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Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series: Zoe Leonard

Zoe Leonard, artist, in conversation with Lynne Cooke, senior curator, special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art. Zoe Leonard, born in Liberty, New York, in 1961, is acclaimed for her work in sculpture and photography made over the past three decades. While the subject matter in her photography ranges widely, it is informed by an incisive critical scrutiny of the conventions, protocols, and politics of image making and display. In 1993 the filmmaker Cheryl Dunye approached Leonard about producing a trove of images recording the life and career of a fictional black lesbian actress working in Hollywood in the early 20th century. Leonard constructed a resonant, multilayered album of the personal and professional life of the actress, Fae Richards, which includes film stills from roles she might have played and snapshots recording casual moments at leisure with friends and lovers. Period-specific costumes and props as well as a variety of photographic processes and faux aging treatments contribute to the realism of the project without obscuring its invented origins. From this corpus of 82 images, some of which appeared briefly as props in Dunye’s film The Watermelon Woman (1996), Leonard created The Fae Richards Photo Archive, which she first exhibited at the 1997 Whitney Biennial and which is on view in the exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art at the National Gallery of Art through May 13, 2018. On January 28, 2018, in celebration of the exhibition opening and as part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series, Zoe Leonard discusses her career with Lynne Cooke.