Barbara Zucker, Time Signatures: Homage to Linda and Lucy. My Luminaries

Barbara Zucker, Time Signatures: Homage to Linda and Lucy. My Luminaries, 2010–17, dichroic coated plexiglass, metal fasteners, variable dimensions, © Barbara Zucker


Additional resources

Linda Nochlin and Lucy Lippard read aloud for this sculpture (audio files)

This sculpture at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Artist’s website

Lucy Lippard Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Linda Nochlin Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Annie Appel Photography (portrait of Linda Nochlin)


Smarthistory images for teaching and learning:

[flickr_tags user_id=”82032880@N00″ tags=”LindaLucyBZ,”]

More Smarthistory images…

[0:00] [music]

Dr. Steven Zucker: [0:05] I’m with the artist Barbara Zucker, looking at a series of sculptures that were produced between the years 2010 and 2017. They are so light, they stand off the wall. In fact, some of them are suspended by thin filaments and slowly revolve, and they cast not shadows so much as color.

Barbara Zucker: [0:30] This was a culmination of a vast series of works I did, called “Time Signatures.” They’re taken from photographs of the wrinkles in older women’s faces.

[0:42] I had some heroines, Lucy Lippard and Linda Nochlin. These two women were so important to me. We all became feminists around the same time, and so this work is an homage to both of them. It has an audio that goes with the piece, and it’s the two of them speaking from early writings of theirs when they first became feminists.

[1:02] [recorded audio starts]

Linda Nochlin: [1:03] Unlike any other genre, the portrait demands the meeting of two subjectivities.

Lucy Lippard: [1:09] The gap between object and intelligent perception of the object is, of course, one of the prevailing problems of making art at any time in an alienated society. “I made it as a person, not as a woman,” I kept saying.

Linda: [1:21] What if Picasso had been a girl?

Lucy: [1:21] Androgyny was only…

[1:22] [crosstalk]

Lucy: [1:22] attractive…

[1:23] [recorded audio ends]

Dr. Zucker: [1:23] It’s a cliché to say that we’re surrounded by visual culture that idealizes feminine beauty, the flawless face. But there’s a long history in art of celebrating wrinkled, gnarled faces. I think of ancient Roman portraiture of men…

Barbara: [1:41] Men.

Dr. Zucker: [1:42] …and that’s the thing. It’s always men.

Barbara: [1:44] Men.

Dr. Zucker: [1:45] Women’s faces are shown us flawlessly.

Barbara: [1:50] It’s not a cliché. It’s a truth. Young women are desirable. Old women are invisible. First, I did the front of my neck. I have a friend who’s a photographer, and I said, “Ken, I want you to make these as ugly as possible. I want you to take a photograph of these wrinkles in my neck.”

[2:07] He would take the photograph. I would then print it in acetate. Then I would put a piece of paper on the wall. I would project these wrinkles, and I would zero in on an area that appealed to me, an area that I thought could make a good sculpture. Then I’d make a little painting of it.

[2:22] Then I would make a silhouette of the whole thing and I would take it to a fabricator, a water jet cutter. The water jet cutter would cut it. That’s how they came about. Then I would have space just behind this, [be]cause shadows are so important. They were always important to me.

[2:36] And so I started out with myself. Then I did a few friends. Everyone was surprisingly willing to be photographed in the worst way possible so that I could get the lines I needed.

Dr. Zucker: [2:47] It becomes a transformation that makes what is socially constructed as ugly beautiful.

Barbara: [2:54] As, in fact, all these fissures are in nature. We just don’t like them when they’re on a woman’s face.

Dr. Zucker: [3:01] When I walk into this small room surrounded by these beautiful, delicate objects, I am overwhelmed by their aesthetic pleasure. These are fantastical. But they are also abstracted. They have been removed from the face.

Barbara: [3:18] Yes. I wanted them to be really beautiful because I wanted women to like their faces.

Dr. Zucker: [3:26] Because the surfaces are so reflective and because the colors change as we walk around these objects, they’re constantly in flux. These are, like a face, moving, and changing, and responding.

Barbara: [3:39] That was a major issue for using this material. It is a nod to time. The fact that if you walk back and forth in front of these pieces, they will never be the same. The color will keep changing just as time does, just as age takes us, just as the face changes.

Dr. Zucker: [3:55] These are incredibly playful colors. There are aquas, and pinks, and oranges mixed with pinks.

Barbara: [4:04] They’re joyous. When I started out, it was anything but joyous. It was dealing with my own aging, which infuriates me to this day. It was dealing with the aging of women around me. It was dealing with being invisible. It was dealing with all those things. And so they were steel. Or they were black rubber. Or they were dark red rubber.

[4:23] As I worked through the series over time, I kind of lightened up about it. I realized I could make them out of anything, and that the beauty didn’t have to be in the lines themselves, but they could be in the materiality as well. I didn’t have to be wedded to this fury.

Dr. Zucker: [4:40] Lucy Lippard and Linda Nochlin are two writers, thinkers, who have had a tremendous impact on the history of 20th-century art history and have been profoundly important to me as an art historian as well.

[4:55] When I see this creating a physical manifestation of their age, of their wrinkles, it does bring me back to those ancient Roman sculptures where patricians were shown having a greater degree of authority because of the experiences that were written on their faces. And here, these two women are joining.

Barbara: [5:18] Without a toga.

Dr. Zucker: [5:20] But without a toga.

[5:21] [laughs]

[5:21] [music]

Cite this page as: Barbara Zucker, "Barbara Zucker, Time Signatures: Homage to Linda and Lucy. My Luminaries," in Smarthistory, July 21, 2023, accessed June 16, 2024, https://smarthistory.org/barbara-zucker-time-signatures-homage-to-linda-and-lucy/.