Joy Garnett

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Joy Garnett (born 1960) is an artist and writer from New York, United States. Trained as a painter, her work explores contemporary practices around cultural preservation, alternative histories and archives. Her interdisciplinary work combines creative writing, research and visual media. In her early paintings (1997-2009), Garnett engaged issues around contemporary consumption of media and the distinctions between documentary, technical, and artistic image making.[1] Her mature work draws on archival images, alternative histories and the legacy of her maternal grandfather, the Egyptian Romantic poet, bee scientist and polymath Ahmed Zaki Abu Shadi.[2][3][4][5] Garnett is married to conceptual photographer and video artist Bill Jones.

Garnett was a 2019/20 Shift Resident at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts.[6] In 2011, she received a commission from the Chipstone Foundation in collaboration with the Milwaukee Art Museum to produce a work for the traveling exhibition “The Tool At Hand” (2011-2013).[7][8] In 2007, she was an artist in residence at iCommons, Dubrovnik, Croatia,[9] and in 2005, she was an artist in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.[10]

In 2004, Garnett received an Anonymous Was A Woman Award.[11][12] She has also received grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC).[13]

In 2019, Garnett became the Art Editor for the literary magazine Evergreen Review, founded in 1957 by Barney Rosset and re-launched in 2017 by John Oakes.[14] From 2005 to 2016, she was the Arts Editor at Cultural Politics,[15] a scholarly journal published by Duke University Press that features in each issue an essay written by a visual artist about their work. From 2013-16, she penned "Copy That!", a column on fair use issues in visual art, for Art21 Magazine.[16] She was the founder of NEWSgrist,[17] an electronic newsletter and art blog (ca. 2000-2017). From 1999 til 2001, she wrote the column "Into Africa" for artnet magazine.[18]

Controversy surrounding her 2003 painting "Molotov" drew international scrutiny to issues of authorship, appropriation and fair use in visual art. She lectured[19][20][21][22][23][24] and wrote[16][25][26][27] widely on these topics.

Education and early career[edit]

Garnett completed her undergraduate work at McGill University in Montreal, Canada in 1983, where she studied film, literature and literary Arabic, as well as colloquial Arabic during a summer intensive at the American University in Cairo. From 1984-87, she lived in Paris, where she studied painting at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. She returned to New York in 1987 and worked at Watanabe Studio, Ltd.[28] in Brooklyn, NY, producing limited edition prints for Sol LeWitt, Sue Coe and others. In 1989, she entered the graduate program at The City College of New York, and she received her MFA in 1991. While attending City College, Garnett received the Elizabeth Ralston McCabe Connor Award.

In 1999, Debs & Co. gallery, NY, gave Garnett her first solo exhibition, "Buster-Jangle", which consisted of paintings based on photos and film stills of atomic bomb tests from the 1950s released in 1990-91 by the US government under the Freedom of Information Act. The exhibition was noted for its exploration of a “paradoxical realm of terrible beauty… tying together the histories of the bomb and American landscape painting."[29]

The Bomb Project[edit]

Garnett's research for these paintings entailed gathering images and documents about nuclear testing from primary sources on the Internet. This generated an online compilation of material that she launched as a website, "The Bomb Project".[30]

"The Bomb Project" addressed the role of the digital image as a cultural artifact. Garnett attempted to reveal the information and hegemonic coding within these images to “establish a context where art, science and government are presented as interlocking and overlapping areas.”[31] After its launch in 2000, "The Bomb Project" was expanded to include still and moving declassified imagery, primary source documents, links to current events and news articles. The original documentation produced by the nuclear industry was offered side by side with artist and activist views, providing a platform for comparative study and a resource for artists.

Use of found images[edit]

Garnett explored the problem of the found object by re-mediating and transforming the image of a documentary/technical photograph by painting it (ca.1997-2018), shifting its context and opening it up for multiple interpretations by the viewer, consistent with the conventions of visual art.[32]

Garnett's paintings were sometimes framed as responding to, engaging and extending contemporary media theory.[33]

"Molotov" and surrounding controversy[edit]

ArtistJoy Garnett
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions178 cm × 152 cm (70 in × 60 in)
LocationPrivate Collection (USA)

Garnett's 2004 exhibition "Riot" featured a series of paintings based on images pulled from mass media sources, depicting figures in "extreme emotional states."[34] The painting entitled "Molotov" was sourced from a jpeg found on the Internet that was later discovered to be a fragment of a larger photograph[35] taken by Susan Meiselas during the Sandinista Revolution (1979). After "Riot" closed, Meiselas's lawyer contacted Garnett with a cease and desist letter claiming copyright infringement and "piracy" of Meiselas' photograph.[25] Popular support for Garnett and her artwork, marshalled through a list-serv at, inspired a solidarity campaign called "Joywar", in which images of Garnett's painting were reposted widely on the Internet, or remixed and circulated in new forms.

