Sovereign by Jocelyn Lee
10.375 x 12.375 vertical, hardcover; 35 color images; 72 pages; $50.00
Essay by Dr. April Watson, curator, photography
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Listen to Sovereign: the sensual body with photographer Jocelyn Lee from Twisting the Plot on Apple Podcasts.
“All my pictures begin with the body, and, ideally, nakedness. The unclothed body is our primary vessel, sensual home, and gateway to the rest of the world.”
Sensual. Vibrant. Self-possessed. The women visualized in Sovereign are individual yet iconic in how Jocelyn Lee chooses to frame each one, subtly shifting focus and leading the viewer to engage subject and environment equally in the immersive scenes of her creation.
This selection of images of women over 55, complemented by still-life photographs from Lee's series "Dark Matter," confronts messaging that pushes women to consider how we might modify, rather than embrace, the process of aging. As Lee states, “It's time we revolutionize the image world and flood it full of real women in real bodies, feeling sensual and wonderful in their very human skin.” The desire to accomplish this is challenged by market realities; most of the images surrounding us glorify youth. Lee’s luscious works of still lifes and portraits provide a new mirror, reflecting the beauty, strength, and resilience with which she sees women within her community.
An essay by Dr. April Watson of the Nelson-Atkins Museum places the work within contemporary art historical context.
Jocelyn Lee (b. 1962, Naples, Italy; resides in Maine) received her BA in philosophy and visual arts from Yale University, and her MFA in photography from Hunter College. She taught at the Maine College of Art from 1993–2001, and Princeton University from 2003–2012. A 2001 Guggenheim Fellow, she is also the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship, among others, and is the author of two previous monographs: Nowhere but Here (Steidl, 2010) and The Youngest Parents (DoubleTake, 1996).
Lee has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York magazine, Real Simple, Allegra (The Netherlands), DoubleTake, Harpers and others; her works are in numerous public and private collections, including Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France; The List Center at MIT, Cambridge, MA; The Museum Fokwang, Essen, Germany; The Portland Museum of Art; Portland, ME; The Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO; The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, NC; and The Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
She is represented by Huxley-Parlour Gallery in London, and Flatland Gallery in Amsterdam.
April M. Watson holds a doctorate in Art History from the University of Kansas, and an MA in Art History from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She has a BFA in graphic design from Alfred University. Since she began at the Nelson-Atkins in 2007, Watson has organized numerous exhibitions. Most recently, Watson co-curated the exhibition Eugene Richards: The Run-On of Time, the photographer’s first museum retrospective.
In 2013, she served as the photography curator for Impressionist France: Visions of Nation from Le Gray to Monet, an exhibition of paintings and photographs co-organized with the Saint Louis Art Museum. In addition, she has curated and co-curated several exhibitions from the permanent collection, including Through the Lens: Visions of African-American Experience, 1950-1970; Heartland: The Photographs of Terry Evans, a career retrospective of the artist; About Face: Contemporary Portraiture; Thinking Photography: Five Decades at the Kansas City Art Institute; Time in the West: Photographs by Mark Klett & Byron Wolfe and Mark Ruwedel; Human/Nature: Recent European Landscape Photography; and Hide & Seek: Picturing Childhood.
Prior to joining the Nelson-Atkins, Watson served as a curatorial research assistant at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and was an NEA curatorial intern at the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson. Watson has contributed writing and scholarship to numerous exhibitions and catalogues for the University of New Mexico Art Museum, the Center for Creative Photography, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. She has also contributed research and writing to several artist monographs.