BEFORE by Leslie Lyons

BEFORE by Leslie Lyons

The work of Austrian psychiatrist, Wilhelm Reich, is at the foundation of my investigation as a contemporary artist with the extraction of a singular theme from Reich’s research; Individualism is the means by which to free ourselves not only from the perils of a tyrannical societal construct but also from our own emotional pain. Specifically Reich’s phrase, ‘Your depths are your great future,’ propel me forward toward the exploration and presentation of those depths.

Believing that individualism can be achieved and maintained within an overwhelming social mosaic I use fashion, song lyrics and other culturally experiential data to contextualize persona and identity. My photographs and works in video employ direct concepts from both Reich’s clinical work as a psychiatrist and his teachings as an activist, funneling Reichian notions such as “body language” and “character structure” through pop culture to arrive at an awareness of self and place within modern society.

Moving in two distinct directions, I am producing projects that involve collaborations with the general public to present a calculated, collective perspective while, at the same time and through a specific self-portrait series, investigating the use of my own body and personal history. Reich’s celebration of the “little man” (all of us, the people) speaks to my work with the public, specifically strangers to me, skewing the notion of “public art” as something people help create rather than simply observe. Conversely, the self-portrait series challenges me to address those depths Reich points to within myself to continuously rediscover who I am.

Time Traveling with Lyrics

Exhibition Statement

The genesis of this self-portrait series is the David Bowie song, Who Can I Be Now? recorded in 1975 but not available until a later version of the Young Americans CD was released in 1991. With the idea being to extrapolate a personal visual journey with lyrics from the song as signifiers, images formed around the conundrum of gender identity and feminism coupled with the theatrics of personal history and meaning. I explored the phenomenon of memetics that identifies the “meme” as the mental equivalent of the “gene” suggesting that cultural transfers of information are just as influential as DNA on persona. My grandmother’s girdle, my father’s football helmet and even my own daughter are in conversation with the past, present and future in a singular moment; allowing me to explore particularly a self that I both imagine and recognize at once.