Joan Jonas: I Know Why They Left, printed in conjunction with the 2019 exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is an artist’s book featuring full-color reproductions of a new series of drawings by this seminal artist. As an Artist-in-Residence in 2017, Jonas was drawn to the vast array of mythical and archetypal animals present in the Gardner’s collection. Drawn from objects made of lace, stone, metal, wood, and ceramic, or found in tapestries and paintings, the animal figures allude to the importance of nature’s life force in the face of disruptive human presence. In this book, which includes a conversation between Joan Jonas and Pieranna Cavalchini, Jonas’s ability to conjure wonder, fear, and humor through poetic imagery continues to work its magic.
Joan Jonas (b. 1936, USA) is the recipient of numerous fellowships, honors, and awards. She received her B.A. in Art History from Mount Holyoke College, studied sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and received her M.F.A. in sculpture from Columbia University. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Jonas was active in the New York art scene, mingling with Nancy Holt, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Robert Whitman; dancers and choreographers Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer, and Trisha Brown; and composers and musicians John Cage, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and La Monte Young. Exposure to these various disciplines fed into the layering of art forms in her own work. Jonas began teaching at MIT in 1998 and is currently Professor Emerita at the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology with the School of Architecture and Planning.