Occupation: Sculpture, Painting
Education: Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York
“Female Sensibility,” 1973
Lynda Benglis is an American artist whose works are material-driven; she uses a range of materials like latex, beeswax, ceramic, Rubber, video and polyutherane to make her sculptures. Her most famous act was posing for the cover of Artforum magazine completely naked except the cat eye glasses and holding a dildo against her crotch.
Lynda Benglis was born in 1941 in Louisiana. Her father was of Greek origin, who possessed a building-materials shop while her mother was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister in Mississippi. Benglis studied at Newcomb College, the Women's College of Tulane University, New Orleans. Here she was inspired by the verdant landscape and its organic forms, and the ceramics department of the college. She taught students of third grade while still in college and after a brief marriage, moved to New York in 1964.
She joined the Brooklyn Museum Art School, where one of her fellow students was the Hawaiian abstract painter, Reuben Tam. He introduced her to a group of artists which included Bridget Riley, Larry Poons and Frank Stella. She became part of the scene, started haunting the openings of art shows. Soon she got a job at Bykert Gallery as the gallery assistant and in 1968 she owned a studio on Baxter Street. Until 1974, Benglis made works using a variety of materials. She constructed vertical beeswax paintings, monumental pieces made by pouring pigmented latex and polyutherane. These works were scattered on the floor in a swirl or were hung on the wall as monstrous shapes and employed the drip technique of Jackson Pollock. These artworks rejected the minimalist sensibilities that were de riguer.
Her works started to get noticed and in the first five years of her career she had fifteen solo shows and at least fifty group shows. She wanted to get paints off the wall and in an interview she said that she replicates the physicality of the surface of the paintings in the usage of her materials.
In 1974 she posed for Artforum, which made her infamous. The ad in which she was naked except a pair of sunglasses and wielded a long dildo in front of her crotch, shocked many and some of the staff at Artforum resigned in protest. According to Benglis she was playing on gender stereotypes and the visual representation of bodies in pornography. She questioned the male supremacy in the artistic world in her 1973 video “Female Sensibility" in which she is kissing and licking artist Marilyn Lenkowsky's face.
Benglis gets all the ideas from nature. In 1989, she made “Panhard" which was inspired by the forms of the crustaceans that were aplenty in Louisiana. She liked the coexistence of the spiny exoskeleton with the soft interior and modelled her works on them. In 2003-2005, she made "Graces", which was the outcome of her ideas about fountains as objects that can be continuously filled with water so that they overflow. She used urethane for these works as it has the property to absorb and reflect light. Her 2009 work "Hotspots" are replications of corals that she saw while diving, especially the shape of the brain-coral. It was also dedicated to her mother who died of strokes as it borrowed the association of brain and strokes.
In 1970s and 1980s she made her “Peacock” series that looked like tribal ceremonial headdresses or decorated hand fans. She also made some simple pieces by overlaying gold over chicken wire armatures in the shape of the torso of Greek statutes. She also
made “pleated sculptures,” inspired by Greek mythologies and had titles as "Perseus and Pleiades”. They mimicked the texture, fall and movement of the draperies in ancient art.
Benglis is one of the most peripatetic artists and has studios at Santa Fe, New York and East Hampton. She has received many honours like the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975 and an honorary doctorate by the Kansas City art Institute in 2000. She also travels often to her ancestral house in Greece and to India.
1941 - Born in Louisiana
1964 - Moves to New York
1968 - Owns a studio on Baxter Street
1974 - Poses for an ad in Artforum, which made her infamous
1975 - Is awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship
2000 - Is awarded an honorary doctorate by the Kansas City Art Institute
2009 - Her first retrospective in an European county, Dublin, opens
2007 - Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
2009 - Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
2011 - Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
2011 - Gallery mfc-michele Didier, Paris
2015 - The Hepworth Wakefield, England
Art Institute of Chicago
Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
“Lynda Benglis: Beyond Process” by Susan Richmond
“Lynda Benglis” by Richard Marshall and Lynda Benglis
“Lynda Benglis: Shape Shifters” by Brenda Richardson and Lynda Benglis
“Lynda Benglis: Dual Natures” by Robert Pincus-Witten