Sherrie Levine is an American artist who is a photographer and appropriation artist. Born on April 17th in 1947 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and graduated from University of Wisconsin in 1969 with her BA and went on to receive her MFA in 1973. For two years Levine lived in Berkley, California before moving to New York, New York. In the late 1970s Levine had begun to use a photography method that was repeating an already taken photograph and at the same location and/or topic, also known as re-photography. ¹
Levine had taken photographs from Walker Evans, who was an American photographer, in 1981 of the Depression era and had replicated those photographs. Although Levine is taking a piece that was already created and slightly changing it, if changing it at all, the photographs have a deeper meaning to tell those viewing the works. These photographs show how we have all lost our own vision, they show about finding that hope that what we create has some type of meaning, and that no matter how hard we try we can not reproduce what has happened in the past, in history. ²
One of Levine’s photo series is titled “After Walker Evans”. Levine had photographed Walker Evans’s famous portrait of an Alabama sharecropper’s wife, Allie Mae Burroughs in 1979. Levine did not use Evans’ photographs to document the Depression era as Walker Evans had nor did she use his images for origin data. Levine’s photographs seemed the same as Evan’s to those viewing the photographs, because of this Levine would at times proclaim that she was the author not Walker Evans. ³
Levine had made a statement complaining about her own work in regards to the naysayers, the critics “I was getting tired of no one looking at the work, looking inside the frame…. I want to make it clear that what I’ve always made is pictures-to be looked at. That what’s inside the frame is important to me.” ⁴
Although there are some alterations of the pieces other artist have created, if any, when it comes to some of her own work, Levine does not appropriates other artists work, such as Walker Evans, intentionally. As she had stated herself she wants her work, her photographs, to be looked at. That’s what matters to her, not taking other artists work.
When summing up his opinion on Levine’s photographs American art critic Craig Owens’s had this to say “Levine does not represent women, the poor, or landscapes, but Woman, Poverty, Nature. … All of Levine’s images have been images of the Other.” In his writing, she, too, is fixed, she is like something, and of her images we can say, “I know them … that’s the way they are.” ⁴
When Owens said that people easily recognize Levine’s photographs it just goes to show that Levine is precise with the photographs she appropriates and that those viewing her works cannot tell the difference between those Levine and those she is appropriating.
- Sherrie Levine. Biography http://www.artnet.com/artists/sherrie-levine/biography (2018)
- Sherrie Levine. After Walker Evans: 4,1981 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267214
- Carmen Winant, “Sherrie Levine’s ‘Mayhem’: A Retrospective of The Original Fake at The Whitney,” WYNC, (Nov 10, 2011)
- Howard Singerman, “Seeing Sherrie Levine,” The MIT Press October, Vol. 67, (Winter, 1994), pg. 78-107
- Sharecropper – A farmer who rents his or her land and who gives part their crop as rent (Cambridge English Dictionary)
Sherrie Levine. Biography http://www.artnet.com/artists/sherrie-levine/biography (2018)
Sherrie Levine. After Walker Evans: 4,1981 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267214
Carmen Winant, “Sherrie Levine’s ‘Mayhem’: A Retrospective of The Original Fake at The Whitney,” WYNC, (Nov 10, 2011)
Howard Singerman, “Seeing Sherrie Levine,” The MIT Press October, Vol. 67, (Winter, 1994), pp. 78-107