From our sister publication Art Practical, today we bring you a review of artist Jessamyn Lovell’s surveillance photography—artwork that has an incredible backstory. Author Genevieve Quick notes, “By leaving the project open-ended, Lovell smartly expands the work beyond revenge and allows viewers to consider its complexities through their own moral codes.” This article was originally published on September 25, 2014.
In Jessamyn Lovell’s exhibition Dear Erin Hart, the artist returns to SF Camerawork, where in 2009 her purse containing her identification and credit card was stolen. While it is unclear if Erin Hart was the initial thief, she accumulated unpaid parking tickets and bridge tolls, damaged rental cars, and ran a small drug operation in Lovell’s name. After being summoned to court, Lovell located Hart and began surveilling her. Lovell’s provocative project explores the ways that second-party documentation, both in image and text, constructs identity while treading uncomfortably between vigilantism and a possible reconciliation.
In the exhibition, Lovell presents telephoto images and video of Hart walking down the street. Typical of surveillance photos, the imagery is sometimes grainy, partially obscured, and generally banal; its distant vantages and documentary quality illustrate the impersonal relationship between the women. It is the exhibition’s wall text, written from Lovell’s perspective, that provides a compelling overview of the events and transforms these rather ordinary images into a powerful work.