Blythe Bohnen

(1940) American


Blythe Bohnen was born in Evanston, Illinois, and she graduated from Smith College and Boston University with degrees in art. She completed an MFA at Hunter College in New York in 1972, and was one of the founding members of A.I.R. Gallery, a women's cooperative arts organization. Bohnen began her artistic career as a painter, and in her paintings and drawings of 1968-73 she explored the effects of physical gesture and examined how bodily motion--the pressure exerted by the arm while drawing, for instance--affects artistic production. She first used a camera in 1974 to photograph her hand and arm in motion, in the process of making art. Her photographic self-portrait series from the early 1980s expands on themes of motion and identity. The first exhibition of her photography in New York came in 1984; her works in other media were shown in the 1970s at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, and at the 1977 Documenta in Kassel, Germany.
While she does not identify herself exclusively as a photographer, Bohnen has used the medium for one important series to explore her interest in motion. Her photographic self-portraits from the early 1980s were intentionally distorted and blurred through the use of three-to-four second exposures. Approximately life-size, these gelatin silver prints of the artist's face encourage an intimacy between subject and viewer, while simultaneously emphasizing the disorientation that divides the two. Most of Bohnen's work is characterized by its combination of sensual and intuitive imagery and precisely calculated execution.
Meredith Fisher
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 209.
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