Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-01-09
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



ART Riva Lehrer and the evolution of 'Risk'
by Liz Baudler

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Riva Lehrer's career in portraiture has been long, and over time her discomfort with it grew.

"It was really clear to me from the beginning that the people I was working with shared a really formative experience in my own life, which is that we'd almost all been stared at and screamed at and insulted and abused on a regular, life-long basis from the word go," Lehrer recalled. " As someone who had never been comfortable being looked at, I kind of knew instinctively that asking someone to let me look at them was going to be uncomfortable for them."

Lehrer excels in multiple fields. Her art has been exhibited in numerous venues across the US, including the United Nations, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the National Portrait Gallery. She's presented on her work at a wide range of universities and conferences, including on multiple occasions at the Society for Disability Studies.The two disciplines were not always married, but when Lehrer started doing portraits of other people, particularly other disabled people, she found herself questioning the process.

"What I"m interested in is how someone's body influences their production," Lehrer explained. "So from the very beginning, the people I was picking were all people who were making work that was interesting to me. I was asking people for their stories around what their work was about, or biography, or most often, those two things together, and I was also doing something else, which was continually asking people for permission. The main thing I wanted to do was to not replicate the pain of the aggressive gaze, and what that had done to everyone that I knew."

Still, it wasn't enough. Over time, her doubts grew into a desire to involve her subjects in the work's creation. "Even though I was asking people this permission for what we were doing, all of the final decisions were always mine, all the marks were mine. I've certainly had people be ambivalent about a portrait after it's been done," Lehrer said. "I don't always know how they really feel."

"The Risk Pictures"—an exhibition on display Friday, May 20, at PrintWorks Gallery—represents a culmination of Lehrer's concerns and subsequent radical disruption of the portraiture process, featuring both disabled and non-disabled subjects. Lehrer would invite her subjects over for sessions, and at some point leave them alone with their in-progress depiction and art supplies to do what they would with the portrait. The risk was not merely artistic: Lehrer stressed that subjects were alone in her house and space, and thus she was becoming vulnerable as well. "The risk had to be as much equalized as I could make it," she explained.

She also had to accept the possibility of her subjects ruining the work. "I specifically didn't want a skill level, I kind of wanted to wrestle with something that would be as off the rails as possible, intentionally," she said.

As much as Lehrer works at a high level in both disciples, she wishes that the art world recognized the value of the conversation she's trying to start.

"In disability culture I am a tiny gorilla. In the art world, it's really not the same," Lehrer said. "We're in a period where work about other kinds of stigma, primarily racial identity, but also sexuality, are getting their very very overdue and necessary attention. This is critical, but still disability is 99.9-percent left off of the conversation.

"There's a 40-year precedent for assuming work about disability is only therapeutic: it has no cultural, societal or conceptual bearing. There is no demographic that doesn't contain disabled people. And yet, we are still largely invisible in that kind of discourse, or the representations are often just not helpful. In the art world, if you were asking someone to pay upward of $10,000 for a piece, if they think the issue you're working with is of critical importance and you're saying something necessary about it, they're going to feel like they're participating in a crucial cultural dialogue. If they think your work is therapeutic and not particularly germane, they're going to be a lot more resistant to putting you in a collection."

Stigma has always been Lehrer's focus as an artist. She started out working in the realm of lesbian sexuality, but her focus shifted to what she found the more difficult identity.

"For me, frankly, being a lesbian has been a lot easier than being a crip," said Lehrer. "When I came out it was in the '70s, there was movement, a national movement. So I walked into something that had context. There was nothing for disability. Plus, I had been stigmatized around being a crip from the time I was the smallest child. If you were a lesbian there was fashion, music ... no context other than hospitals for being disabled. And being a lesbian was about pleasure—about desire and pleasure. There was nothing positive to move towards at all, in terms of identifying as a disabled person. There certainly were positive things waiting for me being a lesbian. And also, frankly, if I wanted to pass, if I didn't feel like being an obvious lesbian on any given day, I could mostly pass. I've never been able to pass as anything other than a crip."

Lehrer hopes to resume the Risk series in the near future: all of them were drawings, and she felt she needed to get back to painting. However, there's one special subject that Lehrer wants to focus on soon. "My partner really really wants me to do her portrait, so I"m going to be a good girlfriend," she said.

Riva Lehrer's solo show "The Risk Pictures" opens Friday, May 20, at Printworks Gallery, 311 W. Superior St. The reception is at 5:30-7 p.m., and is free; no RSVP is required. See WWW.RIVALEHRERART.COM/ for more information.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Betsy Odom, butchcraft, LGBTQ identity and art 2019-01-08 - Chicago-based artist Betsy Odom will have her first museum solo exhibit at DePaul Art Museum, along with artist Karolina Gnatowski. Their collaboration will ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart, Howard Brown to host 'Great Believers' discussion 2019-01-02 - On Wed., Jan. 16, 6-8 p.m., Howard Brown Health Clark and Gerber/Hart Library and Archives will host a discussion on The Great Believers ...

Gay News

The best of Chicago theater (part two) 2019-01-01 - More Windy City Times theater critics weigh in on what they felt was the best theater Chicago had to offer in 2018. 1. ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Will & Grace,' Martina's flub, Nick Jonas, Aretha, '9 Months' 2019-01-01 - The people behind Will & Grace have released a highlight reel featuring some of the show's numerous famous guest stars, noted. "So ...

Gay News

Auditorium Theatre restores Louis Sullivan-designed stencils 2018-12-27 - ( CHICAGO, IL ) The Auditorium Theatre, a National Historic Landmark that celebrated its 129th birthday on Dec. 9, 2018, recently restored intricate, ...

Gay News

CONCERTS William Elliott Whitmore; The Runnies and Bleach Party 2018-12-26 - In one of the more unusual year-end concerts that I've seen, acoustic blues rocker William Elliott Whitmore headed a deceptively diverse bill at ...

Gay News

Jody Michael talks Crain's honor, StartOut, future plans 2018-12-26 - When Jody Michael started her business, Jody Michael Associates, 22 years ago she was one of the first executive and career coaches in ...

Gay News

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Windy City Times and your furry friends 2018-12-26 - Thanks to everyone for submitting pet photos. Adorable?! ...

Gay News

THEATER FEATURE The best of Chicago theater (part one) 2018-12-26 - Two Windy City Times theater critics weigh in on the best theater Chicago had to offer in 2018. More will offer their selections ...

Gay News

FASHION Local designer closes boutique to focus on customized items 2018-12-26 - Anastasia Chatzka's boutique—once located on the corner of Damen and Augusta avenues, in Wicker Park—is now closed. The store officially closed Dec. 14 ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.