually. Julie Ault was there and the Artists Call thing and a lot of people—I think Bill Gourd [ph], performance people. So it was a nice—in a way it was just yet another one of my attempts, which I always called “escape attempts” when I’m writing.
I’ve titled a couple of things “escape attempts”—to sort of get out of the art world. [Laughs.] Which started in the late ’60s and went on with the women’s movement. And I always say, in a funny way the women’s movement made me come back into the art world, where I was headed out at that point.
But the women’s movement, because women needed to get that attention, the shows and articles and things seemed to be the right thing to do at that point, even though it was more mainstream. I wanted to get women into the mainstream, but I wanted to get me out the mainstream. So it didn’t really work too well.
And the same thing, in a funny way, with artists of color in the ’80s also kind of forced me back into the art world for what the art world could give to people, such as it is. During the whole Artists Call thing I was terrifically involved with Central America and I wanted—I thought, Well, maybe I’ll just quit all this business, because I was writing—oh, that’s the other thing. I was writing for the Village Voice for four years, 1981 to 1985, and I thought, Well, I’ll just be a journalist and get the hell out of the art world.
By this time I don’t think the art world thought I was in it. [Laughs.] But I was still making my—thank God for the art world. As somebody said, “It’s been very, very kind" to me. It kept me alive for all the time I’ve been kicking and screaming about them. So the Voice, anyway, was—I got fired by the Voice after four years. I was hired to write about political feminist community arts once a month—big deal.
And then they got this new editor in from the Boston Phoenix and he fired me. He could never tell me why. I said, “Well, so what’s wrong?” I said, “You want to edit my next piece and show me what’s going on?” I knew I could write. And he said, “It’s not your politics. It’s not your politics.” And I thought, Oh, really, funny you brought that up. [Laughs.]
And then the activist art community gave me a picnic down in Battery Park, and they gave me a Styrofoam Statue of Liberty crown. [Laughs.] And that was a lot of fun.
Anyway, so that was part of that. But where I was going from here? It’s going to be pretty jumping-around. But all these things kind of come together in different times, and the ’80s was just a very lively—
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah.
MS. LIPPARD: Reagan—there was a lot of demonstration art. That’s another thing we did. We did a lot of demonstration art.
MS. HEINEMANN: When did WAC come into it?
MS. LIPPARD: That wasn’t until the ’90s.
MS. HEINEMANN: I can’t remember either.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I was so pleased when my daughter-in-law, when I first met her—before she was my daughter-in-law—she said, “Oh, yeah, I went to WAC meetings.” I thought, Yes! Anyway, let’s see—oh, and actually—after the Voice, the ’80s were really split. All this is really the early ’80s, in a funny way, because in ’84 my father died, and then I started having to take care of my mother, who was in New Haven.
She was taking care of herself, but I had to be there a lot and so on. And I spent the summers with her in Maine. I was getting pretty stir crazy at that and not very good at it any more than I am now. [Laughs.]
And then I was offered to teach a semester as a distinguished visiting professor at University of Colorado-Boulder. I had always turned down teaching things. I, again, did visiting things for a week or something every now and then but not—I just never wanted to teach. But this one I sort of took as an escape, frankly, and also Charles and I had been in Boulder for a couple of weeks and we stayed in the same place—some kind of short-term thing—Charles and I and Ethan, actually.
And there’s this placed called Chautauqua, which was an old Chautauqua—the 19th-century Chautauqua movement. There’s now a bunch of little brown houses on a hill above Boulder and right on the edge of all the hiking trails. They were rented in the winter to graduate students and transient professors and stuff, and in the summer it became a summer resort.
So I said, “Can I have a little brown house?” and they said, “Oh, yes, you can have a little brown”—they’re very cheap, and they were cold. Now they’ve been very fixed up. But in those days they were pretty primitive. And they were tiny. Since I came in January, I never knew what I was going to get, if there might be a bigger one that was up—or there might be a little teeny one that was—[laughs].
But anyway, so I went out there for that one year in ’86—yeah, ’86—and loved it. And in New York, the activist community was beginning to kind of slow down. It’s always hard to get artists out of their studios to do anything. It’s like herding cats. But it was getting harder, harder and harder to get people.
Anyway, so in Boulder the students were there, and I immediately fell into the activist community there, which was just—the art department was not nice to me. They didn’t even ask me out to coffee after having gotten me out there. And the guy who got me is a strange guy I’d known since the ’50s, actually.
And so I fell in with my natural community—[laughs]—and had a wonderful time. We started something called the Outside Agitators, and we did all this street performance art with a huge picture of Reagan. Kristine Smock—a friend of mine out there—did this giant head of Reagan, and we had a long, long stuffed nose.
And we had a quiz show thing going on that we’d ask—he’d lie, and then we’d pull his nose out, and pretty soon his nose was out six feet long, and we’d all be standing there. Then, we made “Fuck you, Mr. President” T-shirts. And I got my picture in the yearbook with a “Fuck you, Mr. President” T-shirt on. [Laughs.]
Boulder was just great, and I knew some people there through Artists Call, because I’d recruited somebody I’d never seen for Artists Call out there, and she turned out to be one of my best friends—a writer named Jennifer Heath.
Then they wanted me to come back and be in the department. I’d taught two—I taught a seminar and a lecture course on activist something or other. The seminar was cross-cultural, and the lecture was about—I started with the Russian Revolution and went on about art and politics. And they wanted me to teach, and I didn’t want to teach.
But I loved it out there and I thought, Oh, I could really use this kind of escape for five months a year. And so I said, “Well, I could do just one seminar,” and so I became an adjunct. I was never on the faculty or anything.
But I just did this one seminar. And all the rest of the time I spent doing activist stuff and writing. By that time it was after I was fired by the Voice. I was writing for In These Times—which I was then fired by too—[laughs]—eventually. They let me go, anyway.
Then I went to Z Magazine, and by the time I got [there], I think it was down here. I didn’t really have anything to write about. So those were my three sort of activist magazines, and these were all magazines that weren’t about art.
I did the only art things in them. So anyway, Boulder became a really major part of my life, and we started various things out there. I did shows out there, and we just kept up the usual stuff. So that was ’86.
MS. HEINEMANN: Were you traveling a lot?
MS. LIPPARD: So ’86 through—actually, through ’90—I think I did it for nine years—I think it was ’94. I was already living down here when I did the last Boulder stint.
MS. HEINEMANN: Did you travel a lot during that period too?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah. I did. Well, we had to get out of our houses in June. By the first of June, we had to clean everything—they’d charge us a fortune if it wasn’t perfectly clean and everything—and get everything out. And then I found that I—I started traveling, and the first trip I took was to Canyonlands [National Park, UT] with a photography class—[inaudible]—about six of us went and camped in Canyonlands for a week, and it was heavenly.
So I thought, Ooh, I could do more of this, because I’d never really done that kind of thing, except with Charles. So then I started running—we ran the San Juan River for 10 days, and we went hiking in Grand Gulch and all of these places all over the West. And that’s where the archeology really started kicking in, and rock art, which became a real passion.
MS. HEINEMANN: But didn’t that sort of—
MS. LIPPARD: Petroglyphs and pictographs and stuff. And that sort of fit in with—it was sort of continuing Overlay. And at the same time that was where I got the idea for The Lure of the Local. I remember I was driving from Utah, for some reason, alone across Colorado, and suddenly The Lure of the Local popped into my mind. [Laughs.] And I thought, Oh, that’s what I’ll call it. I was teaching a seminar-in-place, whatever that was.
I had never heard of cultural geography, which was the field. I was at an anti-racist meeting at the university, and there was a guy who was very articulate. And I said, “What do you teach?” And he said, “Cultural geography.” I said, “What’s that?” And I realized that I was teaching a seminar in something that I knew nothing about. I was teaching it from the art viewpoint.
I never saw that guy again, but the next year—the lovely thing about Colorado, being in there, was each semester I was there, I sat in on a course. So I had Spanish literature in Spanish, and I had Chicano literature, and a couple of Native American things.
So then I sat in on a cultural geography course, and the guy had no idea who the hell I was. I said I was teaching a seminar in the art department, and I had a lot in common, and could I sit in, and so he let me sit in. And at one point halfway through the thing he said—he looked down at his book, and he looked up and he said, “Well, this is strange. They seem to be quoting you.” [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: It was—I would have preferred a low profile, but that was kind of nice. Anyway, so Boulder is still—I still have very close friends there, one of whom who just bought a house here.
MS. HEINEMANN: Right, you mentioned.
MS. LIPPARD: And it was a very—but when the time came to actually settle someplace, I didn’t want to be in Boulder. I didn’t want to get dragged into the university; it was the most—there were some nice people teaching there, but it was the most dysfunctional department you can imagine. It got put in receivership to the physics department, it was so badly—and ever since, it’s just been very dysfunctional. I didn’t have to go to meetings or anything.
So I really was not aware what was wrong with it. But at one point that first year they said, “Well, would you just like a teaching—would you be on the faculty?” And I thought for a minute and I said, “Could I have free xeroxing?” because we were leafleting everything all the time. [Laughs.] And they said, “Yes.” And you those were the days—the next year they knocked out free xeroxing for everyone. But I had a moment where I thought, Ooh, free xeroxing, maybe I’ll teach. [Laughs.]
But then one seminar I was doing was this thing that was a feminist seminar. And one young woman, who obviously didn’t much like the thing, just said to me on her evaluation—I got good evaluations generally—but she put, “Lucy doesn’t have time to teach.”
And I thought, She is so right. She was somebody whose name I could never remember, because there was a Kristen and a Kirsten and a Christine and a something. But that always stuck in my mind because I thought, She’s right. I taught and I was there for my office hours stuff, but—
MS. HEINEMANN: You had many other things to do.
MS. LIPPARD: I had a lot, and I was still writing full-time.
MS. HEINEMANN: So while you were in Boulder, were you also spending time in New York?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, see, I was five months in Boulder—January to June—and June, I often went hiking off in wherever after I got out of my house.
MS. HEINEMANN: And then in the fall you would—
MS. LIPPARD: And then I would go back, and then I’d go back to New York, and I’d take my mother to Maine. And she died in ’92 when I was in Mexico with Kathy Vargas, actually. She had a stroke. The strangest thing—when my father died, I was just about to go to a party at Peter Gourfain’s, and the phone rang; it was just before Christmas in ’84.
And I don’t usually—I just slam the door and think, What the hell. I didn’t have an answering machine then. I never had an answering machine. [Laughs.] But I thought, Maybe I better answer that, and it was the fact that my father had died. And so I went rushing down to Grand Central, got on a train—the next train out—sat there, waited, waited. The train didn’t go anywhere. Then they announced that it was broken down and we’d have to get off and get the next train.
So that was bad enough. Anyway, then when I was in Mexico City, I got a phone call from the—garbled—I couldn’t make out what it was—message from the guy at the desk at the hotel. And I finally realized that it was something about the Whitney Center, where my mother was living. And she’d had a stroke. And so I did the same thing.
I rushed out to the airport and got on a plane, and it went to the end of the runway and it stopped. And they broke down. And it came back and I spent hours trying to get another flight out, and I was rushing around the Mexico City airport like, “Mi mama esta muriendo.” [Laughs.] I was like, “You’ve got to get me on a plane.”
