A powerful exhibition of work joins more than 30 of photographer Bonnie Lautenberg’s works at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, located in South Beach.
Guns Kill, in Lautenberg’s ongoing solo exhibition Lady Liberty: A Bonnie Lautenberg Retrospective, up through March 26, including Miami Art Week, uses Lady Liberty to convey the message of how easily freedom and liberty can be taken away even as the oxidized symbol lights an eternal torch.
A unique venue, located inside an ornate temple, the museum melds its architectural and cultural history with contemporary art.
She recently showed her most popular series, “Art Meets Hollywood,” at the Boca Raton Museum along with the Hollywood Backdrops. By combining pop art with classic film stills from the same year, the works compel viewers to seek out the ways in which they diverge and meet in the time-stamped view.
One image depicts actress Barbra Streisand in her film Yentl, combined with selfie queen/artist Cindy Sherman who wears a similar black suit and scowling expression. Who is playing who?
Curated by Jacqueline Goldstein, the most powerful of these timely artworks is “Tears of Roe,” as salty tears run down the Statue of Liberty’s face and the word Roe adorns her crown, lamenting the current challenges to women’s freedoms that are making headlines today.
Another brand-new work by Lautenberg is titled “Wanted,” honoring icon Harriet Tubman who led enslaved Black people to freedom in the 1800s. This diptych features one of the notorious “Wanted” posters from that era that slave owners used to try to capture Tubman. Lautenberg juxtaposes historic images of the abolitionist next to actress Cynthia Erivo who portrayed the freedom fighter in the film Harriet.
Her political stance comes direct from the source as she is the widow of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, one of Washington’s longest-serving Senators (from 1982 to 2001, then again from 2003 until his death in 2013). She has been described as “having enough Washington insider stories to fill a book” and she is doing just that as her upcoming book will be released next year, about the life of her late husband using her photography.
In 2022, Lautenberg was appointed by the White House to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA) which guides the Kennedy Center, the National Cultural Center of the United States.
An avid concertgoer, the museum retrospective also includes Lautenberg’s concert photos of a defiant if bedraggled Lady Gaga, Andra Day, a spitting Miley Cyrus, and dressed-up queen Katy Perry from her series Pop Rocks, alongside images from other series of works she photographed in New York, Israel, Antarctica, Cuba, Italy, California, and Asia.
“Our museum is thrilled to premiere this retrospective of Bonnie Lautenberg’s images of women shining a light on liberty,” says Susan Gladstone Pasternack, Executive Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. “In capturing the independent spark of these women through her art, Bonnie Lautenberg reminds us that we should never take our freedoms for granted.”
“I am so honored to be selected by the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU during Miami Art Week and Art Basel Miami Beach, especially at this time when women’s issues are at the forefront,” says Bonnie Lautenberg.
At the exhibit’s opening, Lautenberg gave tours of the works and a talk at the podium. A film of one of her interviews played on a screen behind her.
“The radiance of each of these women in Lautenberg’s works stands out at this moment, as the type of luminosity that can help get us through difficult times,” says Jacqueline Goldstein, the Curator of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. “When viewed together as a group of works, their intensity multiplies.”
Another major project looms as she is producing, with her partner Steve Leber, a prestigious Broadway musical about the life of Andy Warhol, approved by the Warhol Foundation. Slated to debut in London next year before coming to the U.S., the musical will be directed by Sir Trevor Nunn, with a book by Rupert Holmes.
Lautenberg’s work is in several private and museum collections, including the permanent collections of The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture; the Boca Raton Museum of Art; the Collection of Norman and Irma Braman; the New York Historical Society Museum; and the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.
Online at thejewishmuseum.org
Women on stage and under fire at retrospective