Marcia Resnick’s “Re-visions” predicts “the delicious perversion of a budding adolescence”

By on September 9, 2019

New York City-based photographer Marcia Resnick‘s book of staged photographs about female adolescence, Re-Visions — first published in 1978 by Coach House Press in Toronto, Canada — is being re-published again, in September 2019, by Zürich, Switzerland’s Edition Patrick Frey.

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The new hardcover book — which will be launched on September 15th at Howl! in New York City — features 48 images across 104 pages.

The text, written by Resnick to accompany the images of the unnamed protagonist, is in the third-person “She,” whether it’s a photo of a cake (“She would sneak licks of icing before blowing out the candles on her birthday cake”) or it shows TV’s “Howdy Doody” (“She secretly lusted for her television idols”).

Resnick has said that these images actually corresponded to certain memories of growing up.

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Marcia Resnick was raised in a middle-class home in suburban Brooklyn by creative Jewish-American parents — her mother painted and her father was a journalist and print shop owner — and they were, in her own words, “very strict and authoritarian.”

After first receiving her BFA from Cooper Union, a private college at Cooper Square on the border of the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, Resnick pursued her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts, a private art university in Santa Clarita, a suburb of L.A., where she taught classes with titles like “Fun with Photography,” “Son of Fun with Photography,” and “The Return of Son of Fun with Photography.”

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While playing with her toys, she entertained cowgirl fantasies.

Resnick moved back to New York and took a teaching job at Queens College in New York. Then, in 1975, while driving her car in Manhattan, she was involved in a very serious car accident, and during the weeks in the hospital and following months she spent recuperating, she began to think about all of the events of her life which led to her being there, writing down ideas for photographs she would later take.

In 1978, Toronto, Canada’s Coach House Press published Re-visions, her poignant and ironic semi-autobiographical book of staged photographs about female adolescence which display increasingly little ambivalence about the appeal of being “a good girl” while also revealing an understanding about the physical and emotional changes she was going through during puberty.

The book was dedicated to Humbert Humbert of Lolita fame, and the cover photo depicts one of her student’s sister (who she recruited to pose for most of the photos) wearing heart-shaped sunglasses à la the Sue Lyon photograph by Bert Stern in the poster for Stanley Kubrick’s filmed version of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel.

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She would sneak licks of icing before blowing out the candles on her birthday cakes.

The following blurbs were featured with the original publication of the book:

“Despite rather elaborately any overt reference to pulsating genitalia or full penetration, fabulous Marica has magically succeeded with a delicately searching tongue here, a pert and enticingly pantied, as though specially gift wrapped for the viewer derrière, succeeded, I say, in her subliminally erotic design, and I found myself on more than one occasion responding to the imagery with a healthy and ever-increasing tumescence.” — Terry Southern

“It knocked my socks off.” — Henry Winkler

“Sharp, for a girl.” — Allen Ginsberg

“The essence of adolescence.” — William S. Burroughs

“Bad.” — Andy Warhol

“Not bad, really.” — William Wegman

Now, forty-one years after its first publication, Resnick’s longtime friend Lydia Lunch pays homage to the second edition of Re-visions by calling the book “A sweet twist which whispers in mysterious tones, predicting the delicious perversion of a budding adolescence.”

Deborah Harry said this: “Anyone who can survive as an artist in this world is a miracle worker. Marcia is a survivor. Her attitude is punk, her vision is clear and she is true blue to herself.”

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She developed slowly but learned how to stuff her bra so that both sides matched.

Night Flight reached out to Marcia Resnick, a longtime friend of Stuart S. Shapiro‘s, to ask her about Re-visions.

Night Flight: “We’d love to hear about the origin of some of these images, which we understand first came to as ideas you while you were convalescing in a hospital bed after your car accident.”

Marcia Resnick: “Most of these images are autobiographical. The title Re-visions refers to re-visualizations of past experiences and also to my use of poetic license in revising and exaggerating them for dramatic or humorous effect. For example, in ‘She lusted for her television idols,’ she is tongue-kissing Howdy Doody. In reality, as a child I did not have oral sex with the puppet, I simply loved to watch the Howdy Doody show on television!”

NF: “There’s a precocious feeling to some of these images, some of which are a little naughty but also emphasize a self-awareness of no longer being innocent. There’s also images here which depict not fitting in and feeling isolated, perhaps feeling like a wallflower. What was it like to revisit the private personal life of your childhood and make it public?”

MR: “I don’t believe I ever really left my childhood. I have always identified myself as eccentric, weird, idiosyncratic, original, different, etc. etc. I have always been an artist.”

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She secretly lusted for her television idols. (photo courtesy of Marcia Resnick)

N: “Can you tell us about the influence of growing up in the 1950s, and how watching black & white television programs, in particular, informed your work as a photographer?”