And I finally got on a plane and got there at three in the morning or something, carrying a huge rain stick that I’d bought for Ethan. That was just such a weird coincidence. I don’t know why I’m telling you this on this tape. So anyway, my mother died in June ’92, and in November ’92 I bought the land here. But I didn’t move down for—then I built the house in ’93.
MS. HEINEMANN: What drew you to Galisteo? I know that Harmony lived here.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, Harmony was here. I’d been coming down to Santa Fe a lot while I was in Boulder, because Judy Chicago used to live here and she was an old, close friend. I used to stay with her, sometimes sit with her cats—her millions of cats. And then when—and Harmony was living here. I used to see Harmony down here.
But she was in various different places around town. And then one year—I guess it must have been ’87, I think, because I remember when I was hiking with a bunch of friends. We were in Colorado and stuff, and then we came down and hiked the Creston, the volcanic dike eight miles south of here. And Harmony said, “Well, you’ll go through Galisteo. Stop and look at this house, because I’m thinking of buying.”
And so I stopped and looked at it, and the minute I started staying with her, I didn’t want to stay with anybody else, and I wanted to be out here. And then my mother died. That was before my mother died. Well, as I say, it was about ’87, and she moved in, I think, in ’88. So I started coming down here a lot. And then when my mother died, I had some money for the first time in my life.
And so I—and I could move. I could leave New York. So it all just piled up, and I also started being involved with a guy in Maine, which was not very geographically logical. But thank God I didn’t stay in Maine.
I had a moment where I had just bought this land, and when we really got together and he was trying to get me to live in Maine. And I probably would have done that at that point, but thank God I didn’t. I mean, A, we only lasted six years, and, B, this is where I want to be.
MS. HEINEMANN: And you still have the place in Maine?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I still have the place in Maine. It was my parents’ and my grandparents’. And Ethan—thank God, Ethan has taken over doing everything up there. But I still have my little sailboat. I have a 12-foot sailboat that I sail out to sea in.
MS. HEINEMANN: And so how often do you go back to New York? Do you feel like you have to, or—
MS. LIPPARD: No, I mean, it’s fun to see the grandchildren. [Laughs.] And I have so many friends there. It’s really kind of frustrating because I don’t ever get to see everybody, and people get mad because they haven’t gotten called and so forth and so on. But I usually go back once a year. Pretty much once a year I get a gig in New York and I go back, and that’s about it.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you miss not seeing all the art, or you feel like you’ve seen it?
MS. LIPPARD: No, I saw a lot of art. As I said, I think for 35 years I saw a good 20 to 30 shows a week. It’s not like I don’t like art, but I enjoy it much more now when I see something every couple of weeks. I see one or two shows, and that’s very nice. I miss a lot of things that I probably should see or that I think I should see or that friends did or something. But it’s really not my life anymore. But since—a part of my life.
MS. HEINEMANN: Let’s go back to Lure of the Local.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: Is that sort of a moving-away point for you in terms of the writing?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, well, Boulder was the place I started thinking about Place. And it sounds kind of woo-woo, but the first year I was there, I was hiking on these—I hiked every day; it was first time since I lived in England that I’d been able to walk in the country every single day. And I sort of suddenly felt the history coming out of the ground at me. It was a very funny feeling. My grandparents and great-grandparents both lived in Colorado. I have some personal history there somewhere.
But I never got that involved in Colorado history. I got interested in bits and pieces but not—but then I did this class. In my seminars, I always had a combination of graduates and undergraduates and studio and art history people. And I used to make them all do everything.
The studio people had to write papers, and the art historians had to make art, not draw things but make installations about the subjects that we were working on and so forth. I’d get them to do things on bits and pieces of Place around there. It was part of the course. I was already interested in it enough to do a seminar in it.
But I think I did that seminar for two or three years maybe, within the art department, and at one point taught a seminar in the Chicano studies department. It was sort of all over the university. I finally came to realize that the university was a place—because the first year I was there, I was really taken by all the different resources. I knew people in all these different departments, and it was exciting.
You could talk to people about an idea you had about this, and they would bring their department’s work into it and so forth. And then I began to realize that it’s very hard to get a course cross-listed. Even though there’s this huge potential for interdisciplinary work, at that point anyway, it wasn’t happening, because it was just so departmentally factionalized. I thought, The hell with that; I don’t think I want to do that.
But anyway, The Lure of the Local: when I moved to Galisteo—even before I moved here—the first notes were before I moved here. By that time I was an archeology buff, especially rock art. And I was lucky to meet the woman who’s written the most about rock art in the Southwest and really paved the way for everything that’s gone on since, who’s my age—Polly Schaafsma.
And so I was doing research in the library, in the anthropology library, about Galisteo just because I was interested and I knew there were all these—there are eight Pueblo ruins right within almost walking distance. Harmony and I used to just go out and tromp around and trespass and find these things. I was just fascinated by the place.
And I thought, Well, I’ll write a book about that. And The Lure of the Local, I thought, Well, I should practice what I preach; I’ll write about the local. It got far more local than I had intended it to get. [Laughs.] That tone was very, very local. But New Mexico history is fascinating, and I’m still—I have another book coming out—[inaudible]. It was supposed to be one book and I got totally—
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, you mean a new book?
MS. LIPPARD: It’s Down Country[: The Tano of the Galisteo Basic, 1250–1782, 2010]. I broke it into two books because I’d gotten so involved in the archeology.
MS. HEINEMANN: We’ll talk about that one later. [Laughs.]
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah, okay. [Laughs.] Anyway, so you can kind of get the thread of one thing leads to another. It’s really how I’ve always lived.
MS. HEINEMANN: But what interested me also about Lure of the Local is how you brought all this different art into it too.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, in a funny way I have to—I use art in lectures and books. But I love bringing the art in. People don’t know that artists do this or that or whatever. But this one is the only one that has no real art in it at all—well, rock art.
And the Indians—the local Native people really don’t like it to be called "rock art," because they say it’s not art. It’s a part of their culture. It’s not some frippery. [Laughs.] It wasn’t done for aesthetic enjoyment. It was done for religious reasons and so on.
But as I say, I still do museum catalogues for people now and then. I just wrote the text for a book that Michelle Stuart put together.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, right.
MS. LIPPARD: Michelle and I have a real meeting of the minds around all of this stuff—archeology, photography, land, history—all of that stuff. We’ve always both been interested in that, and we’ve always had good conversations about it.
MS. HEINEMANN: I just saw her show in New York.
MS. LIPPARD: Well, the book is very, very nice. It’s here somewhere around in the mess.
MS. HEINEMANN: Are you still actually curating shows or—
MS. LIPPARD: No. Well, I did one in 2007. I did a huge show in Boulder at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, which is a little museum, but I think 17 public art pieces out all over the place, in the newspaper, and all over town, and a whole bunch of other—I think it was 50-some artists. The museum couldn’t believe I was—stop, stop, you know. [Laughs.] Once I got on climate change—and it was called Weather Report: Art and Climate Change.
MS. HEINEMANN: So what kind of work was in that show? That’s very interesting.
MS. LIPPARD: A lot of photography, a lot of activist kind of stuff—Greg Sholette and Janet Koenig, who had a piece—to go back to my past—had a wonderful piece about computer disposal and how computers affect the body and so forth. Subhankar Banerjee—good luck with that name—is an Indian American. I think he’s got his citizenship now—who lives here as a photographer, who has been extremely active in saving the Arctic from oil drilling and stuff.
And Chris Jordan, I since wrote a text for his book, wonderful stuff called Running the Numbers[: An American Self-Portrait, 2009]. They’re huge photographs and you don’t—they look abstract. You think, What is—and you look up closely and you realize it’s thousands of plastic bottles. And the titles are Three Million Plastic Bottles, the Amount Used in One Week by Americans, or something like that. They’re all tied to statistical stuff—paper, all kinds of ecological things. He was in it.
Beverly Naidus, do you remember her? She was floating around New York for a long time. Pat Johanson. Mary Miss did a beautiful outdoor piece, and I don’t know—there were hundreds of artists.
MS. HEINEMANN: When you—
MS. LIPPARD: The Harrisons.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you go out and find artists that you haven’t heard of before?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, again, it’s this one thing leads to another. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: All over the place.
MS. LIPPARD: That and collage are the two major methods. I start with the people I know who have done Eco art, things that relate closely to climate change, or I think of people who did Eco art things, and then I’d write them and say, “Have you ever done anything on climate change?” And the minute you start looking for something, you start seeing it everywhere—in art magazines, and people would tell me about somebody else and so forth. There were several local Boulder artists—Boulder, Denver—artists in it.
MS. HEINEMANN: Are you involved with the—there’s a group, a conference that they have with Eco art and stuff?
MS. LIPPARD: There’s a Web site—not a Web site—what do you call it—I don’t know what you call it—an online group called Eco Art something or other, Eco Art Space or something. Aviva Rahmani is extremely involved in that, and she was in this show. She’s speaking here next week, actually.
But I’m not sort of logged into it or whatever. I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t want to be a member of anything, frankly. But I’m in touch with those people. Pat Johanson has done quite a bit down here, and Mary Miss—
Another thing I’ve worked on here is I was on the [Santa Fe] Railyard Park design committee and jury and post-design construction committee and so forth. And Mary was one of the designers of the park.
It’s too bad you haven’t—get to see that, because it’s right across from where you live.
MS. HEINEMANN: Okay, I know where that is.
MS. LIPPARD: That used to be just sort of a homeless place. But the acequia, which is the ditch, the irrigation—that’s another whole story—runs through it.
Mary and Ken Smith and Fred Schwartz were the architects who won the competition. It was an international competition. And then at the very end, she and Ken Smith—they weren’t a couple, but they broke up professionally and they were a mess and so forth.
But the park, it’s really quite wonderful. Santa Fe had no real park. We have the plaza, which is a little tiny square. But this is—it’s got an area for performance stuff and a beautiful ramada. It’s right behind SITE Santa Fe. It’s around SITE Santa Fe and the Teen Warehouse and a whole lot of other stuff. So anyway, where was I going with this?
I got involved with that because they asked me to be on it and I said, “Listen, I don’t live in Santa Fe.” I was already very involved in Galisteo community stuff. And I said, “No, I’m not going to get involved in city stuff too.” But then the guy who was running it was very persuasive.
The Trust for Public Land got the easement and dealt with the whole design process—the construction process—and then gave it to the city. And now there’s another group that’s the Stewards of the Railyard Park, and I’m involved in the art committee part of that. [Laughs.]
We’re mainly just to be damn sure that nobody puts a lot of lousy plunk art in the park, because, as Mary said, the park is a work of art, and I keep saying that over and over again. Because they’d love to just junk it up with various things.
I had something else to say there. I wonder what it was. Oh, yeah, so I got on it once this guy talked me into it because I thought, Well, I’d love public artists to be able to be in this competition, and so forth.
Once I got involved, I suddenly realized that—there were public artists involved on teams, but no public artist could possibly cope with what this park—it’s a huge infrastructural and landscape art thing. It’s not a public artist thing. Even the public artists like Nancy Hall, who really know what they’re doing, are still not capable of doing—Nancy was also on a team that didn’t get anywhere. But it was an interesting process.
