Artist Lynn Goldsmith Turns the Lens on Herself with "The Looking Glass"

Rebecca Prusinowski
Last Thursday night, PAPERMAG swung by Jenkins Johnson Gallery to celebrate artist Lynn Goldsmith's exhibition "The Looking Glass," a series of self-portraits she's been crafting the past decade. Widely known for her rock 'n' roll portraits and photography, Goldsmith's work has appeared on the covers of Life, Newsweek, Time, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, People, and Elle, among others. For "The Looking Glass," however, Goldsmith turned the lens on herself, exploring the notion of identity through manipulated self-portrayals.  Each piece within "The Looking Glass" is a digital montage that took anywhere from one month to a year to achieve. Goldsmith was interested in fashion's influences on women and began the project by photographing high-end department store windows throughout New York (you'll surely recognize those spectacular Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows). It then evolved into something more personal, with Goldsmith superimposing elaborate set pieces, mannequins and images of herself. The result is a vibrant, phantasmagorical tableaux series that challenges ideas of beauty, race and reality.  It's an intimate study of personal identity -- particularly for someone used to shooting the likes of Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Gene Simmons and countless other rock icons. Before her reception and friends Patti Smith, Karen Allen, Billy Squire and Augusten Burroughs arrived, we caught up with the wildly animated and endearing artist:

With all the success you garnered photographing rock stars, what made you take your work in such a different direction?

Well, with most of the people I photographed -- Blondie, Patti Smith -- they were my friends. I just took pictures of them. And if I could earn a living selling them and putting them in magazines and getting people more interested in them, we all benefited. It was a totally different time. There were no publicists, no brands to maintain. We were excited to earn more money to create more art. 

Do you think those artists would have the same success today, with everything being so carefully managed?

Talent is talent. But in those days, it was photographers who knew all different types of people. I just feel lucky that as a photographer, I could help put them together -- be a vehicle for which artists could meet other artists.

Your rock photos are a moment in time in the artists' worlds. What inspired you to create "The Looking Glass," which is so hyper-real and about you instead?

Most people familiar with my work -- the rock photography -- are not aware of the variation of characters I take on. I was a recording artist under the name of "Will Powers" many years ago. I feel very vulnerable putting myself out there with "The Looking Glass," but taking on different characters is something I've always done quietly. The journey for musicians and rock stars may be different now, but the point of all my work - past and present - is that anybody can be anything, especially today.

"The Looking Glass" runs through October 23 and a book of the same name is for sale, printed in a limited edition run of 1,000 and with a foreword by Glenn O'Brien.

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