Born in Detroit, Michigan, Suzy Lake lives and makes work in Toronto. She was among the first female artists to adopt performance, video and photographic work to explore the politics of gender, the body and identity in Canada.
Suzy was the subject of a major mid-career retrospective organized by the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in 1993. In 2007 Lake was one of 119 women in the historical show WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution 1965-1980. The exhibition was originated by the LA MoCA, and toured major US cities, plus the Vancouver Art Gallery. Also in 2007, Suzy's early work was in Identity Theft: Eleanor Antin, Lynn Hershmann and Suzy Lake 1972-1978 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. More recently Lake's work was the subject of a themed survey show titled Political Poetics at the University of Toronto Art Centre in 2011.
Lake continues to address the relationship of the individual to larger societal forces that include issues of youth culture and consumerism in order to break down (and reveal) constructions and restraints built into our culture. Suzy is currently in production for a full career retrospective titled Introducing Suzy Lake at the Art Gallery of Ontario for the fall of 2014.
My work began in the late sixties as a means to come to terms with the politicization and social change of the period. It responded to body within a social context through staged constructions in performance, video and photography It is heartening that this early period is now being re-evauated, and much of this early work is being curated into historical exhibitions such as: WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution 1965 – 1980, Identity Theft, and Revealment / Concealment. My work has continued to investigate issues of representation, the voice of resistance, or authority versus power relations by using the body as either the works’ subject or its metaphoric device since then.I have selected works from the past decade that represent three different attitudes on beauty and the ageing body. In the bodies of work surrounding Re-Reading Recovery (1995-99) there is a quiet empowerment emerging from a history of previous struggles. The painterly printed image is staged to suggest a mature, determined preparation for re-building. Previously produced prints were 8 ft by 5 ft.
Beauty at a Proper Distance (2001-2) also moves away from this politically romantic foundation of those battles, to consider the expectations raised by the twenty first century's new heights of consumption and assumptions within youth/pop star obsession. As I adopt the forms of youth culture, I intend to deconstruct them by delaying the realization of the effects of aging to disrupt an assumed first easy reading. To grow a postmenopausal beard is something that I can do that Brittany Spears cannot do.
Beauty at the End of the Season resumes the criteria of beauty from the position of maturity and endurance without irony or narrative. The image of an ageing body is automatically branded as an old/older body - which, in turn, problematically connotes either crone or exceptionally well preserved. The long spindly roses were photographed and printed in a manner so they discreetly function as surrogates for the body. This characteristic appeared to pose a solution to the problem of how to represent the beauty of the mature female. This selection is was photographed at night under mixed light conditions. Previously produced prints were 5 ft by 22 in.
Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario
Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa, Ottawa
Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa
Glenbow Art Gallery, Calgary, Alberta
Labatt Ltd., London, Ontario
Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario
Lavalin, Montreal, Quebec
London Regional Art Gallery, London, Ontario
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, Ontario
Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan
McCarthy Tetrault, Toronto, Ontario
Montreal Museum of Fine Art, Montreal, Quebec
Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec
Musee du Quebec, Quebec City, Quebec
Museum Lodz, Wroclaw, Poland
National Film Board Stills Division, Ottawa, Ontario
Nickel Arts Museum, Calgary, Alberta
Osler Hoskin and Harcourt, Toronto, Ontario
Prudential Life Assurance Co., Ontario
Sammlung Verbund, Vienna, Austria
Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta
University of Calgary; Calgary, Alberta
University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba