WRITER, ART CRITIC, CURATOR, AND ACTIVIST Lucy R. Lippard is no stranger to the publishing world. She has authored hundreds of articles and more than 20 books, including Pueblo Chico: Land and Lives in Galisteo Since 1814, a love letter to the northern New Mexico village of Galisteo, where she moved in 1992 from New York City. Now, at 86, Lippard has published her autobiography, Stuff: Instead of a Memoir (New Village Press, 2023), an intimate look into her life through the various objects she keeps in her house, the same humble home she moved into more than 30 years ago. “Why is this not a memoir?” she explains in the book. “Because I have never had any interest in writing one, spilling the dramas and all the ups and downs. I’ve discouraged a couple of would-be biographers until after I’m gone, so I’m not around to nitpick, micromanage, and tear my hair over misinterpretations.” Still, Lippard agreed to share some insights with us from her life, along with a few excerpts from her book.
WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, my parents didn’t spend much money—but my mother had great taste, quietly elegant with a lot of hand-me-downs from family.
I LOVED WHERE WE LIVED, but the minute I moved out—into a cold-water flat in Lower Manhattan—I created a totally different environment.
I ACCUMULATED more friends, more objects, more books.
THERE WAS NO PROCESS in building the Galisteo house. I could only afford something small.
THE BUILDERS DID MOST OF THE ORIGINAL design for the “shack by the creek,” but I liked the high ceilings, which reminded me of lofts I had Iived in, necessary here because of the sleeping loft and ladder.
I EXPANDED whenever I could afford it, a bit bigger so I could have a small gas fridge, a nook for a dining room table, a tiny workroom that became a guest room, then a big workroom so I could get my file cases and books out of [artist] Harmony Hammond’s place, where they were stored, and finally, a solar tracker and then roof panels—and a real refrigerator!
THE BEAT-UP TELEPHONE-WIRE SPOOL, now a table, was my first piece of furniture in New Mexico—a gift washed up from the Río Galisteo. On it perch a few survivors from my once extensive ball collection.
I’VE HAD A VERY LUCKY LIFE, beginning with loving and supportive parents and charging along with a lot of good friends and lovers. Telling a personal story at this age is challenging.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE PEOPLE AND PARTS OF MY LIFE, even currently, that are no longer represented by objects? They are not forgotten, but they are not present here either, in part because I gave most of the art that had been given to me by friends to the New Mexico Museum of Art, where it was shown in the late 1990s: From the Sniper’s Nest: Art That Has Lived with Lucy R. Lippard.
THERE WAS NO PROCESS. My house is very small, and I needed to get rid of [many things]. I told them, “All or nothing,” and they took a lot of tchotchkes they didn’t really want.
I KIND OF REGRET THAT NOW, but still have no room for them. One of the pieces was [a print of] Judy Chicago’s Red Flag. Someone from the museum foundation put up a sign a while after the show was up that warned people about the—bad? scary?—content. I responded with “Think for yourself!”
[I HAVE] NO TIME TO WRITE ANOTHER LETTER [TO MYSELF], and it doesn’t interest me now. My books tell the stories.
I’M HORRIFIED at the potential of an afterlife. When I die, I die. I’m not interested in hanging around for eternity.