Promise of the Infinite
Joan Jonas and the Mirror
Once called the “Mother of all Performance Art,” Joan Jonas ’58 has used mirrors in her groundbreaking multimedia works since the late 1960s. From early performances captured on 16mm film, to recent installation pieces, Jonas uses the concept of the mirror to show us that images are not facts, but reflections of our individual imaginations and assumptions. Mirror-studded costumes, convex and full-length looking glasses, and the metaphorical mirror of the camera distort our notions of space, subject, object, and audience. This focused exhibition—the first of the artist’s at her alma mater—brings together four mirror-themed works that span Jonas’s prolific career.
Born in New York in 1936, Jonas received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College before attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Columbia University, where she earned an M.F.A. in Sculpture in 1965. Incorporating video, sculpture, drawing, and performance, Jonas’s innovative work uses diverse storytelling traditions to explore ways of seeing. She has participated in Germany’s prestigious dOCUMENTA six times since 1972, and in 2015, she represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. Currently, Jonas is the subject of a major touring retrospective, curated by Tate Modern, London and Haus der Kunst, Munich. A hero and mentor to a younger generation of artists, she is professor emerita at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jonas lives and works in New York City and Nova Scotia.
Joan Jonas is Mount Holyoke’s 2018 Leading Woman in the Arts, a short-term residency and lectureship organized by the Weissman Center for Leadership in collaboration with the InterArts Council.
This exhibition is made possible by the Susan B. Weatherbie Exhibition Fund and the Leon Levy Foundation.