In a world saturated with born-digital imagery, artist Joan Linder (American, born 1970) prefers to employ more traditional materials: a quill pen and ink. Taking as her subject what she describes as “the banality of mass-produced domestic affairs,” Linder explores issues related to the “politics of war, sexual identity and power, and the beauty disclosed in the close scrutiny of natural and man-made structures.”
Working to create both large-scale and more intimately sized drawings, she allows her eye to direct her hand in mark-making. Linder has spent countless hours rendering, in excruciating detail, quotidian objects and places—everything from junk mail and a kitchen sink to neighborhood bars and a gross anatomy lab. The size of the subject often dictates the size of the object, which further articulates her interest in the one-to-one relationship between the observer and the observed. By no means, however, is she aiming to create an exact facsimile. Instead, Linder embraces the limitations of her materials, which can leave behind smudges and pools of color no matter how deftly she applies them. These imperfections are a welcome part of the final image.
Operation Sunshine highlights Linder’s most recent body of work, which explores toxic waste sites in Buffalo, Tonawanda, and Niagara Falls, New York, and the documents related to such precarious properties. She approached her subject not only as an artist but also as a researcher. [...] As her work progressed, she began spending time in libraries and historical societies reviewing documents related to the region; the University at Buffalo’s archives, which hold numerous collections related to environmental issues throughout Western New York, proved especially important. Her tenacity has resulted in a considerable visual archive of beautifully rendered, scaled, and detailed images of the remains of the landscape, as well as redrawn and aged copies of historical and propagandist documents. Operation Sunshine is the result of her horror and bewilderment. Through practiced surveillance and the medium of drawing, Linder reveals the region’s disturbing past and uncertain future one page at a time.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.