Travels with Mona (1977-1978)
Suzanne Lacy and Arlene Raven
In this performance Lacy explored the great monuments of Europe and Latin America while paint- ing, in consecutive locales, a paint-by-number Mona Lisa. In each of 12 sites Lacy posed for hours in front of a famous tourist attraction as a studious painter completing her scripted work while study- ing fame. At every location a colleague—an artist or critic, including the artists Iole de Freitas and Ulrike Rosenbach—photographed her. The work represents the concerns of performance artists of the era as they attempted to formulate this new discipline, one often compared, unfavorably, with painting. It was later represented as photographs, reproduced as a travelogue foldout postcard, with text by Arlene Raven. Raven’s ironic commentary raises questions about the notion of great works of art and culture produced by men and reflects with humor on the situations of women artists: “Musing at her train window, as unfamiliar landscapes and major monuments of art rush by, Mona also contemplates her own image. She is a universal hallmark of Women—mysterious, self-enclosed, silent. She is the European artistic tradition at its highest level of aspiration. A performance artist speaks but does not generally paint canvases. In this journey, a performance about tourism, imitation, art, artists, art objects, women and culture, she seeks the promises of art long ago whispered to Mona (is that why she’s smiling?)—visibility, acknowledgement, fortune, even immortality. Under these circumstances, it is best to have a Famous Painting by a Great Artist along.”
Various sites in Europe and the Americas.