Index: Dorothy Iannone
Dorothy Iannone was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1933. She graduated from Boston University in 1957 with a B.A. in American Literature. She went on to study English Literature at the graduate level at Brandeis University. In 1958 she married the painter James Upham and the couple moved to New York City. The following year, Iannone taught herself to paint alongside her husband. Between 1963 and 1967 she exhibited with her husband at the Stryke Gallery, an exhibition space she ran with her husband in New York and traveling frequently to Europe and Asia. In 1961 she was arrested by U.S. Customs at the Idlewild Airport in Queens, New York for trying to import The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, which was banned at the time. Iannone sued the U.S. Customs with assistance from the New York Civil Liberties Union, which caused her book to be returned and the ban on Miller to be lifted.
The majority of Iannone's paintings, texts, and visual narratives depict themes of erotic love. Her explicit renderings of the human body draw heavily from the artist's travels and from Japanese woodcuts, Greek vases, and visual motifs from Eastern religions, including Tibetan Buddhism, Indian Tantrism and Christian ecstatic traditions like those of the seventeenth-century Baroque. Her small wooden statues of celebrities with visible genitals, including Charlie Chaplin and Jacqueline Kennedy, especially display with the artist's interest in African tribal statues.
The explicit nature of Iannone's work frequently fell foul of censors in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The artist said of the early censorship of her work: “When my work was not censored outright, it was either mildly ridiculed or described as folkloric, or just ignored.” In 1969 the Kunsthalle Bern tried to censor Iannone's work in the group exhibition Ausstellung der Freunde by requesting that she cover up the genitals of her figures. In protest Dieter Roth dropped out of the exhibition and the curator of the Kunsthalle Bern, Harald Szeeman, resigned. Iannone recalled the experience in the Fluxus publication The Story of Bern or Showing Colors (1970).
Iannone's first solo exhibition in the US, Lioness, was held at the New Museum in 2009. Her work has been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions across Europe throughout her life. Iannone is represented by Peres Projects.
With Dieter Roth
On a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland in 1967, Iannone met the Swiss artist Dieter Roth. Iannone separated from her husband one week later. Iannone lived with Roth in Düsseldorf, Reykjavik, Basel and London until 1974. Roth became Iannone's muse and features in much of her artwork. His nickname for her was “lioness.” She said of her work at this time: “The two of us became the stars of my work.” One of her most noted works involving Roth is her book An Icelandic Saga (1978-86), which vividly illustrates the artist's first encounter with Roth and her subsequent breakup with her husband in the vein of a Norse myth. She also created paintings of her and Roth in sexual union as historical couples. For instance, I Am Whoever You Want Me To Be (1970) and I Begin To Feel Free (1970) reference both Anthony and Cleopatra as well as brightly colored African tribal imagery. Iannone and Roth remained friends until his death in 1998.