Zoe Leonard is a New-York based artist and poet, born in 1961. Her artwork primarily comprises sculpture and photography. Having dropped out of high school aged 16, Zoe began taking photographs. In the 1980’s, in the midst of the AIDS crisis, she became an active member of the queer community in New York.
Zeo was an AIDS activist in the 80s and 90s, and she created many powerful works including her famous piece I Want a President (1992). Her work Strange Fruit (1992-97) was a meditation on mourning and grief and recalls the death of her friend David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992. The work includes 300 desiccated skins of peeled fruits, which had been sewn back together by Leonard. The peel would inevitably decay and decompose, and Zoe puts this process on display for the audience to observe. In this way, the work is inherently ephemeral. It will change, evolve, and ultimately disappear; thus challenging the conventional function of museums to preserve objects for posterity.
Over three decades, Zoe’s work has powerfully explored themes including gender and sexuality, migration and displacement, loss and identity, and the urban landscape. Her work forces us to pause and think actively about where we stand in the world, inviting us to consider how our social conditioning colours and distorts what we see.
Her work has been exhibited internationally and has been displayed at many seminal exhibitions including documenta and the Whitney Biennial. Today, her works are held by galleries including the Tate Gallery, London, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
By Kitty Becher | Instagram @kittymariabecher