"78 Drawings of My Face is a 500-page biting study of art school as a microcosm. In art school you're told to say what you think, she says, but now half the faculty won't talk to me."
78 DRAWINGS OF MY FACE
"Marcel Proust meets Andy Warhol. Fantastic."
— JOHN MC CRAY, playwright
"'Here read this, this is what we think. It's what you feared to be true.' This manual for straight boys, by the girl described by conceptual artist Christ Burden as scary, is written in the vein of adolescent self-mutiliation. Except that Schlosberg externalizes the pain, cross-wired contradictions that drive young women crazy. It's the first of writing that I've known to do this. Luminously digressive, stunted and horrific, 78 Drawings of My Face is the perfect document of anybody's entry-level experience in the art world."
— CHRIS KRAUS
author, I Love Dick, Video Green
"...a book that's rattling the UCLA art scene like Cyra McFadden's notorious 70's dissertation on Marin County...No wonder Jennifer is driving her art soul mates nuts."
"78 Drawings of My Face is a 500-page biting study of art school as a microcosm. 'In art school you're told to say what you think,' she says, 'but now half the faculty won't talk to me.'"
"All of the anxiety is on the surface, all of the pomposity, flaws, arrogance and trepidation that make Jennifer complicated are there in the writing. I always accepted the 'fictitious nature' which, after all, is the character of the beast 'reality...it is precisely the naming of subjects which is so seductive."
— JACQUELINE COOPER, artist
"Jennifer talks about sex with regret, shame, anxiety, fear and sadness. It's very moving and very common with women! Endearing descriptions of longing and loneliness. Interesting, sexy, sweet, funny and at times anxiety-provoking. Leaves me wanting to know more. A complex book about a complex woman."
— JULIE GUSTAFSON, artist
"A psychological web of social criticism. Jennifer considers carefully each of her relationships with students and teachers at UCLA—be they intimate or unfamiliar. The details tell a hyper-aware story of a behind-the-scene inner workings of a candid and captivating mind. I'm her biggest fan!"
— TONY BALDESSARI, biggest fan
May 1 - 31, 1996
As a member of the
UCLA Art Department '95 - '96,
I invite you to come to my studio
to let me draw your face
and ask that you draw mine.
Fill out the enclosed response card
to arrange your
Sitting / Drawing Appointment
for a half hour during the month of May
I look forward to drawing you.
by May 7
In May 1996, while an MFA student at UCLA's Art Department, Jennifer Schlosberg sent out the above invitation to all 78 students and faculty who were either studying or teaching in the program in the spring semester. By the end of the month, exactly half of those invited—39 people—had made an appointment. After each drawing session, Jennifer would hang the pair of portraits on the wall of her studio.
While Jennifer enjoyed getting to know each sitter in a new way during the drawing sessions, throughout the month she became increasingly curious about those who hadn't rsvp'd or had flat out said they wouldn't participate. She noticed some of them would avoid eye contact with her in the halls. Did they not like her? Did they not like the project? Were they afraid of drawing? She couldn't help but wonder why they wouldn't want to participate. Soon, rumors started to swirl about Jennifer's motivation behind the project. Was she using her project as a way of trying to get drawings from the famous faculty members? Or perhaps to align herself with them? Or get their stamp of approval? Or maybe she was lonely and trying to make friends. Jennifer began to notice that after certain drawings went up on the wall, she'd get some new rsvp's. Was it a coincidence? Did they need to see if the 'cool people' were doing it before they committed?
Jennifer's studio at UCLA's Warner Studios in Culver City.
When she met with her professor, the renowned conceptual artist John Baldessari, to discuss the project, she not only told him who participated and what the drawing sessions were like, but she also shared some of her paranoid thoughts about why she figured some people didn't want to draw her. Fascinated by all of her stories and the inner workings of her mind, Baldessari encouraged her to write about it. Perhaps, he suggested, that she open up the project to include her ruminations.
Immediately inspired, Jennifer went home and sat at her computer and created a chapter for each person. At the beginning of each chapter, under the person's name, she placed the pair of drawings if they had participated and two blanks squares if they hadn't. She then proceeded to write her uncensored thoughts about why she thought each person did or didn't participate—essentially detailing her relationship with every person in the program.
Nine months later 78 DRAWINGS OF MY FACE—part diary, part cultural anthropology was finished. As she wrote, word got out about the project which led to a whole new host of rumors—all of which Jennifer included in the appropriate chapters. Many students and faculty members alike were decidedly rattled by the project. Perhaps no one more so than one professor who dropped her from his class via voicemail, while others, like the artists Charles Ray and Chris Burden begged her not to publish. Others simply avoided her both at school and at art openings. Jennifer had become a pariah even though no one had yet read the book.
One person however was particularly interested in the project—author and cultural critic Chris Kraus who was teaching writing at Pasadena ArtCenter College of Design. Kraus would go on to write about 78 Drawings in her book Video Green, an examination of the explosion of late 1990s Los Angeles art driven by high-profile graduate programs. Kraus observed that the value of Schlosberg’s work lay in the way it performs the lived subjectivity of a twenty-six-year-old struggling to access an art enterprise that was in many ways conspiring to exclude her. Explains Kraus, “I think that 'privacy' is to contemporary female art what ‘obscenity’ was to male art and literature of the 1960s. The willingness of someone to use her life as primary material is still deeply disturbing, and even more so if she views her own experience at some remove. Female artists who insist on talking about their private experiences—about sex, pain, drugs, and the ordinary, universal nuisance of living inside a body—will be called ‘immoral’ anyway.”
78 Drawings also caught the attention of veteran journalist Pat Morrison who featured Lehr’s project in The Los Angeles Times Magazine (“No wonder Jennifer Schlosberg is driving her Art soul mates nuts.”) which led to coverage in The New York Times Magazine.
Twenty-five years later, it continues to amaze Jennifer that such a fuss was made about a book that virtually no one has read of which only 10 copies were published. She remains extremely grateful to John Baldessari for recognizing the writer in her.