The incident has become a prominent case-study of re-use in art.[36]


  1. ^ Brewer, Paul: Curator's Statement. "Blasts," G Fine Art, Washington, DC, Sept 10 - Oct 22, 2005
  2. ^ Qualey, Marcia Lynx: "AZ Abushady: Revolutionary Egyptian Poet, Feminist, Beekeeper, and More". An interview with artist and writer Joy Garnett.
  3. ^ “Joy Garnett: Alone in the Archive,” Ibraaz Platform for discussion 006: What role can the archive play in developing and sustaining a critical and culturally located art history?
  4. ^ Heddaya, Mostafa: “Digitizing a Beloved Egyptian Scholar’s Archive,”
  5. ^ Scrima, Andrea: “Facts Become the Enemy: Art and Archives. A Conversation with Joy Garnett on The Bee Kingdom”.
  6. ^ 2019/20 Shift Residents, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Project Space Program
  7. ^ Chipstone Foundation opens “The Tool at Hand”, Milwaukee Art Museum
  8. ^ The Tool at Hand
  9. ^ The Art Happens Here
  10. ^ Atlantic Center for the Arts (Residency #114, 2005)
  11. ^ Anonymous Was A Woman, press release 2004
  12. ^ Anonymous Was A Woman, official site
  13. ^ Joy Garnett bio on artnet
  14. ^ Evergreen Review
  15. ^ Cultural Politics
  16. ^ a b "Copy That!", Art21 Magazine (archive)
  17. ^ NEWSgrist - where spin is art
  18. ^ "Into Africa" (archive), artnet (1999-2001)
  19. ^ “Joy Garnett: Painting Mass Media.” Art and Technology Lecture Series organized by Mark Tribe, September 23, 2004, Columbia University Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CNMTL).
  20. ^ “Comedies of Fair U$e: A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars,” Organized by Lawrence Lessig and Lawrence Weschler, The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, 2006.
  21. ^ “Panel: Open Source on the Line,” Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School for Social Research, 2006.
  22. ^ “Cariou v Prince meets Iron Chef,” Discussion at Printed Matter, NYC, with Greg Allen, Joy Garnett and Chris Habib, Sept 22, 2012.
  23. ^ “The Case for Appropriation,” panel moderated by Joy Garnett – Feb 16, 2012, with Rob Storr (excerpt), Virginia Rutledge + Oliver Wasow, presented by BFA Visual & Critical Studies, School of Visual Arts, NY.
  24. ^ “Art ≠ Law? Creative Responses to Copyright in the Twenty-First Century.” Radcliffe Institute For Advanced Study, Harvard University, October 2015.
  25. ^ a b "Portfolio: On the Rights of Molotov Man - Appropriation and the art of context," by Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas. Harper's Magazine (February 2007) [pp.53-58]
  26. ^ Garnett, Joy: “In Their Own Words”, NYFA Current, April 2005
  27. ^ Garnett, Joy: “Steal This Look”, Intelligent Agent, Vol.4, no.2 (2004)
  28. ^ Watanabe Studio, Ltd.
  29. ^ Griffin, Tim. “Joy Garnett, Buster-Jangle.” TimeOut NY, Issue No. 193 June 3–10, 1999.
  30. ^ The Bomb Project
  31. ^ "The Bomb Project", (about page)
  32. ^ Butler, Sharon: "Blast Radius," The Huffington Post, October 25, 2010
  33. ^ Lippard, Lucy: "Strange Weather", solo exhibition catalogue essay, "Strange Weather", The National Academy of Sciences, 2005
  34. ^ "Riot", Debs & Co., New York, January 15-February 21, 2004 "Debs & Co". Archived from the original on June 16, 2006. Retrieved 2015-01-16.
  35. ^ Susan Meiselas, "Sandinistas at the walls of the Esteli National Guard headquarters, Esteli, Nicaragua, 1979" [1]
  36. ^ Marvin, Stephen: "Copyright Innovation in Art", International Journal of Conservation Science, 4 (2013), 729-734 (pp. 731--72).

External links[edit]