In this series, artists talk about portraits from Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection. Here, Kalup Linzy discusses Duane Hanson's work, and the crossover between performance and sculpture.
My name is Kalup Linzy. I’m a video and performance artist. I’m here at the Whitney, with the piece Woman with Dog, 1977, by Duane Hanson. This piece was created the year I was born. The artist was working in Florida at the time, and I’m from Florida. So it sort of reminded me of my grandmother, when she would sit outside reading letters. My grandmother was deaf, so I would write what I was going to say to her down.
The piece gets the viewer to think about what words might be communicated through those letters. You wonder what the next gesture might be: Would she take the letter out, put it behind, or would she sit it on her lap? Would she leave it facing up or face down? He used fiberglass and vinyl, so how do you get fiberglass and vinyl to look like skin? It’s one of the ways he gets us to identify with her.
So in my work, I’m always trying to shoot a moment that will capture of the essence of the character. I have a character called Katonya, who was created after I had entered the art world. She was an artist, so she’s getting ready for her first art exhibition, and she has this anxiety about if people are going to show up or not. And it’s an anxiety that I experienced when I was first entering the art world with the work. And so it was the idea of Katonya being this strange, bearded female that was in this particular art space.
I am often more comfortable performing a character than being my real self. I think it’s because I get to lose myself, and sort of dis-identify with the real world around me. It’s a way for me to escape into another space. The crossover between video, performance, and sculpture is in gesture. We, as humans, are sculptures ourself.