In Chicago, A Small Retrospective of Joel-Peter Witkin’s Rich Work

June 30, 2019


For more than 60 years, Joel-Peter Witkin has stayed true to his mission: to create photographs that show the beauty of marginalized people by placing them into art referential tableaus, often laced with Catholic overtones. His work features those that are intersex, post and pre-op individuals, and people born with physical abnormalities. In his eyes, all people are beautiful, regardless of societal norms.

The Raft of George W. Bush, New Mexico, 2006 © Joel-Peter Witkin / image courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago opens a new space with an exhibition devoted to the American photographer. Much has been written about Joel-Peter Witkin.,With more than 25 monographs dedicated to his work, there is no denying his importance in the art world. Recently, Witkin revealed he was diagnosed with dementia. As he approaches his 80th birthday, he graciously agreed to speak with Catherine Edelman about the condition, and the effect it has had on his creativity and life.

Face of a Woman, 2004 © Joel-Peter Witkin / image courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

Catherine spent two days in his home/studio in Albuquerque with filmmaker Ben Kolak (Scrappers Film Group), talking with him about his life, his art, his legacy, his views on God, and what he hopes he has contributed to photography. A short film called “From the Studio” will be presented alongside some of his most well known works including “The Kiss”, “Siamese Twins”, “Harvest”, “Bee Boy” and “Woman Once a Bird”, as well as new work including “A Mermaid’s Tale”, the last photograph he made before the diagnosis. The gallery has recreated the set of “A Mermaid’s Tale” in one of its rooms which includes the painted backdrop, shells, and objects that formed the making of this amazing photograph.

A Mermaid’s Tale, NM, 2018 © Joel-Peter Witkin / image courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

The exhibition features more than 25 photographs, 80 drawings, as well as sketchbooks and journals, darkroom tools and cameras, letters and contact sheets, offering viewers a glimpse inside the mind of one of the true masters of photography.

Joel-Peter Witkin

May 3 through July 3, 2019
Catherine Edelman Gallery
1637 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622


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