Dorothy Ian­none’s You Who Read Me With Pas­sion Now Must For­ever Be My Friends

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Chris­tine Wertheim

Siglio Press, 2014 What’s in a name? Take Dou­glas Sirk’s film Im­i­ta­tion of Life or Christina Stead’s novel For Love Alone— these are ex­em­plary names, for they give pre­cise def­i­ni­tion to their ob­jects, the works they de­note. The Amer­i­can artist-writer Dorothy Ian­none also takes names se­ri­ously, as the ti­tle of a re­cent col­lec­tion of her work sug­gests. But the name here is more than a def­i­ni­tion; it is a con­tract.

Born in 1933, Ian­none had an or­di­nary charmed bo­hemian life un­til 1967 when, on hol­i­day in Ice­land with her hus­band, she met the artist Di­eter Roth. Be­fore day’s end Roth had asked to have sex with her, and she had re­sponded by al­low­ing him to gaze on her bare arse, an easy feat at the time, she writes, be­cause she then never wore un­der­pants. This was the 1960s. She con­tin­ued re­fus­ing to make love with him for the en­tire trip. The day she re­turned to New York, she had the best sex she could have with her hus­band, told him she was leav­ing, packed her bags, and flew back to Ice­land be­fore the week was out. She and Roth then pur­sued an ex­tremely pas­sion­ate re­la­tion­ship un­til 1974, in Düs­sel­dorf, Reyk­javik, Basel, and Lon­don, while both made art, hers al­most en­tirely about their re­la­tion­ship. Or so Dorothy presents the story in her work, an epic, on­go­ing auto-(erotic)- bio- graphic- al, all- painted, all-tex­tual ex­trav­a­ganza, ex­tracts of which have been hand­somely bound by Siglio, the Los An­ge­les press spe­cial­iz­ing in im­age-text hy­brids, with a fo­cus on work by women.

Like many artists, Ian­none is pos­sessed by a scene that she can­not, nor does she wish to, stop re­peat­ing. In the typ­i­cally ti­tled “Pieces In Au­tumn, A Con­tin­u­a­tion Of That Cun­ningly En­ti­tled Notes For An Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Part IV,” Ian­none sum­ma­rizes:

Long ago in that ephemeral par­adise into which we are al­most all born, while I was still vul­ner­a­bly ex­alt­ing in his beauty and in the abun­dance of my mother’s breasts, my fa­ther chose to fall ill and die.

I look for the sweet­est of men with pas­sion­ate per­se­ver­ance and I find again in my best lovers his amaz­ing re­luc­tance to linger. I urge, they re­sist— or so it seems—for, in the world, projects take prece­dence over bliss.

Un­like her male com­pan­ions, for Ian­none bliss takes prece­dence over projects. In­deed, bliss takes prece­dence over ev­ery­thing, and in her re­la­tion­ship with Roth she found it tem­po­rar­ily. Her art­work—a com­pletely en­twined mix of im­age and text, fact and fan­tasy, dec­o­ra­tion and re­flec­tion—is an homage to that state, and to the phe­nom­ena that pro­duced it: her sex­ual unions with men. Though af­ter the breakup with Roth, her “muse,” Ian­none never again found such com­plete­ness, she con­tin­ued to seek it through an ec­static com­mu­nion with her work. Like those me­dieval mys­tics who ex­press their love of Love, aka God, by al­low­ing It, in Its in­car­na­tion as Word, to come (lit­er­ally), Dorothy Ian­none sub­sumes her de­sire, and lets Love It­self come through her brush. In a land­scape dom­i­nated by “con­cepts,” and the idea that fem­i­nin­ity is re­duced to an ob­ject when de­picted icon­i­cally, Ian­none’s work has for decades been ei­ther cen­sored or ig­nored. Per­haps at last we can over­come these lim­i­ta­tions, and revel in the glory that (still) is Dorothy. —Chris­tine Wertheim is a writer, critic, and per­former who teaches at the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of the Arts.

op­po­site: “Flora And Fauna,” 1973 by Dorothy Ian­none, in YOU WHO READ ME WITH PAS­SION NOW MUST FOR­EVER BE MY FRIENDS, Siglio, 2014. Im­ages cour­tesy of the artist and Air de Paris, Paris. Photo Jochen Littkemann. above: Ex­cerpt from “( Ta) rot Pack,” 1968–1969 by Dorothy Ian­none, in YOU WHO READ ME WITH PAS­SION NOW MUST FOR­EVER BE MY FRIENDS, Siglio, 2014.

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