Spanning almost 50 years, this survey of work by Toronto-based artist Suzy Lake was an eye-opener. Since moving to Canada from the United States in 1968, Lake has produced photo- and performance-based art, much of it critical of media representations of women and alert to forms of political and social control.
Lake’s groundbreaking early work includes “A Genuine Simulation of . . .” (1973–74), a series of photographic self-portraits retouched with Covergirl makeup, and Miss Chatelaine (1973), a grid of black-and-white photos of the artist, each embellished with a different hat or head of hair cut from Chatelaine, a Canadian women’s magazine. Lake’s imagery became more aggressive as the decade progressed. In her “Choreographed Puppets” series (1976–77), for example, the artist donned a contraption that allowed two men to literally “pull her strings” as if she were a marionette.
Lake’s photographs and performances since the 1990s, such as “Peonies and the Lido” (2000–02), in which she assumes the guise of Dirk Bogarde’s character in the film version of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, approach the topic of aging with humor and dignity. Artists like Cindy Sherman have acknowledged Lake as an inspiration. Now, her art is ripe for discovery by a wider international audience.
A version of this story originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 94.