I learned—I always learn a lot. I don’t think I give much, because I don’t understand what’s going on half the time. [Laughs.] And I’m also involved with the Center for the Study of Places, which used to be the Center for American Place, which was a publishing company, and that’s a long, ghastly story. I won’t get into it. [Laughs.] But that’s another aspect of publishing books about Place that I’ve really learned a lot from.
MS. HEINEMANN: And did this come before you wrote Lure of the Local or—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, after.
MS. HEINEMANN: After?
MS. LIPPARD: After it. And then while I’m at it for the stuff that goes on here, I was for seven years or something on the board of the Earthworks Institute, which has been doing a Galisteo Creek restoration project for many, many years.
And that’s the ecology of the Galisteo Basin, sort of. I was on the county open lands and trails committee for a year or two, which acquires open space with the first bond—we got a bond to acquire open space in Santa Fe County, which was a big deal. It was the first time we’d had any of that. And then here I have been publishing the Galisteo—El Puente de Galisteo—the newsletter—for 15 years. I started it in January ’97 and I’m in my 15th year.
MS. HEINEMANN: And what’s in that newsletter?
MS. LIPPARD: And I’m also on the Galisteo traditional community planning committee and the fire department. [Laughs.] So that’s why I don’t like to get involved in Santa Fe stuff, because I can’t vote there.
MS. HEINEMANN: So what’s in the newsletter? How often does it come out?
MS. LIPPARD: It comes out every month, and it’s a terrific chore, but it’s something I can do, and do well, for the community. So it’s one of the few things I can do well. The bake sale part of the fire department I’m not good at, the toilet cleaning and so on. I never clean my own toilet. Why should I do the fire department’s? [Laughs.]
But the newsletter is—it’s a four-page, several-thousand-words thing, and it’s just what’s going on in the community and ecological and land issues and stuff but also just gossip. Not gossip—I actually didn’t do a gossip column. I was asked to and I said, “You do it. I’m not doing it.” There’s a little thing called “Bits and Pieces,” which is things that—people get awards or get published or have a show or whatever.
MS. HEINEMANN: So do you do most of the writing for it?
MS. LIPPARD: I do virtually all of it. [Laughs.] I cover meetings—county meetings and local stuff—and there are a few other people who contribute now and then. But basically, I do it. I didn’t expect to have to write the whole thing every time, but I—and now and then people will put in a little story or a poem.
MS. HEINEMANN: And do you get feedback on what everybody, the community, wants?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, it’s so funny because after I’d been doing it for about a year, I asked this local woman, who now actually is our fire chief, Jean Moya, and I said, “How long do you think it’s going to be before people come to me with things?” And she said, “Oh, that’ll take a long time.” [Laughs.]
And it has. The Anglos are much better at it, but the local Hispano community rarely—but every now and then they come in like gangbusters.
We had the bridge was recently dedicated to a corporal who died in Vietnam, who was the son of two older people who used to run the store and died several years ago. Somebody in that family got on the county, and got on the Veterans Administration and so forth, and got that bridge named after Corporal Michael—George Michael Anaya. So there was a big spread on that, and that was a big deal.
And so now and then—and the obituaries are kind of—they come in little lumps, for some reason. I’ll have no obituaries for a year or two, and then all of a sudden they’re—in one week in the beginning of January we lost two people and almost lost a third.
MS. HEINEMANN: Wow.
MS. LIPPARD: [Laughs.] Actually, it was three days.
MS. HEINEMANN: Wow. And it’s such a small community.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, it was very, very weird. And we have a lot of people here with cancer, which is another story.
MS. HEINEMANN: Does that come from being downwind or something?
MS. LIPPARD: No, not really. We are right near Los Alamos, but we’re not on their water; we don’t get our water from anything that’s directly affected by Los Alamos. So who knows? A lot of these people come from elsewhere. So they may have already gotten it or something.
So it’s—the newsletter is just a funny mixture. Some issues would be so deadly dull for anybody from the outside to read. My outside friends are always saying, “Oh, send me the newsletters.” And I say, “No, you have to—I just do it for the community. It’s not a work of art.” [Laughs.] Anyway, but it is fun and it’s something I can do and I’m also nosy. And it helps me with the history of writing stuff and so forth.
MS. HEINEMANN: So is that your main writing now, is the history writing or—
MS. LIPPARD: Well, yes and no. This book took me—this tome took me—
MS. HEINEMANN: Let’s talk about it.
MS. LIPPARD: —about 18 years to write, but very off and on.
[END DISC 3, TR01.]
MS. LIPPARD: So anyway, as I said, when I first came here, I was really interested in all the archeology and the rock art, and I thought I might do something on the rock art in the Galisteo Basin. And then I realized I don’t know that much.
There are two kinds of rock art books. One is just people who love it and say what it is, and another is the kind of thing that Polly Schaafsma does; she really knows the anthropology behind it and everything.
And I realized I didn’t know that much. And so I thought, Well, I’ll just write a book about the Galisteo Basin, and I’ll use the history, but I’ll write my kind of book. And then it turned out that there was no history. I fought writing a history for years and years. I took notes. I had this huge chronology, and I was going to have that on the front of the book and then write my own kind of meandering thing about the land and so forth.
And eventually the history and the archeology just swallowed me up, and I decided, Okay, and I fell into the abyss. So it’s basically archaeology, and then it gets to be history, as we say, since no history existed before white people came along to write it down. I say “pre-European” and not “prehistoric” in that book.
And then, luckily, I had met through Cesar Paternosto, an Argentine—is he Argentine; yeah, an Argentine artist and sort of Andean scholar—I had met Ed Ranney, who was a photographer who specialized in Peruvian archeology and Peruvian ruins, in New York years and years ago. And Ed came and saw me, and we sat down and we had a nice time.
And then I didn’t really think that much more about it until I moved out here and realized he lived right across the basin, and that he was an archeology sort of specialist. He’s a wonderful printer and he uses a big-format camera. Really a very subtle kind of photographer, and he wasn’t going to do these high-contrast clouds-and-mountains kind of a thing.
So we got together out here, and I said, “Do you want to work on this book with me?” And it took 10 years even after he was involved.
But that 10 years, in 2000—anyway, somewhere in the late ’90s—I guess it must have been back to Boulder because I had these—I had a lot of friends in Boulder who were psychics and stuff. And so this woman had said, “Oh, you’re going to have a lot of money soon,” and this did not look possible on any level. [Laughs.] This was after my mother died and I had spent all the money on the house. And I had—at one point the Lannan Foundation, which is this wonderful foundation here; they do politics and literature and art and all kinds of things.
And I had tried to figure out how to interest them in what I was doing with the Galisteo book, because I knew I—I would write on it for two or three weeks, do some research. I never—was doing research in different areas each time. It was just a completely scattershot way—a God-awful way to do a book. That’s why it took so long, because I never got to really sit down and write it.
So I decided I’d like to apply for something to sit down and write it. So I asked, but the Lannan doesn’t take applications. So I asked a friend how you get on their radar. And they said, “Oh, you just—you write them a letter and say, ‘Now, tell me what your guidelines are for applications,’ even though they don’t do it, and tell them—and make it an application.”
And this was somebody that worked there, a Native woman. And I did that, and then I never heard from them. So I got back from Maine, and I got a phone call in September, right toward the end of the year, saying I’d gotten a good chunk of money to work on this book. And they expected it to be done in a year or two. It was to finish this book. [Laughs.] And it took another 10 years.
But they’re wonderful. So that was very nice, although I wrote two other books. From the time I started that, I wrote The Lure of the Local and the tourism book, On the Beaten Track[: Tourism, Art, and Place, 1999].
MS. HEINEMANN: You wrote those while you were writing this?
MS. LIPPARD: While I was writing—this was very scattershot, even once I got the money, because I already had these commitments to do other things and so forth. So I just kept doing it scattershot. But it was practicing what I preached. I was writing about the locals.
MS. HEINEMANN: There’s a tremendous amount of research that you’ve done.
MS. LIPPARD: A tremendous amount, yeah. It’s really—it was fun to do. What wasn’t fun was once I’d done the research—which was fun, and all the hiking around and seeing everything and so forth—was trying to put it together and also trying to check the research. I was very lucky, because by this time I knew some archeologists, and one in particular, who’s the head of the state office for archeology studies, was interested in the Galisteo Basin and had done stuff himself on it.
He was supposedly writing a book. And I kept saying, “Eric, are you going to write that book?” He was clear that archeologists are terrible about getting things written. Finally I said, “I think I’m—this book is turning into this.” And he said, “Go for it.” And he read the whole thing twice. He really knows his stuff.
Otherwise it would be riddled with mistakes. And several other people read pieces of it. So I was very lucky to have the support I did. It’s still full of mistakes, I’m sure, because there’s no real way of knowing a lot of this stuff. Research keeps going. So I finished that a year and a half ago.
MS. HEINEMANN: And this is the book that has the sequel?
MS. LIPPARD: This book, and then it’ll have a—it only goes up to 1782. I finally decided to frame it by this particular group of Native people coming in and leaving. So that’s the time frame that they were there—1250.
MS. HEINEMANN: And so the book that follows?
MS. LIPPARD: So the book that follows it, which is all going to be part of the same book, is 1800, basically, to now. And that really will be a different kind of book, except there’s an immense amount of research to be done around the land grant situation around here. I’ve talked to a lot of the old people, who are now dead.
So I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do. I have two other books I want to do first—one I’m working on now, and it’s also archeological—a photographer friend who lives in Nevada, he’s doing sort of a re-photography project of the ruins at Chaco and Mesa Verde, which are the two big national park ruins.
MS. HEINEMANN: And who is that?
MS. LIPPARD: Peter Goin. And that was supposed to be—it’s only 30,000 words— compared to something like that. And I still haven’t gotten anywhere near finished it. I hoped I would be finished by the end of this month, but I’m not anywhere near it.
MS. HEINEMANN: And is there a—
MS. LIPPARD: And then I got a grant. In the meantime, years ago I wrote a lecture—I was asked to lecture at the Tate on a—this was around 2000—on something to do with cities. It was a huge thing they did on cities, and it was a great big symposium. And I said, “I don’t live in cities anymore. I don’t really know anything about cities. I don’t think I need to do cities.” So they said, “Well, you can talk about anything you want.”
And I had just had this conversation with a local earthmover about gravel pits, which are sort of a feature, and sort of an interesting feature, because you build skyscrapers and roads and highways and so on with gravel. And he told me some things that I’d never known about gravel—the gravel industry.
So I said to the Tate people, “Okay, I’ll talk about gravel pits.” And there was a long silence, like, Oh, God. And so I did. I called it “Undermining,” and it really has to do with pits and erections. And then 2011—September 11th happened, and then there was the Ground Zero pit. It’s this usual thing I do, but it’s even more—it’s more like I See/You Mean, in a horrible way. [Laughs.] I’ve given it as a lecture. I gave it as a lecture a couple times in the early 2000s and then I sort of forgot about it.
