Artful Letters Encapsulate the Correspondence Between an Artist and a Scholar

IFAC Arts opens its doors this month to a new exhibition, “Between The Skin and the Prop: A Conversation with Monica L. Miller,” which demonstrates the dynamic exchange between scholar Monica Miller and multimedia artist Joanne Grüne-Yanoff. While engaging through a series of letters and the epistolary process, Miller and Grüne-Yanoff explore the tensions of race, oppression, and liberation.

Miller first encountered Grüne-Yanoff through her video “Fly!” at an exhibition in Stockholm. (In the film a pair of talking feet convince each other that they can fly.) A faculty member at Barnard College, Miller investigates topics such as sexuality, race, and performativity. She was intrigued by the artworks of Grüne-Yanoff, who uses new or found objects to explore notions of identity in her videos, sculptures, and paintings. Considered as a whole, Grüne-Yanoff’s work constitutes a language of its own, a physical rendering of the artist’s persona. 

On her return to New York, , Miller wrote to Grüne-Yanoff in Stockholm regarding her visit there. After several rounds of correspondence, the pair developed a vibrant collaboration, combining each of their respective studies of place, body, and language into a discussion on existence. As her contribution, Grüne-Yanoff produced threaded and textured responses in written and visual form, mining inspiration from the content of Miller’s letters and her own reactions. In December Letter, MLM-JGY (2014), Miller wrote, “I love how our letters have become material objects, how they have been embellished with wings and also penetrated by thread; flight has been enabled and disabled by what you’ve done.” The letters, now turned into artworks, give physicality to statements, feelings, and ideas. They give form to spontaneous thoughts and unforeseen reactions.

The contrast between the intentionality of the letter and the reactions it elicited is a tension that both Miller and Grüne-Yanoff examine  through writing and art-making respectively. Together their works offer commentaries on identity and the quintessentially human nature of conversation. IFAC Arts provides the platform to exhibit the compelling correspondence between these two women.  

Michael Valinsky 

Between The Skin and the Prop: A Conversation with Monica L. Miller” is on view at IFAC Arts, New York, Mar. 3–May 4, 2015.

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