MR: “Growing up in middle-class suburban 1950s Brooklyn, New York, I was always drawing and painting and watching television, along with all of the other baby-boomers. Photography came later when I was an art major in college. Black & white photography reduced reality with its abundant colors and sensory overload to a more surrealistic, dreamlike state. This is what I liked.”

NF: “Can you also tell us about the influence of Nabokov’s Lolita, or Kubrick’s film, and how either of those may have affected you too?”

MR: “Lolita was a cock-teaser. At the age of fourteen, after I dumped my long hair into a sink full of peroxide so I could look the way the Beatles’ girlfriends looked, I suppose I might have appeared to be sexually available, but was not at all forthcoming.”

NF: “You asked one of your student’s sister to pose for most of the photos, is that right? Can you tell us a little about that experience, hers and yours?”

MR: “I suppose you would have to ask her about her experience. I do know that doing the sessions for the book taught us both about focus and discipline. After we were done with the project, she decided to go to acting school.”

NF: “Do you have a particular favorite among the images featured in Re-visions?”

MR: “One of my images became a favorite only after I received an email from a stranger who wrote ‘I have carried with me for thirty-five years the postcard print ‘She was often gripped with the desire to be elsewhere’… During the years I have held onto the postcard, there was something about the photo and the text that called to me. I saw myself holding the suitcase and following that urge to move. That photo spoke to the essence of who I am, A Traveler. That girl in the saddle shoes was a friend who knew how I felt… I couldn’t seem to be like other people who settled down… Whenever I saw the photo I remembered ‘I’m that girl’.”

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She was often gripped with the desire to be elsewhere. (photo courtesy of Marcia Resnick)

Below is the biography Resnick provides on her website:

I was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1950. I first exhibited my art, a drawing of a blond Asian lady standing on a stage, at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum when I was five years old. In the third grade, I took my first photograph entitled “Miss Wolf and the Seals at the Aquarium.”

These two events foretold the course of my life. After studying art at NYU and Cooper Union, I went to graduate school at California Institute of the Arts, where I studied conceptual art with John Baldessari and Allen Kaprow. It was the early 1970s when I began to study photography, which was finally becoming accepted as a fine art. I was discovering the world through my camera.

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​I moved back to New York City and in 1975, I self-published three conceptual artist books, Landscape, See and Tahitian Eve. In 1976, I began to work on a series of photographic reconstructions of memories of my early life. This compilation of humorous images about female adolescence, each complemented with a short text, was published as Re-visions by The Coach House Press in Toronto in 1978.

The late 1970s pulsated with an electric energy. Conceptual art and interdisciplinary art replaced Minimal Art. Rock musicians and artists alike were graduating from art schools. Painters were making films. Writers were doing performance art. Sculptors were doing installations. Artists were acting in films, making music and collaborating with each other.

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She was horrified to learn that she had been walking around school all day with her skirt hiked up in the back.

It was in this milieu that I taught photography at Queens College and NYU by day and went out every night to hear music at CBGB’s, Max’s and the Mudd Club, which was also a venue for various artistic events, film showings, readings and theme parties. Guilty at spending so much time in clubs, I convinced myself that my photographic forays into the night, were my art.

After taking candid pictures backstage or in dressing rooms at clubs, I would often invite people to my studio for photo sessions where atmosphere could be generated, lighting could be manipulated and props could be employed. My work with the Soho Weekly News, New York Magazine and other periodicals gave me access to photograph people who were well known in the popular culture.

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After Re-visions, I decided to explore parts unknown. I traveled to Egypt alone and became the virtual prisoner of a deranged Arab soldier. Good out of bad, this abrupt exposure to ungovernable maleness led me to my next great subject: Bad Boys. I felt compelled to record the emotional geography of the human face so I submerged myself in portraiture. The fact that I was a woman photographing men was crucial to the dynamic of my project.

Combining confrontation with collaboration, I explored fame, sexuality and individual style. While photographing Johnny Thunders, John Lydon and other leading figures in the punk music scene, my focus broadened to include portraits from all the arts, including cultural icons Andy Warhol, William Burroughs, John Belushi and Mick Jagger.
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She played with her slinky toys and wore banana curls and played with her banana curls and wore her slinky toys.

My photographs are exhibited internationally and are in major museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, George Eastman House, Rochester, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, New York Public Library, Jewish Museum, NYC, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

​My photo book Punks, Poets and Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys 1977-1982, written by Victor Bockris with additional texts by John Waters, Richard Hell, Gary Indiana, Max Blagg, Roy Trakin, Liz Derringer, Anthony Haden-Guest and myself has been published by Insight Editions in 2015. It can be ordered online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

I presently live and work in New York City.

Our big thanks to Marcia Resnick and Gloria Wismer at Edition Patrick Frey. Marcia Resnick’s Re-visions is available wherever you purchase your fine arts & photography books.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.