And then I used a chunk of it a couple of years ago in San Antonio [TX] for a lecture. And this guy who runs the land arts student program in—it used to be at UNM [University of New Mexico] and now it’s in Lubbock [TX]—he said, “God, that would really make an interesting book.”
And I said, “I’ve always thought of making a book out of this stuff because it would be such fun to—it’s got mining and archeology and adobe things,” and just anything I bloody well want to put in and the kitchen sink, so—and Western land history and just anything, politics and so on.
So he said, “Well, if you ever want to make it a book, just—why don’t I send it to this friend of mine at MIT?” I went home and I thought about this book, and I didn’t really want MIT to do it. I didn’t want to get into that. But I decided I would apply for a Creative Capital grant to do it. And to my absolute amazement—because it’s very hard to describe what I want to do—they gave me the grant.
And so now I have to write that before I get back to the other part of Galisteo. So I should live so long. My great ambition is to do a short book. So Undermining[: A Wild Ride Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West, 2014] is supposed to be—it’s really, hopefully, just an expanded essay. It’s got a visual narrative, a parallel visual narrative, is the way I’m seeing it at the moment. I don’t know what it’ll turn out to be.
MS. HEINEMANN: But you always do a lot of research. So that must take time.
MS. LIPPARD: Well, I have a big drawer full of stuff. [Laughs.] And there are a million really good photographers working on Western depredation—land depredation—mines and so forth. So there’s a lot of stuff I can draw on.
So I’m thinking of that as something I can do fast. But I thought of this Chaco/Mesa Verde thing as something I could do fast, too, and it ain’t happening. You don’t realize as you get older that things slow down. I work just as much, but I don’t think I get things done as fast. What do you think? [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: So, like, today you were working on—before I came?
MS. LIPPARD: The Mesa Verde thing. Well, first I was trying to do May’s taxes, and then I would get them figured out, and making phone calls. And then I was working on Chaco and Mesa Verde, which is the 850 to 1290 A.D. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: But all the ones that you’re working on now, they have areas of overlap in a way, don’t they?
MS. LIPPARD: A little bit, yeah. Not terribly. I try not to, because once I start, I’m getting them overlapped too much. But the one on Chaco and Mesa Verde is called Time and Time Again, and the idea was really for it to be about time rather than—but I got involved, as usual, in the history.
I thought, Oh, I’ll just put a little introductory, 20-page section on the history. It’s 50 pages now. But then there’s going to be a section on photography and a section on time—history, time, Native view of time, and our view of time, and that kind of thing.
MS. HEINEMANN: And it’s going with these photographs?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, and it goes with the photographs. It’s his idea, this whole thing. I named it, but otherwise it’s basically his idea. I just happened to be in a good mood and I was in Reno. I went for a hike and ended up by saying yes to this. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: But you’re finding it—
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, it’s interesting. I love it. I swore I’d never work on Chaco. Chaco Canyon is the great Southwestern archeological mystery. It’s not really a mystery, but nobody really knows enough yet about it. We know what happened to some extent. So I swore I’d never get into that kettle of fish. But now I am, so.
And on my birthday, I inserted myself into a very specialized archeological trip, only for archeologists. So Jim and I and maybe the dogs are going to go to Chaco to see a site I’ve never seen before. There’s Chaco Canyon itself and then there are outliers—225 outliers—which are called "great houses" or "little villages." It was a regional system that went the entire San Juan Basin, Four Corners area. It went into Utah and way up in Colorado and so forth, so, yes.
MS. HEINEMANN: Maybe we should go back to the—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: Or do you want to take a break or—
MS. LIPPARD: Maybe we should walk him now.
MS. HEINEMANN: Okay.
MS. LIPPARD: I mean, this is fun just talking about me. [Laughs.]
[END DISC 3.]
MS. HEINEMANN: This is Sue Heineman interviewing Lucy Lippard at her home in Galisteo, New Mexico, on March 16, 2011, for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, card number four.
So, Lucy, the one book we didn’t talk about so far is Off the Beaten Track—not the one book but one of them.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, one of the books.
MS. HEINEMANN: One of the books we didn’t talk about.
MS. LIPPARD: It’s On the Beaten Track.
MS. HEINEMANN: On the Beaten—
MS. LIPPARD: It’s so funny, because everybody thinks it’s either Off the Beaten Track or On the Beaten Path or Off the Beaten Path.
MS. HEINEMANN: Why did I misread that?
MS. LIPPARD: No, everybody does. It’s funny because some people say “path” and some say—“track” sounded crisper to me. I liked it. “Path” somehow isn’t the right word.
Anyway, that was actually just a chapter in The Lure of the Local, and then it got out of hand, as such things tend to do. I really enjoyed doing that book, because it was—that was one of the shorter books I’ve done. I broke it down into essays rather than having to make a whole new book, sort of. So I had sort of the breakdown of that chapter that I had, and so it didn’t take as long as it usually does.
But I had a wonderful time doing it. Tourism is not something I’d really thought about much at all. And now I lecture all over the place about tourism—which I still know very little about. One review said, “She never mentions the word 'fun.'” [Laughs.] It’s very sarcastic about tourism, but we have a lovely time when we are tourists.
MS. HEINEMANN: Actually, it made me think about my coming here and being a tourist here.
MS. LIPPARD: Well, I got to know Dean MacCannell through this, who wrote The Tourist , the classic book on tourism in American scholarship. I was really flattered to write the preface when there was a reprint of The Tourist.
And then he came down here, he and his wife, Juliet Flower, who is also a theoretician, sort of more literary. He’s not really an art person either. He’s a sociologist, I guess.
Anyway, they said, “We would like to come and visit you, and you have to show us around.” And I thought, Oh, my God, I have to be a tour guide for the dean of tourism writing in—I had a lot of fun. But I couldn’t really show him half of what I wanted because Juliet is slightly disabled, or she couldn’t walk much. So my favorite thing is to take people heading across the fields and for hours on end. And I didn’t get to do that with them.
MS. HEINEMANN: Has writing about it made you think differently when you go different places?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, yes and no. I notice certain things, but I must say I still enjoy just being an ordinary tourist. Certainly, it makes you more sensitive to things. I think a lot about how we pay all the attention to the tourist, especially since this is a tourist town. I usually talk about Santa Fe when I’m talking about tourism, because it’s really an interesting town for that.
But we pay all this attention to the visitors and none to the visited. And so my take is trying to be interested in what the people [who] are being looked at feel. I said somewhere that I remember going through SoHo picking up my laundry at one point, and I was all dressed in black jeans and sort of shabbily dressed. And I had a bag of laundry, and this Japanese tour bus went by and said, “Oh, look, a native,” and it was the funniest experience. [Laughs.] I got some sympathy, or empathy, for people who are being stared at.
Jim has written a book—my partner has written a book—called Navajo and Photography, in which I tease him and I say, “You spent 500 pages saying one thing, which is, Why people should never take pictures of anybody else.” But he’s very involved in that aspect of Native people being exploited and stared at ridiculously. So anyway, that was part of the input, too, I think.
MS. HEINEMANN: Wasn’t there—
MS. LIPPARD: I wanted to originally write it or edit or something, when I first got the idea that I was going to do a separate book on it with a Native American friend of mine. I quote her in it, but she wasn’t interested in doing a book. But I wanted to do another.
Oh, a book we haven’t talked about is Partial Recall .
MS. HEINEMANN: I was just thinking about that, yeah.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, which was an anomaly; The New Press said it was the book of mine that has sold least, and they never want me to do another one like that. Indian Country likes it, but I don’t think other people did particularly. But it’s essays by—I wrote a long preface, which was an essay that I’d been thinking about for a long time. But then I asked several Native writers to write about one photograph and really get into that single photograph.
And they did, and I thought it was really kind of an interesting book, and some very good writers in it. But the people didn’t—outside of probably the Southwest and even here, it’s not in any of the bookstores—neither of our bookstores—photography and Native—because people like sappy photographs. This was not the classic stoic Indian looking quaint against the landscape.
It was about real Indians and real life and so forth, and people—that’s not what they want when they want photographs of the Native North Americans. That came out of Mixed Blessings—because I did a lot of work in 1992, which was the quincentennial of Columbus’s so-called discovery.
And we did a comic book, actually, of How to ’92, with a lot of artists participating in wearable art and demonstration art and so forth and so on. And then I did this book, and it came out in the time when people were paying attention to Indians, which was ’92. I was down here by then.
I guess I wasn’t really down here by then, but I was in and out of seeing friends in Santa Fe and stuff, because it was published in ’92. I did it mostly in Boulder. There’s a Native American Rights Foundation that’s in Boulder. There’s a lot of Native stuff going on, and so I learned a lot about that.
MS. HEINEMANN: And it seems to me that you’ve—like in your most recent book—had much more to do with photography.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I came very late to photography. It came out of Conceptual art. My real interest in photography was that kind of deadpan funny photography that came out of Conceptual art. And then when I got more interested in the land stuff, I realized that I didn’t really want to talk about landscape painting, which is another whole thing.
Photography seemed close to the realities that I was talking about. So I’ve ended up by using a lot of photography, yeah. I end up talking about photography, and I don’t know really anything about photography either. I talk about a lot of things that I know nothing about. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: But you’ve done a lot of reading and looking.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah, but I don’t really—I don’t even know how cameras work. [Laughs.] And I don’t know anything about the technical parts, but I speak to SPE—Society for Photographic Education—things every few years. They ask me—somewhere in the country I did two of them last year—this year.
MS. HEINEMANN: Well, some of the photographs in Overlay are your photographs, right?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, and they are in On the Beaten Track and Lure of the Local too. But just when I can’t find anybody who’s done an interesting photograph to fit that subject. Then I do something of my own. They’re pretty bad. I never had a decent camera.
But the digital stuff, which drove me crazy because I have millions of slides from artists and from my own stuff and so on, and now nobody will let me show them anymore. So I have to digitize everything, and it’s a real pain in the ass.
But the nice thing about it is that if I see something, I just try to get that person’s email or look at their Web site or whatever, and I say, “Can you send me a digital image of that?” And it comes sweeping across the Internet, and that’s really very handy. [Laughs.]
So I’ll get used to it, but I hate having to figure out way ahead of time what I’m lecturing on, and then getting the slides into the place in Albuquerque that digitalizes them, and then they come back. And then I think, Oh, I want to put this in, and it’s too late. I have to have help doing the PowerPoints.
MS. HEINEMANN: How many lectures do you give in a year?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, this last year I gave many too many, maybe 10. But I try not to do that many, and this—the next two years I’m not really going to do much of anything because I’m going to write.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you usually have to prepare something totally new for each one?
MS. LIPPARD: It always ends up that way. I’m giving something in New York that I’ve given a couple of times before in different—I rewrite them each time and put different pictures. I try to do that. But it never really works, because it’s always a slightly different context or something. And then sometimes it’s totally new. I talked about Australian Vietnam veteran artists in Australia a year ago and so forth. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: So how did you find out about the—
MS. LIPPARD: Well, they asked me to do this because of the book—that’s another book—I call that a book and it is a book. It is also a catalogue, but it was really meant to be a book—for a show that I didn’t really—I guess I picked all the artists, but I didn’t curate it as such. I can’t quite remember how that was done. I guess I did curate it, but it was in Bellingham, Washington. It was called A Different War .
