Lynn Hershman Leeson (b. 1941) is a performance artist and filmmaker who, in various media, has investigated the idea of selfhood and what establishes an individual as a sentient, gendered, unique person. Between the years of 1974 and 1978, Hershman Leeson spent much of her time performing as an alter ego, the character Roberta Breitmore. Much of the work—drawings, photographs, clothing, medical records, letters, etc.—Hershman Leeson produced during the Breitmore years related to the character’s emotional and practical existences. Hershman Leeson seemed to be demonstrating that the two existences could and should not be easily separated—nor should the artist herself be easily separated from the character she created.
Hershman Leeson’s work in film, video, and new media has been equally focused toward exploring the ways that bodies interact and define themselves. Lorna (1983-84), described by the artist as “the first interactive video art disc,” allowed the viewer to experience the emotions of the title character while also, at key points, making important decisions for her. The viewer was both entwined with and removed from Lorna’s life.
In the 1980s and 90s, Hershman continued to focus on new media, expanding her work in video and creating online environments that incorporated artificial intelligence. Concurrently, she began to direct feature films; her first film, Conceiving Ada (1997), situated the nineteenth-century computer science innovator Ada Lovelace in juxtaposition with the twentieth-century computer reality that she helped to create.
A winner of numerous awards and honors for her contributions to art practice, Hershman Leeson is currently Chair of the Film Department at the San Francisco Art Institute. She is Professor Emerita at the University of California, David, and an A.D. White Professor at large at Cornell University. !Women Art Revolution reflects years of interviews that Hershman Leeson has compiled in order to tell the story of the feminist art movement in the artists’ own words.
Image courtesy of Lynn Hershman Leeson.
Derecktor, Elizabeth. "Lynn Hershman." In Connecting Conversations: Interviews with 28 Bay Area Women Artists, edited by Moira Roth, 86-92. Oakland, Calif.: Eucalyptus Press, Mills College, 1988.
Hershman, Lynn. "Reflections on the Electric Mirror." In New Artists Video: A Critical Anthology, edited by Gregory Battcock, 36-39. New York: Dutton, 1978.
Hershman Leeson, Lynn. Clicking In: Hot Links to a Digital Culture. Seattle: Bay Press, 1996.
Tromble, Meredith. The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson: Secret Agents, Private I. Berkeley: University of California Press; Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, 2005.