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Love, Joe: Talking About and Loving the Letters of Joe Brainard

Culture and languages

With Daniel Kane, Professor in American Literature, Department of English, at Uppsala University.

3 Nov 2021
15:15 - 17:00

"In my talk 'Love, Joe' I will discuss my process of gathering and selecting a collection of American artist and writer Joe Brainard's letters, and explore how the letters enable us to see what is otherwise not immediately apparent in previous studies of Brainard’s life and work. Brainard was a major figure in New York City’s vibrant cultural scenes in the 1960s. Throughout his career, he wrote thousands of letters detailing the minutiae of his personal life, his often-funny takes and critiques of his poet and artist friends lives and works, and intimate descript-tions of his creative process.

The letters show, for example, Brainard as he struggles with and then grows to accept and celebrate his queer sexuality. They help us understand how and why he decided to refuse specialization in order to work in a range of media.  They allow us to see how certain of his friendships with figures including Andy Warhol and Anne Waldman resulted directly in the creation of some of his most indelible works. Perhaps most touchingly, the letters track how and why Brainard ended up refusing to show his works in public from the mid-1980s through his death of Aids-related pneumonia in 1994 in order to devote himself full-time to reading, going to movies and exhibitions, spending time with his friends and lovers… and writing letters."

Chair: Joel Duncan.