MS. HEINEMANN: Right, I’ve seen that.
MS. LIPPARD: And it was about Vietnam in art. And so having done that, these Australian Viet vets called me and said they’d read this and they just loved it, and would I come over there. There was a Vietnamese woman who was a curator in a little funny little museum outside of Sydney who was doing this show, and she asked me to write the catalogue.
So it was interesting, because the Australians lost like 500 people in the war. We lost 55,000. But they feel it more. They were really still incensed about that war and the Agent Orange. Their children had cancer, and a lot of them were really pretty screwed up—nice guys. They were generally very nice people, but they’re all a little—well, I have a few vet friends there.
MS. HEINEMANN: So did you interview them or—
MS. LIPPARD: No, well, I didn’t have email—
MS. HEINEMANN: Email?
MS. LIPPARD: I don’t think. It was somebody else’s email. Maybe I did finally have email then. But they sent me a lot of stuff. The curator didn’t send me much stuff, but the vets themselves sent me a whole lot of stuff. [Laughs.] So I got a real education. Again, we went to Australia, and then we went up to Kakadu National Park, at the very top of Australia, which is an Aboriginal park.
MS. HEINEMANN: Wow.
MS. LIPPARD: So that was fun.
MS. HEINEMANN: Was that interesting in relation to the art that you see—
MS. LIPPARD: The Native stuff here?
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, it was rock art that I went to see, but a totally different kind. I mean, just beautiful paintings—they go back as much as 30,000 years.
MS. HEINEMANN: Wow.
MS. LIPPARD: The painting itself is not 30,000 years old, but the people themselves have redone them for ceremonial reasons and stuff. And they’re just amazing things—nothing like what we have here. It makes what we have here look kind of pale. [Laughs.] They’re just extraordinary. That was the third time I’ve been to Australia, and I really like it. It’s an interesting place.
MS. HEINEMANN: Are you sometimes surprised about who might read your books and where they go to and what they generate?
MS. LIPPARD: Yes. [Laughs.] I used to not be able to take a compliment, and when my friends would say—I’d sort of paw at the floor or whatever and look down. And finally somebody told me—I can’t remember who it was—some close friend said, “Lucy, when you get a compliment, you look people in the eye and say, ‘Thank you.’” [Laughs.] So I started trying to do that.
But I am sort of amazed at how far some of these things have gone.
MS. HEINEMANN: This one sounds like it took you in a whole new direction. Have you had other experiences like that?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, no, it didn’t take me in a new direction really. A Different War was fun to do and that was in the ’90s. I’d been out of the Vietnam stuff for 30 years, really. And so that was really very interesting to go back and look. I, of course, had been an antiwar protestor. So I didn’t know many vets, and I got to know a lot of vets—because I wanted to be sure I included as many vets as possible—and a lot of good artists. So that was very interesting. But that was in the ’90s.
The Australian one was kind of a—I was just using it as an example of how, if only all the lectures were about the same thing. But I’ve had this checkered career, which I’m proud of, but it’s a damned nuisance, because people want me to talk about kinds of different things, and I usually have to start fairly from scratch.
I pastiche things, plagiarize myself, as much as possible. But it just doesn’t always work. Like this lecture in New York, I was hoping I could just give it more or less like I’d given it before, with just a few changes. And then I realized it was—the lecture was in a series about criticism. I have nothing about criticism in this lecture. So I have to write something about criticism.
MS. HEINEMANN: What do you think about criticism now?
MS. LIPPARD: I don’t. I never think about criticism. It’s never interested me. I’m interested in the art and not the criticism. I really just have nothing to say about it. But I’ll probably have a page worth if I can dredge up a page about something to say about it. My interest has always been in the critical art—art that is critical of society or whatever, things that are going wrong—but not criticizing art.
I’ve always said I learned everything I know from artists. I’m not an adversary of artists. I call myself a writer and not an art critic. I hate “art critic.” And then I get called an art historian, which I don’t like either, because I got a master’s and never looked back. [Laughs.] So I don’t know.
MS. HEINEMANN: Art writer?
MS. LIPPARD: Writer, just writer—and activist, I used to say. I guess I can still say that, but I’m not as much of an activist—so local activism is pretty—people in New York say, “What are you doing?” I say, “Well, I’m on a county committee about open spaces,” and they go, “Yeah.” [Laughs.] Community planning committee. It’s activism, but it’s a different kind.
MS. HEINEMANN: Well, it’s really in the community.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah. I had written a lot about community—people who worked in the community. So I thought I knew a lot about it, but, boy, being in the community yourself is a different number. [Laughs.] I had to learn—I had all these lessons under my belt, so I could catch myself when I was doing something stupid. But still, you have to live it.
MS. HEINEMANN: Well, also you’re in a relatively small community.
MS. LIPPARD: Tiny community, yeah—265 people.
MS. HEINEMANN: Does that make it more difficult?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah. There’s a Spanish saying: “Pueblo chico, infierno grande,” which is “Small town, big hell.” [Laughs.] I think I’m going to call the second book, if I get to that—they probably won’t let me do it—but I’ll call it Pueblo Chico, the tales from a small village. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: The other thing I wanted to talk about a little bit, because Moira had mentioned it, was your collection—because somebody did a book on your collection?
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, yes. It wasn’t a book. It was a catalogue. Yeah, Neery Melkonian, who I ended up—well, anyway, I won’t get into that. [Laughs.] When I left New York, I knew I was moving into a 16-foot-by-20-foot house. And there was absolutely no point in taking thousands of books and hundreds of artworks.
They were all given to me, because I never had the money to collect. So I hate it being called a “collection,” because it’s really—I’ll give you a catalogue of that, remind me. Because I didn’t get to choose most of these things—sometimes I did, but most of the time I was just handed something, and that was it. And I was grateful. But I had all this stuff kind of under the bed. The loft wasn’t that big, but remember, I had a lot of stuff in it.
MS. HEINEMANN: In your bathroom?
MS. LIPPARD: In the bathroom and everywhere. And so when the time came to move, and the kids were taking over the loft and they didn’t want this stuff, I just decided to give it all to the Museum of New Mexico here, which is the Museum of Fine Arts, which is now called the New Mexico Museum of Art, for unknown reasons. And the guy I talked to who was the director then was up for it. And so he moved; he left.
And Stuart Ashman came in. He came up and we agreed that there was a lot of stuff. But I said my conditions were they had to take everything, and I gave them tchotchkes and all kinds of odd little, like, rocks and all sorts of stuff. I just cleaned out. Plus Sol LeWitts and Rymans and Andres and Hesses and so forth, and a lot of other stuff.
And I thought it was particularly good for them, because they have a very local museum collection. They’ve got some other stuff, but they didn’t have any political art, feminist art, Native American art—they had little, very little contemporary Native American stuff. And there’s another category—Minimalist and Conceptual. So they didn’t have any and that was what I had. And art by people of color—so I felt this would be very good for them.
So they gave me—Neery curated it. She was at Bard [Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Bard College] at that point, and so she curated it at Bard. And Bard put out this catalogue which I find very embarrassing, because it sounds like I died. She got a lot of people—first it sounded like an okay idea. I don’t know why I okayed it. And she got a lot of people to say nice things about me.
So it’s kind of repellant. You never see the art. There’s just sort of installation shots. You never really have any idea what’s in the show. It’s not about the show at all, which is too bad. And I thought at one point if I ever did an autobiography, which I have no interest in doing whatsoever, I would do it via the objects, because, like, that little armadillo up there is—the armadillo skull is Jimmie Durham and so forth.
There are all kinds of things that friends have given me. I don’t have much here now, but all of this stuff has come since I’ve been here. I kept a few things and my family portrait from the 1840s. It’s one of the biggest paintings on ivory that’s ever been done.
MS. HEINEMANN: Wow.
MS. LIPPARD: [Laughs.] I kept a few things. But in the other room I have a Ryman and a Hesse and a Kearns. And a May Stevens and so forth. And I didn’t take any tax deduction for it because—which Jim said, “What do you want to do? Buy the Pentagon things? Why aren’t you taking—” but I really—somebody who made as little money as I do, giving away $2 million worth of art, they would have audited me in a second.
And also since it was mostly given to me, it wouldn’t have been a tax break, because I couldn’t show them a bill of sale and stuff. So I left it—left it completely. I just handed it all over to them. And then it traveled around. It went several places, the version that Neery curated.
When it got down here, they gave me the whole bottom floor of the museum. I curated it myself. I stuck a lot of other stuff in, because it was a much bigger space, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I had one room—the designers were appalled that I was getting to design this.
And so I had one room this yellow color—my one-room house is bright yellow. And that color came from—I did a Partial Recall show in Boulder; it was in a high-ceilinged room and the photographs were all small. And I was trying to figure out how to bring the room down to the photograph size. So I put a band about this big of bright yellow around the room, and then hung the photographs on that. And they had some paint left over, and I’d just built this house. And so they said, “You want this?” I said, “Sure, I’ll paint my living room this.” It’s been yellow ever since.
Anyway, as you came in, there was a fairly small room, and that was this color yellow. And I had all these tchotchkes and political art and things with very bright colors, and it was all kind of jammed in. And then the next room was much more prettily installed. It was mostly feminist art and feminist and Minimal drawings and things.
And then the last room, which was the biggest room, and that was pale yellow—the last room was white—and it was all Minimal, big guys stuff—and I had a wonderful time doing that. One of the things in it was Judy Chicago’s Tampax piece.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh.
MS. LIPPARD: And nobody told me this, but at one point the guy who ran the museum in New Mexico Foundation put a sign up saying—I was taking somebody in to show them the show, and there’s this sign that says, “Warning.” [Laughs.] I was livid—sort of a disclaimer and “Don’t take your children in here” and so forth.
And there was a lot of political stuff too. So I went stomping up the stairs and said, “I want to put something up too.” And so right next to this disclaimer I put, “Think for yourself. Go and look and think for yourself.” [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Where is it now?
MS. LIPPARD: It’s all there. Every now and then it gets—actually, I don’t know whether that show is still up, but every now and then they still use some of it. There used to be a photography curator. I had, like, Becher and some good photography, and they put that up. It never will be shown as my collection again, but that’s fine.
I didn’t call it a collection. My column in Z Magazine was called “From the Sniper’s Nest,” because I’ve always seen myself as sort of outside the art world sniping in. And so I called the show From the Sniper’s Nest: Art That Has Lived with Lucy Lippard, instead of a collection.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you miss some of that?
MS. LIPPARD: Not really. A lot of it I didn’t have up. We didn’t have that much wall space, and of course, this house has no wall space whatsoever. What do I have here? I have my son. I have three things by my son and a small one by Harmony, a small Sol LeWitt.
And over here there’s Kay Miller, who’s a Native American from Boulder; Jaune Quick-to-See Smith; Meridel Rubenstein, a local woman whose work I don’t like that much all the time but a beautiful little watercolor landscape of this landscape; Michelle Stuart; Deborah Luster; Kathy Vargas; May Stevens; Juleya Tsinagine [ph], a Navajo artist; and Steve Berman—what’s his name—Berman—it’s right here. Michael Berman, I’m sorry—and that’s it—oh, and Hank Pearson, who was—oh, and up at the top is a local so-called folk artist, one Nicholas Herrera.
