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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Jenny Holzer

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Jenny Holzer: July 29,1950-****...United States

"There's something about light that's right for these terrible subjects. It's a way of having beauty let you come closer than you might otherwise."
~Jenny Holzer

In the area of language, the art of Jenny Holzer truly defines that facet of the stream. Born in Gallipolis, Ohio, Holzer went on to study art at the University of Chicago, Duke University, Ohio University, and the Rhode Island School of Design. She began her career as an abstract artist who was greatly influenced by Mark Rothko. It was 1977 and she had just finished an independent study through the Whitney Museum of American Art. She had an idea to paint sayings onto canvases and display them anonymously around New York City. These texts became known as “Truisms,” and those Truisms would make her internationally known for her public presentations of issues through text. The Truisms are printed on posters, LED signs, plaques, benches, stickers, tee shirts, on the internet and many more locations that I can list. Her Truisms are short statements that make people think about issues like:

  • a solid home base builds a sense of self
  • bad intentions can yield good results
  • every achievement requires a sacrifice
  • ignoring enemies is the best way to fight
  • it's better to be lonely than to be with inferior people
  • morals are for little people
  • raise boys and girls the same way
  • romantic love was invented to manipulate women
  • starvation is nature's way
  • stupid people shouldn't breed
  • wishing things away is not effective
  • you are a victim of the rules you live by
  • you should study as much as possible

As we can see, some make sense, while others are a bit more sarcastic. Either way, the statements make up look within ourselves and examine our own beliefs based on the text’s comment. These comments range in topic through religion, politics, gender issues, and life in general. “I wanted to have almost every subject represented, almost every possible point of view, and then I had to sort out what those sentences should appear on. That turned out to be the street posters. Subsequent series had different demands because they had to fit in any number of places. I had to find the right medium, be that stone or electronics. So I tried to sort this out as I went. I’m afraid to talk about values these days. Usually, any time values are invoked, it’s to dismiss or maybe incarcerate somebody! I do make work that focuses on unnecessary cruelty, in the hope that people will recoil. I would like there to be less fear and cruelty. And I’d like to think I have some plain old empathy too.” She stopped writing the Truisms in 2001 and began to use the texts of others. “One reason why I stopped was because I tend to write about ghastly subjects. So it’s not just the difficulty of having something turn out right, but it’s also the difficulty of staying with the material long enough to complete it. It’s necessary to be emotionally engaged when writing about these topics. It’s exhausting.” Holzer lives and works in Hoosick Falls, New York.

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063