Mountweazel, Lillian Virginia, 1942-1973, American photographer, b. Bangs, Ohio. Turning from fountain design to photography in 1963, Mountweazel produced her celebrated portraits of the South Sierra Miwok in 1964. She was awarded government grants to make a series of photo-essays of unusual subject matter, including New York City buses, the cemeteries of Paris and rural American mailboxes. The last group was exhibited extensively abroad and published as Flags Up! (1972) Mountweazel died at 31 in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine.
William H. Harris and Judith S. Levey, eds, “Mountweazel, Lillian Virginia”, The New Columbia Encyclopedia, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), 1850.
What are the potential meanings of a life? Can it be sublimated to an element – a word , cause, memory, passion.. or just an eighty-three word encyclopaedia entry? Lillian Virginia Mountweazel never existed. Indeed, the word Mountweazel is now used as a synonym for ‘phantom’ or ‘false entry’ in reference works – fictitious articles created as an aid in the detection of copyright infringement, as the encyclopaedia editors did in this example from the seventies. If such a false entry is present in work lifted from a copyrighted source it can be used as evidence of intellectual theft. The idea of Mountweazel was been used as a point of departure for this exhibition exploring such themes as identity, deception, iconography and media constructions. This is an exhibition about the many meanings Mountweazel has presented to six artists.
Fiona Hallinan ponders how the ubiquity of advertising works to cement our past and design our future with a spectral tale of a Mountweazel encounter involving a love of corn snacks unfettered by bitter memories or unrealistic aspirations. Artists were invited to develop interpretations as faithfully or equivocally as they chose. Jim Ricks took the latter direction and interpreted her linguistic legacy – Mountweazel as neologism. He presents three examples of how political proclamations (and their dissemination) carry an automatic expectation of truth. Sabina Mac Mahon uncovers a formative early chapter in Mountweazel’s life. Teresa Gillespie’s video piece keeps Mountweazel in her encyclopaedic era and plays on the affectations the medium can present. Françoise de Mulneton shares Mountweazel’s acute fascination with the everyday, and the seemingly mundane. In both of the artists’ work, a desire to almost scientifically record and catalogue small details is evident. Through compulsively photographing countless instances of the same subject (cemeteries/buses/mailboxes/cityscapes) a certain type is established. Finally, Philip Kennedy chronologically transfers a life to photographic iconography at a rate of approximately ten words a frame.
Circa art magazine and the VAI’s Visual Artist Newsletter ran advertisements for an imaginary Mountweazel biography running up to the show. See image below.
Irish Times piece by Aidan Dunne
To make an imaginary purchase of an imaginary book…CLICK HERE