MS. HEINEMANN: That’s wonderful.
MS. LIPPARD: And then there’s another one of Harmony’s. Yeah, I love that. And I’ve got more hiding out there that I don’t have—I have a lovely one by Max Becher and Andrea Robbins of Havana in a dark—when the lights went out—blackout. And that was over there, but I had to put my son’s work up when he started making art. [Laughs.] A lot of things got displaced.
And then there’s Melanie Yazzie, who is another Native friend, and Kristine Smock, a Boulder pal. Peter Gourfain did this. I’ve used every little—these are all very small things. Oh, and there’s one of Luis Jimenez [inaudible] and Patsy Novell [ph]—Patsy sat out here for several years.
She did this wonderful—she does these pieces where she gets like a yucca pod or something that she finds around, and puts it in fresh in the painting, and next to it she draws exactly what it looks like. And then as the yucca withers and may even fall off at some point and so on, there’s the drawing of what it was like when it was young, and then the remains of the thing itself on the other—[laughs].
MS. HEINEMANN: That’s wonderful.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah. And a photograph of Native Americans at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and a flea market landscape that I’ve never figured out where the hell that’s from. Nobody knows where it’s from.
MS. HEINEMANN: That’s wonderful. They make a nice pairing.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, well, that’s why they’re there. [Laughs.] But I thought it would be fun to—every one of these things has a story. The little African sculptures were something my father brought back to me for a wedding present from Nigeria because he was over there.
And the buffalo we found in the Bowery, but the buffalo horn there is from my great-grandfather—little Hopi kachinas, something I bought myself, but there’s a feather attached to it, a blessed feather, that a Hopi friend of mine gave me after I published this book, because he said this was a gift to Native Americans and he wanted to give me something, which was very nice.
MS. HEINEMANN: The Down Country book?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah. And a lot of stuff I have hanging around is either from my great-grandfather or from Kathy Vargas, who gives me wonderful presents.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you see yourself as a mentor to some younger writers?
MS. LIPPARD: No, I really don’t. At one point I offered, as publicly as I could and as often as I could, to mentor young Native Americans who thought they wanted to write art criticism. But there weren’t any. [Laughs.] I had a couple of people who seemed vaguely interested, but they turned out to be real writers and not art critics.
And so there are very few—no, I can’t say I was a mentor because I wasn’t teaching, either. More artists than writers come and say they were terrifically influenced by this book or that book, but not usually writers—more artists, which is good.
MS. HEINEMANN: What about somebody like Rebecca Solnit?
MS. LIPPARD: No, Rebecca had very much her own path. She wrote about art for a while. But she wrote this wonderful book called Savage Dreams  just before—I guess I already knew her. I met her through Meridel Rubenstein, who’s the photographer who used to live here and lives here part-time now.
No, actually I met her at a Mixed Blessings thing in San Francisco, met her at a panel. And frankly, I didn’t take to her much. Rebecca is a funny person. And then she came out here and was visiting Meridel, and I saw her and I started talking to her, and we began to really be friends, and then we became very close friends.
She sat with my cat for many years before she was ultra-famous. She’s a lot more famous than anybody else now. I love her writing. But I don’t think I was anything of an influence. Although we like—she said at one point, “I love mentioning you in every book.” She’s stopped doing that now—[laughs]—but at a certain point I was getting mentioned off and on.
MS. HEINEMANN: I was just thinking how you both have very individual, but coming from outside, in a way talking about art—not outside of the art world but a different perspective than one normally gets.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, well, she really doesn’t do much art. She does photography, but she hasn’t done anything about art per se for a long, long time. But I love the way she knits her lived experience. She does much more of that than I do.
I do a little bit of that, but she really—she’s a wonderful writer. I love the way she brings her life experience in with a tremendous amount of research, and historical research especially. But she’s a very original writer. Sometimes she gets kind of off. [Laughs.] But I think she’s a wonderful writer.
MS. HEINEMANN: Are there writers that have really influenced you?
MS. LIPPARD: It’s funny. I always feel sort of like a dog in the manger when I say this, but I don’t really think so. I used to love James Joyce. [Laughs.] But I don’t think that—and Beckett and stuff like that when I was in college.
But my writing’s just really basically straight writing about things. I don’t have a style, really, that much. I try not to be too opaque, and I like to be informal—fairly informal—with the writing. But that’s the only thing I can think of that I do that everybody else doesn’t do. It’s pretty standard art writing.
MS. HEINEMANN: I wouldn’t say it’s standard art writing.
MS. LIPPARD: Well, I don’t know. I love reading. So I’m sure an awful lot of stuff I’ve gotten by osmosis. But I can’t think of any writer that I particularly—I wouldn’t mind being Rebecca, but I think it’s a little late to be Rebecca. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Are there particular books that stand out for you?
MS. LIPPARD: Every time I’m working on something, there are four or five books that I think are just amazing, and then I forget what they are. And with this kind of research, there are not that many amazing books—this historical stuff.
Although I just was reading two wonderful accounts of early archeology—like turn-of-the-last-century archeology—19th to 20th century. And I really enjoyed those immensely. But that’s because I’m working on that at the moment. I read voraciously and forget most of it. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Is most of your reading related to your writing?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, it is, because of time. I get up in the morning—and I usually get up pretty early—and I have coffee and I read something related to the work usually, or sometimes the Nation or something, which is also related. And then at night I read fiction. When I go to bed, I read fiction. But half the time I’m at Jim’s, and I don’t get to do that.
So I’m always plowing through a certain amount of fiction. I just read Leslie Marmon Silko’s Turquoise Ledge, which is a very strange book. I gave that to Jim for Christmas, and he didn’t like it at all. [Laughs.] I liked it much better than he did.
And this table full of books is all things I’m about to read. Something I’m dying to get into is Greg Sholette, who keeps coming up because he was such a—the reason he keeps coming up is partly because he’s the only person who, from PAD/D, who really has kept PAD/D in mind. He writes about PAD/D. He talks about early activism and earlier activism and so forth.
He just published a book called Dark Matter , which I’ve only read bits of—he’s very Marxist, which I’m not—just because I’m too lazy to read it all. I wanted to be a writer when I was 12 years old, and I didn’t expect to be this kind of a writer, whatever this kind is. But it’s been a lot of fun.
MS. HEINEMANN: And you keep doing it.
MS. LIPPARD: I keep doing it. Well, I have to keep doing it. [Laughs.] Books are really the most fun. The short things interest me less and less, and actually, I get asked to do them less and less, so that’s probably just as well.
MS. HEINEMANN: So do you see yourself trying to get more grants so that you can continue?
MS. LIPPARD: I’ve never applied for grants, interestingly, because it just takes so much work. And this Creative Capital one was electronic, and I barely got through it. I had to pay somebody to come out and help me put it in. So I don’t think I’ll apply for many more grants. [Laughs.] No, the Lannan grant, I’d say, I didn’t really apply for it, but I was very lucky.
And I had a Guggenheim when I was in my 20s, which was because I was writing a book on Ad Reinhardt.
We haven’t mentioned Ad. He was a huge influence. For some reason, in 1966, Ad was given a show at the Jewish Museum, and he picked me to write the catalogue essay. I didn’t know him at all.
I’d met him, but I didn’t know him, and I was bowled over and wildly flattered and really excited because I loved what he did, because he’s the perfect combination. I was living with an artist who did all white paintings, and I was just leaving an artist who did all white paintings. [Laughs.]
And Ad did all black paintings, and yet he had politics. He was a very political person, but he didn’t think it had anything to do with art. “Art is art, and everything else is everything else,” he said, which I’ve always loved. I didn’t follow that, but I’ve always loved it. So I spent a lot of time with him. I did the catalogue, and he liked it, and then I decided to do a book on him—or we decided to do a book on him [Ad Reinhardt, 1981].
So I spent a lot of time with him. But he died in ’67. So it was fairly quick. I had two years of really seeing him. We were having a lovely dialogue about—he said, “Well, I guess I have to give you a painting, because I had to give Sam Hunter a painting,” who was the director of the Jewish Museum.
And I said, “No, you don’t have to give me a painting.” And he said, “If I gave you a painting, it’d be bribing you and be buying you off" and so forth. I said, “Yeah, no, I don’t want a painting.” [Laughs.]
So we went through this endless thing, and he died, and I didn’t get a painting—[they laugh]—and it’s just as well, because his things are so fragile and I’m such a slob. I would have ruined it.
I had a Bruce Nauman that I did buy in 1967—no, probably ’65, or it was before—or maybe ’66. It was before Eccentric Abstraction, I think. And I visited him in his studio in Davis [CA]. He was still a graduate student, I think.
And I just loved this one rubbery thing. I loved his rubbery things, but I didn’t get that. I got this—it was a semicircle of white fiberglass. It looked like melted ice cream, but it had a semicircular—it wasn’t solid. It came out from the wall in two pieces, and sort of a cracked middle.
And I took it home and I bought it for 150 bucks, which I certainly didn’t have at the time, but I loved it. I brought it home on the plane—[inaudible]—and dragged it home and really was very pleased with having it. And then he got better known and so on.
Then when Ethan was about four or five, he or a friend—he claims it wasn’t him—ran over it with a tricycle, and it just smashed it to bits. Years later, Bruce—before I was here—he lives nearby now. But he called and he said, “That piece you got, they’re doing a catalogue raisonné.” And I said, “Oh, yeah, well—” and he said, “You mean you sold it?” And I said, “No.” [They laugh.]
Alas, I don’t even think there was a photograph of it. I don’t think it even got into the catalogue raisonné. That could have financed a few books. [Laughs.]
And I bought a Don Judd. The year I got the Guggenheim—I got $7,000 for a Guggenheim, which seemed like an absolute fortune. I was making about three or four [thousand dollars] at the time. So it did give me time to work on the Reinhardt book.
But I bought a Don Judd, again, for a thousand bucks or 800 or something, early on. It was a pink plastic box where the edges of the Plexiglas had sort of a Day-Glo tinge. It was a beautiful thing. I sold it when I went to Spain, so I could take that time to go to Spain.
But how I got the Guggenheim was that I was writing on Ad. I was writing this book, and I don’t think I had an advance or anything. I was just writing it.
And he died, and that fall, Robert Motherwell—who was a friend of Ad’s—or a friend and adversary of Ad’s—Ad was an adversary for everybody. Motherwell was on the Guggenheim choosing board. He called me and he said, “Apply for a Guggenheim.” And I said, “I’m only in my 20s. I’m not ready to apply for a Guggenheim.” He said, “No, apply for a Guggenheim.” He said, “Ad had one, and he never got to use it, and so you should get the money for this book.”
It was a very sweet idea, and I got it, in 1968. I was 31 by the time I got it. But it was much too early and very little money really. [Laughs.] But I was very excited, and my father was so proud and so forth. But it kept me from ever being able to get a Guggenheim, later.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh did it?
MS. LIPPARD: I never got another one. I never applied for another one. But I felt like it wasn’t really my Guggenheim. It was Ad’s Guggenheim. [Laughs.] But it did pay for the book. So anyway, I haven’t had many grants.
