Lisa Jane Persky is a photographer, an actress, a writer, and above all, an artist. On April 8, in the upper gallery of the Englert Theatre, Persky shared a tiny piece of the grand collection of art she has created since her childhood and upbringing in New York’s Greenwich Village.
The featured photo collection was entitled “X-Offenders,” and most of the photos were taken 40 years ago, in 1976, when Persky still lived in Greenwich Village and was just beginning her career as an artist. Entirely by coincidence, in this 40th anniversary showing there were forty photos on display.
Most of the prints hung around Persky as she spoke chronicled a time in her life when she was in a relationship with Gary Valentine, the bassist for Blondie in the 1970s. As a result, many of the photos featured Blondie’s founders, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, in their most organic settings.
Persky decided on the name “X-Offenders” for the exhibit because “X-Offender” was the name of the debut single that Valentine had written for Blondie. The collection acted as a tribute to their time together, and Persky’s time with Blondie as a whole.
The photos were up close and personal; many were head shots and all seemed honest and raw. The prints were almost as raw as Persky herself– when she opened up the talk to audience discussion she confidently said, “If you ramble, I will cut you off like a cancer.”
Though this exhibit was focused mainly on 1976 and Blondie, Persky also talked about life as an artist in general. She emphasized the importance of being true to oneself and creating. “What you create is so much more important than anything else,” she said, “Just keep making the work.”
Creating is just what Persky has been doing since she was a teen in Greenwich Village. She discussed the first play that she acted in, written by HM Koutoukas specifically for her, and her stint as a writer for The New York Rocker.
What seemed to create Persky’s genius was her environment. She spoke of the influence that Greenwich Village had on her upbringing often throughout the hour. It was a place of artistic creation for people of all sorts, though “the Village was empty back then.” Greenwich seemed to be a hub for creation.
Persky described walking out on the streets of New York to find props and materials for her artistic endeavors. “All of the stuff we used was just trash that somebody brought in, but then again, we were trash that somebody brought in.” The artists of Greenwich made art of anything and everything they had.
Throughout Persky’s talk, she was brutally honest and open. The range of topics she discussed spread from finding out she was weird at the age of five, to traveling to Los Angeles with Blondie for one of their first major gigs. It is clear that she has had a life full of adventure and experience.
This morning’s talk was an insightful and exciting view into the daily endeavors of a person with a true talent for art, as well as a vehement appreciation for the impact that art has on our world.