An-My Lê, esteemed photographer and Bard College professor of photography, has been named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced Lê as one of 23 new fellows for 2012. MacArthur Fellowships are awarded to talented individuals in a variety of fields who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.
MacArthur Fellows each receive $500,000 five-year grants that are bestowed with no conditions — recipients may use the money as they see fit. Nominated anonymously by leaders in their respective fields and never notified of their candidacy, the recipients learn of their selection only when they receive a call from the MacArthur Foundation days before the public announcement. Lê is the 11th Bard faculty member to be honored with a MacArthur Fellowship.
“I am so appreciative of this award,” said Lê. “When I received the news, I was in my office at Bard and getting ready to teach a class. I was totally thrilled, but I couldn’t tell anyone.”
“There is no more brilliant or courageous original artist using the medium of photography in her generation,” said Bard College President Leon Botstein. “We are very proud.”
An-My Lê is an artist whose photographs of landscapes transformed by war or other forms of military activity blur the boundaries between fact and fiction and are rich with layers of meaning.
A refugee from Vietnam and resident of the United States since 1975, much of Lê’s work is inspired by her own experience of war and dislocation. From black and white images of her native Vietnam taken on a return visit in 1994 to pictures of Vietnam War battle re-enactments in rural America, her photographs straddle the documentary and the conceptual, creating a neutral perspective that brings the essential ambiguity of the medium to the fore. In her series 29 Palms (2003 – 2004), Lê documents American soldiers training in a desert in Southern California before their deployment to Iraq. She focuses her camera alternately on young recruits and the harsh terrain in which they practice their drills, lending an obvious artificiality to the photographs that invites speculation about the romance and myth of contemporary warfare. Currently, Lê is documenting the U.S. military’s presence at sites around the world where personnel are undertaking training missions, patrolling international waterways, and offering humanitarian aid. An additional series in progress explores the ongoing ties between Vietnamese nationals who have migrated to southern Louisiana over the past twenty-five years and their homeland in the Mekong Delta. Approaching the subjects of war and landscape from new and powerful perspectives, this accomplished photographer continues to experiment and contribute profoundly to the evolution of her medium.
An-My Lê received B.S. (1981) and M.S. (1985) degrees from Stanford University and an M.F.A. (1993) from Yale University. Since 1998, she has been affiliated with Bard College, where she is currently professor of photography. Her work has been exhibited at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.
About the MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.
The MacArthur Fellows Program awards five-year, unrestricted fellowships to individuals across all ages and fields who show exceptional merit and promise of continued creative work. It is limited to U.S. citizens and residents.
John D. MacArthur (1897 – 1978) developed and owned Bankers Life and Casualty Company and other businesses, as well as considerable property in Florida and New York. His wife Catherine (1909 – 1981) held positions in many of these companies and served as a director of the Foundation.
Featured photograph, courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.