I got a couple of NEA grants that were quite small and then this Lannan thing. The Lannan thing was more than the Creative Capital one. But I just asked for enough to live for 10 months or so, and actually, it wouldn’t even do that, I don’t think. But it’ll keep me. I think I can really do the book on it.
MS. HEINEMANN: For some of your books, have you gotten advances?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I have to get advances. That was the thing about the Galisteo book that was so discouraging. It was why it dragged out for so long, because I’ve always had to have an advance, because I don’t have an income.
It comes from writing, and if I stop writing, I have to have something to pay, and that’s why the Lannan—this book would never have gotten done without the Lannan thing. But so I have gotten—they’ve never been much.
In fact, God, I have friends who write commercial books, and they get huge—six figures. I got five figures once, the low five figures, and that was once. [Laughs.] Otherwise it’s been four figures. But it does—
MS. HEINEMANN: It’s something.
MS. LIPPARD: It’s something, and it does usually allow me to get far enough into the book so I know what I’m doing. But, yeah, books are just my favorite form, because you can really just go all over the place with them.
An essay—I do essays quite fast. I’ve done them all my life. I can get into an artist’s work for three weeks or something and really enjoy it. But that’s it. But books allow you to just really get in and wiggle around a lot. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you find, as you get into it, that it—how much does the end result end up the way that you thought it was going to be, or how much does it change?
MS. LIPPARD: I think I never know what it’s going to be when I start. I have sort of a, as I say, a sort of visual image of what I think I’m doing. But I have no idea what I’m going to write. So it’s all a great surprise. That’s why I never do proposals.
André Schiffrin at The New Press—is like, “Can’t you do a proposal? Everybody does proposals.” And I’m, “No, I can’t.” I just don’t know what it’s going to be. Betsy Hess, for instance, who writes big, big books, she spends a year writing a proposal.
MS. HEINEMANN: Wow.
MS. LIPPARD: Her proposals are as long as half the book, sort of. They’re huge. That’s what these big publishers for big money want. But I’ve never done it. I just, in fact, yesterday got an email from him. He wants a little fleshing out on Undermining, and I have absolutely no idea what that book is going to be like. [Laughs.] I don’t know if he’s having second thoughts about publishing it or what.
MS. HEINEMANN: So The New Press will publish it?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I called them, and I just said, “The grant wants to know if any publisher is interested. Can I say you’re interested?” I hadn’t done anything with them for years because this stuff does not interest him—the local stuff.
He’s really basically retired, but he’s in New York half the year and Paris the other half. And to my surprise, they said, “Oh, yeah, we’d like to do that. When is it coming out? Can we do it this year?” [They laugh.]
And I said, “No.” But now he’s obviously having second thoughts, and he wants to know what they’ve gotten into. But I think they’ll probably do it. But they don’t have money for big advances. I don’t need a lot of money.
I can live—I own this house and I built it and I own the land. I don’t have a mortgage and I’m not—I get all my clothes at thrift shops. I love secondhand things. So I do everything I can secondhand. I spend more money on insurance than anything else. [Laughs.] When I add it up at the end of the year—insurance and heat, propane.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, yes. Which of your books has been the most successful?
MS. LIPPARD: I have no idea. Once I finish a book, I’m really not that interested in it. I think somebody told me once that From the Center sold 26,000 copies. So it’s the only one I know a number for. I guess I have royalty statements or something I could tot up somehow. And that sounds like—that’s a lot for a book like mine—my kind of books. They aren’t huge.
The Reinhardt book, it was 1,500 copies printed, I think. And I don’t think it ever went into paperback or anything. The Hesse book was reprinted by a different publisher. What books haven’t we—I’ve got them all up there. Well, the Dadas on Art  and Surrealists on Art  were—I edited in the ’70s. And then Changing[: Essays in Art Criticism, 1971] was the first collection of essays.
MS. HEINEMANN: Right.
MS. LIPPARD: And there, I’d only been writing for about five years, but—Pop Art, we talked about Pop Art and we talked about Evergood.
MS. HEINEMANN: Tony Smith?
MS. LIPPARD: Tony Smith  was a very small—that’s a short book. For once, I did a short book. And then I’ve done hundreds, practically, of books where I’m one of the authors. Actually, we got a Southwest Book Award for one called Nuevo México Profundo[: Rituals of an Indo-Hispanic Homeland, 2000], which was, four of us shared the award.
MS. HEINEMANN: What’s it called?
MS. LIPPARD: I got a piece of paper. [Laughs.] Nuevo México Profundo. It’s a photography book with essays by historians and architectural—one of the people I most admire here is Chris Wilson, who is an architectural cultural historian who teaches at UNM now, and he wrote a book called The Myth of Santa Fe , which is a great model for a lot of things.
He’s an influence, and also another guy named William deBuys, who wrote a book called Enchantment and Exploitation  about New Mexico that I pored over when I first started coming down here.
But this book did get a Southwest Book Award, which was, again, a dinner and a piece of paper. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, and it’s all on one photographer’s work?
MS. LIPPARD: It’s his work, but it’s not about him. It’s about ritual dances—Indo-Hispano ceremonial stuff in northern New Mexico—well, and southern New Mexico too.
MS. HEINEMANN: This looks interesting, yeah.
MS. LIPPARD: His name is Miguel Gandert. Yeah, he’s a wonderful guy.
MS. HEINEMANN: They’re incredible photographs.
MS. LIPPARD: He and Chris and Enrique Lamadrid, who did the other essay, was a Spanish professor at UNM, and I got to do one, which actually was before I knew much about New Mexico history, and it’s got some awful mistakes in it. [Laughs.] But it got an award anyway.
Oh, and then I wanted to say—remember, I was going to get this down—that Down Country got the New Mexico Historical Society Book Award this year, another piece of paper. I never get anything with money attached. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: But that’s quite a distinction, because you’re not technically—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I’m not a historian, and I’m really not even, barely, a New Mexican. In New Mexico, you are "from away" or "just off the bus," as they put it, unless you’ve been here for at least 10 generations. [Laughs.]
The census just came out, and we’re still the state in the union with the highest Hispano population. When I came here, it just went under 50 percent. Santa Fe County is 46 percent, and the whole state is 43 percent, or something like that. Galisteo is less than that. But it’s—it permeates the place.
MS. HEINEMANN: Have you found, living here, that you’ve just learned a lot about different cultures?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, a huge amount about—New Mexico is sort of a separate culture, because it was very isolated. It was the northernmost part of New Spain, and then in the 17th century it just got kind of left. There weren’t even any priests up here, and there were never—at the most, there were like 30 priests or something for the entire area.
This was—New Mexico, Arizona, part of Texas, part of Utah, part of Colorado—was the original New Mexico Province. And so it’s always been very isolated, very poor, very harsh. And right up until the 18—into the 1860s, there were big Plains Indian raids. So it was dangerous to live in the Galisteo Basin. That’s why the village was founded so late.
MS. HEINEMANN: But have you learned a lot about Pueblo culture?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, it’s a mixture. That’s why Miguel, who is Indo-Hispano—[inaudible]—and a lot of the sort of leftie-type historians call it “Indo-Hispano” because it is a mixture—even the people who came up from Mexico were often already mestizo—mixed—and when they got up here, they got more mixed, and also the Plains tribes and all the different Pueblos and so forth.
So most New Mexicans have been here for a long time, or whose families have been here, definitely are part Indian, and a lot of Indians are part Mexican or part Hispano. It’s a very different culture. The Spanish is different from other places. People say, “Oh, New Mexico, Arizona—aren’t they both alike?”
And I say, “They’re absolutely different,” even though there is also a Hispano culture in southern Arizona and the Indian, but it’s a different batch of Indians. It’s a different batch of Spaniards and so forth. We had Franciscans. They had Jesuits. [Laughs.]
MS. HEINEMANN: Is there a lot here about the immigration issue?
MS. LIPPARD: Yes. It got beaten down, but we are one of the few—I think three states, or two, or maybe the last one or something—who allow undocumented people to have driver’s licenses—because it makes it safer, we think. They have to have insurance and they have to pay the MVD. The authorities can keep an eye on them better.
But there are a lot of anti-immigrant people who think that they should not be allowed to have licenses. And it’s just a terrible thing. They’re illegal and blah, blah, blah. And then [at] one point it looked like New Mexicans who looked Hispanic were going to have to go into Arizona with a passport, because they’d get arrested.
And if they didn’t have a passport, if they just had a driver’s license—because we give them to anybody in New Mexico—they could be deported. I don’t know of any actual accounts of this, but it’s a—where people who have been in this country for generations might be deported in Arizona if they didn’t have the right papers—just appalling. So we are not Arizona. We have a Republican governor now, but we are not Arizona.
MS. HEINEMANN: Is there a lot of political activity here around that issue?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, oh, yeah, tremendous—in fact, this last few weeks, the legislature, which is supposed to be figuring out a budget with a 30-million[-dollar]—billion or something or other; I don’t know how much—deficit—has spent the entire time arguing about licenses for undocumented workers. We haven’t gotten anything else done—just appalling.
MS. HEINEMANN: Is there art being done around that issue here?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, Chrissie Orr, who is sort of the major activist artist in New Mexico—I can say that two of my good friends are the major activist artists in New Mexico,. And the major activist artist in Maine is a woman named Natasha Mayers, and she is the heart and soul of activist art in Maine. I’m actually going to do an essay with her about activist art in Maine this summer.
But anyway, Chrissie has done—she doesn’t speak Spanish, in fact, and her project is called El Otro Lado—The Other Side. And she calls it—she’s Scottish originally, and so she calls it “Al Otro Lahdo” and she—I mean, it just drives me crazy. But she said, “I know I don’t speak Spanish,” and I say, “But 'lado' isn’t hard to say.” [Laughs.]
But she’s done a lot of really good projects with Mexican immigrants, documented and undocumented, and this Otro Lado one is—she did it here.
Then she did a different version in Albuquerque, and it’s being shown in various places, public pieces, but very beautiful, kind of collages of people’s hands and stories and objects, and they’re posted in public. But there’s not a whole lot of stuff being done about it. There’s a great group called Somos un Pueblo Unido here.
MS. HEINEMANN: What—somos?
MS. LIPPARD: Somos un Pueblo Unido.
MS. HEINEMANN: Oh, okay.
MS. LIPPARD: Which is the immigrant rights group. I had a good time at one point. Remember when Bush sent everybody a check for tax rebate or something? Everybody got one whether they wanted it or not. And I knew Bush was never going to see it, but I signed it directly over to Somos un Pueblo Unido. [Laughs.]
They were quite surprised, because it was more money than I usually give to charities and so on. But I didn’t want that dirty money, and I loved giving it to them. I hoped it went back to the Bush—because the check had to go back. And I wrote it right over to them. I liked to think that somebody in the Bush administration said, “Oh, my God!” [Laughs.] Let’s see.
Oh, there’s always endless more stuff, and we haven’t done that much about down here, but I don’t quite know—one of the nice things about down here is the Santa Fe Art Institute, which Diane Karp from New York—or from Philadelphia, really—who used to edit New Observations—was coming down here to take the job on September 11th.
