SFAI Graduate Lecture: Karen Finley

San Francisco, CA

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Trauma and Creativity

Karen Finley is known for incendiary and emotionally complex works that span the mediums of performance, music, photography, video, and installation. Her raw, transgressive pieces have provoked controversy and debate on themes of social injustice, sexual politics, and family dysfunction. In 1998, she was the plaintiff in a contentious Supreme Court case Finley v. NEA that focused on public funding and the arts—a situation that brought her work to wide audiences and unexpected contexts.

Finley’s work has been presented worldwide, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Lincoln Center, New York; American Repertory Theatre at Harvard, Cambridge; and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including a Guggenheim, two Obies, two Bessies, and NYSCA and NEA fellowships. She has appeared in many independent films and has authored and/or edited eight books. Her most recent book is a collection of her performances titled Reality Shows and published by The Feminist Press, New York, in 2011. Her most recent work Sext Me if You Can (2013), at the New Museum, relied on the public providing Finley with source material by “sexting” her from a private room in the museum.

Finley received both an MFA and an honorary PhD from SFAI. She is currently a professor at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU).

karenfinley.com