It happened while she was on the road. She immediately opened up all the resident apartments here for the Santa Fe Art Institute and brought in people who were out of their studios in New York, and she’s done that since then for Katrina and for various—for Serbians. She has this wonderful residence here.
Santa Fe Art Institute used to be the sort of thing where Helen Frankenthaler would come and give a workshop to rich ladies. It wasn’t quite that bad, but it was pretty much.
Diane came down and just revivified it and made it a big community player. It does terrific lecture series. Its shows are small and not that important, but the lecture series and her community work is fantastic. She’s a real dynamo—red-diaper baby. So I do a lot of stuff around that. Diane gets me into things.
They organized a wonderful thing called Flash Flood for 350.org, which is Bill McKibben’s climate change group—the international thing. They were taking photographs from satellites of art pieces that people were doing. And so Diane and her cronies got—and I was barely involved; I was supposed to be on the committee, but I never was in town—got something like 1,500 people out in a dry riverbed, in the Santa Fe riverbed, which is completely dry, with blue tarps and blue things and so forth.
And the satellite photograph shows the river flowing. And it was a big community thing. There was Indian dancing—Indians dancing and mariachi bands, and all kinds of people were out there. It was really fun, and we wandered around in the riverbed with these blue things.
And then we had brown things, and at a certain call you were supposed to turn it over, the river would be dry again, and then the river would flow again. It didn’t work brilliantly, but it was a great piece. So there’s quite a bit going on here—fairly under the radar. I mean, it’s not a big activist town.
MS. HEINEMANN: And in the Pueblos, are there artists there?
MS. LIPPARD: There are artists there, but they’re not doing—
MS. HEINEMANN: No?
MS. LIPPARD: There are a lot of good young—very feisty young Native American artists around. But there’s also a whole lot of the Indian Market kind of thing, which is beautiful stuff. If I could afford $5,000 for a pot, I would definitely have one. [Laughs.] Jim has some because his family is Old New Mexico, and he got them for $25 when he was in college and stuff at UNM. But they’re beautiful Navajo rugs and weavings and Pueblo pots that are just extraordinary.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you go to many of the rituals?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah, the dances that are open—I love the dances. We go to a few a year. When I first came, I went to everything I could get my hands on. Sabra goes to all of them too. She goes to more than we do now.
But, yeah, they’re amazing. There’s one on—which we didn’t go to this year—on New Year’s Day at Santo Domingo Pueblo, which is a big pueblo over there. It’s about 500 dancers dealing with a—it’s a corn dance.
They have a lot of spruce branches, and it’s just an amazing—and the drums and the chanting and the feet on the ground. It’s the most wonderful way to start a new year. Moira went once with me. I don’t know what she made of it. [Laughs.] You have to know a little bit about the whole culture to really get what you’re seeing.
MS. HEINEMANN: But it is an amazing experience. Sabra did take me to one when I was here before.
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, she did? Yeah. What did you go to? Probably San Juan Pueblo, which is now called Ohkay Owingeh.
MS. HEINEMANN: No, I don’t remember which one it was.
MS. LIPPARD: That’s the nearest one to her. She often goes to it.
MS. HEINEMANN: No, it wasn’t—she was in Taos then. It was before she moved.
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, it was when she was at the Ritzberger, or whatever it’s called.
MS. HEINEMANN: Right.
MS. LIPPARD: Wurlitzer [Foundation].
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah, yeah, but that was—I think the thing that struck me was just how the dancers were in a trance. That had to be—
MS. LIPPARD: It’s just mesmerizing.
MS. HEINEMANN: And about communicating.
MS. LIPPARD: I can stand there and watch these things for hours. And I’m not a person who can stand there and watch things for hours. [Laughs.] But they just—the rhythms and everything, and the landscape is so incredible; the whole thing is just amazing. But you have to be very well behaved. There are those who go and act like assholes.
MS. HEINEMANN: Well, that’s in your—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah.
MS. HEINEMANN: On the Beaten Track.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, yeah. What else about here?
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you want to pause it?
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, I mentioned my partner, James C. Ferris, who is a social anthropologist and actually worked in the Sudan and Newfoundland and in Navajo—it was the Nuba in Sudan, so he only does things that start with N. [Laughs.] And he’s a character.
We became friends because we were both doing books. I met him at a conference—an SPE [Society for Photographic Education] conference, actually, in Connecticut. And he was writing his book on Navajo and photography, and I was talking with Rayna Green, who is from the Smithsonian, about Partial Recall. She wrote one of the essays.
He came up and introduced himself and said he’d send me some stuff that he’d been working on. His book wasn’t out yet, and he was retiring to Santa Fe because he was a native New Mexican—not a Native, but a New Mexican. And when he came down, we became friends.
We were both seeing other people and so forth, and eventually we started going on trips to sites, and he’s interested in the history, and he’s interested in the archaeology and so forth. So sooner or later one thing led to another. And he’s been an influence. He wouldn’t claim to be, but he’s very cynical about everything—or at least I think very skeptical, let’s put it that way—about a lot of things.
He makes me look at things very carefully. I say something, and he goes, “Oh, my God, you can’t be saying something like that.” [Laughs.] And the funny thing is that he gave me some offprints, when we were first getting to know each other, of stuff he’d written, and in one of them, there was a reference to this “crude and unfortunate book called Overlay by Lucy Lippard.” [They laugh.]
I have to get this in the record. I’m always teasing—I’m telling people this all the time. And he goes, “Oh, no, you’re not going to say that again.” [Laughs.] Because from a social anthropology viewpoint, it was full of crap. He really did not think it was a very good book. And I was, of course, just sort of picking and choosing from anthropological stuff to make my little points about art.
But he said, “Oh, that was before I knew you.” And I said, “What’s that got to do with it?” [Laughs.] So every time somebody comes up—and it’s a lot of people’s favorite book. So people come up and say, “Oh, I just love Overlay,” and I go—[they laugh]. Anyway, but he’s great, because he’s somebody I can really talk to about an awful lot of different things.
Early on he said, “So what becomes of your relationships,” because I’ve had a lot of them. And I said, “I get bored.” It really was what happened, even though I’ve been with some very interesting men.
I do tend to get bored, and I haven’t gotten bored with him yet, and we’re in our 12th year, which is a record for me. Old age helps, because I’m not going to start all over again at this point. But we got together when I was 62. We were both 62. So anyway, that’s Jim. He’s written a bunch of books too.
MS. HEINEMANN: And does he know a lot about art, or is that something you—
MS. LIPPARD: Well, no, but oddly enough, he had the Eva Hesse book when I first met him. That was interesting. And he taught a course at one point in art and anthropology. So he does know—when I take him—drag him—around to see things, he’s like, “You’ve got to love art." [Laughs.] "Look at this stuff. These people take this seriously,” and so forth. But in general he’s pretty tolerant. He’s interested in it up to a point.
MS. HEINEMANN: And now you say that Ethan started making art?
MS. LIPPARD: And my son is making art, making sort of abstract digital photography.
MS. HEINEMANN: And does he talk to you a lot about art?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, it’s fun. He used to—for 20 years he was in gangster rap, and I didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of say about gangster rap. [Laughs.] Then we went to the Museum of Modern Art when we first—he said, “Guess what, Mom? I’m making art.” And I said, “You’re what?” because he’d always sworn he was never going to get near that stuff.
We went to the museum together, and it was really fun. We really looked at things, and it made me look at things differently too. He said, “See, Mom, artists have all the fun.” And in a sense, he’s right.
He started in his early 40s, so he’s got a long way to go. He’s been going to art school in his head for a few years. [Laughs.] We’ll see what happens with him. But it’s fun to have him making art, I must say. Or it’s funny because I’m not that interested in art anymore, and he’s really into it. But it’s fun to talk to him about it.
MS. HEINEMANN: Has he read your books?
MS. LIPPARD: No, he’s not a big reader. He loves to look at books. I gave him a lot of art books that he stares at, but—[inaudible]. But he’s read bits and pieces, I think. I don’t think he’s read a whole lot of them. [Laughs.] He and the grandson—he and Sam and Calvin have all had—and Kaila—have all had books dedicated to them.
[END DISC 4, TR01.]
MS. HEINEMANN: If you had total freedom to write about what—the Undermining book is—
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, that’s kind of total freedom.
MS. HEINEMANN: Do you have any idea of where you’ll go after that?
MS. LIPPARD: Well, after that, I have to finish the Galisteo series, do the last 200 years of Galisteo. And I should live so long. I don’t know what I’d do after that. I’ve always wanted to do a biography. I don’t know if I’d have the juice left. I’m not even sure I have the juice left to do these three books I’m doing now. But there’s a woman named E. Boyd who—I can’t even remember what her name—Elizabeth, maybe.
But she was known as E. Boyd—who was kind of a character and became a Spanish Colonial art expert here. Jim met her when he was in college. He went up and talked to her about something—a paper he was writing or something.
She was with Edward Hall, who is a sociologist. At one point, I think, she was even married to him. And then he wrote a sort of autobiography about the time he spent in Navajo land, and she was with him. And, I thought, I knew her as a scholar, but I didn’t know anything about her. And she sounded like such a character.
She rode around topless out on the range and then smoked and drank a lot and was very bright and very feisty. And this was the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, I think—’40s, ’50s, ’60s, somewhere. And I always thought it would be a lot of fun. Nobody’s written a biography of her.
I’d always thought it would be a lot of fun to do that. But a biography takes an awful lot of research and stuff. And I don’t know if I’ll ever do that. I was trying to find an Indian woman to do a biography of, but that’s almost impossible.
MS. HEINEMANN: To find—to do the research.
MS. LIPPARD: Yeah, to do the research, because there’s so little written-down stuff.
MS. HEINEMANN: That really is oral—
MS. LIPPARD: And that really is oral. And again, if I were really younger and more energetic, I could find somebody who was—there are women Indian artists who live down here, and you can—but the best-known ones have already been written about.
And also there’s this whole cultural voyeurism that’s difficult with that. I don’t think I necessarily want to do that. Before you all came over last night, Carolyn Kastner was talking about showing Hopi kachinas, the dolls like that [one] up there, and showing them in museums, and how most of the Pueblo people didn’t want them shown.
But they get shown in collections and stuff, and she did all this work on a show that the O’Keeffe had planned, because Georgia painted kachinas now and then. And Carolyn went back and said, “We shouldn’t be doing this.” She talked to a lot of Pueblo people. She’s very good. She’s done a lot of Indian stuff.
MS. HEINEMANN: Can you think of anything more that you—
MS. LIPPARD: Oh, we can go on and on.
MS. HEINEMANN: Yeah.
MS. LIPPARD: We could talk about my cat and my dog and—[laughs]—but I think that’s probably enough for—
MS. HEINEMANN: [Cross-talk.]
MS. LIPPARD: I’m sure there’s other stuff that I’ve forgotten, because I’d forgotten a bunch of stuff there.
MS. HEINEMANN: We covered a lot of ground.
MS. LIPPARD: We did cover an awful lot of ground. I just shudder to think about the transcript. [Laughs.]
[END DISC 4.]
[END OF INTERVIEW.]