By Dave Zuchowski
CNHI News Service
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As a teenager, acclaimed photographer, Annie Liebovitz, snapped her first pictures when her father was stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War.
Still going strong now at the age of 63, the artist who started her career as a photojournalist for "Rolling Stone" magazine in 1970 then moved on to "Vogue" and "Vanity Fair," where she remains today, has photographed American presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama as well as many of the most notable figures of our time.
These include athletes, actors, dancers, musicians, fashion designers, scientists and business leaders.
Over the years, Liebovitz’ body of work has earned her many awards and honors, both national and international, and her images are emblazoned in the minds of people around the world.
For the very first time, the 156 images Liebovitz personally selected as the definitive edition of her work from 1968 to 2011 is on display in its entirety at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.
This "Master Set," on exhibit on display through Dec. 30, is drawn from thousands of photographs taken over the years of professional assignments.
Some of the images like her "Richard Nixon Leaving the White House," a work that shows the president’s copter barely rising from the ground after his resignation in 1974 while workmen hurriedly roll up the carpet he just trod over, are familiar to most Americans over the age of 40.
One of her best known works, that of John Lennon in the nude snuggling up to a fully-clothed Yoko Ono in bed, won, in 2005, the number one spot in a compilation of the 40 top magazine covers of the past 40 years by the American Society of Magazine Editors. Just five hours after she took the iconic photograph, Lennon was shot and killed outside his residence in the Dakota in Manhattan.
At the Wexner, the Master Set is arranged chronologically and takes up the entire gallery space. A second collection of 78 of on display titled "Pilgrimage" are her photos of interiors, landscapes and objects of historical figures taken throughout the United States and Great Britain.
The earliest photo in the Master Set, "American Soldiers and Mary, Queen of the Negritos," was taken at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines in 1968.
The newest, taken in 2009 and simply titled "Niagara Falls " is a dramatic look from the top of the falls. So powerful is its imagery, it feels like the rushing waters can pull you over the precipice. Fittingly, the work from the Pilgrimage collection is mounted at the top of a staircase connecting the Wexner’s two main gallery spaces and is a sensational preface to the rest of the exhibit.
A few of my favorite Liebovitz works in the exhibit include Bette Midler lying on a bed of rose petals, taken as a promo for the film, "The Rose; two side-by-side portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama; and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth shot at Buckingham Palace in March 2007 that shows the queen gazing towards a large open window and reveals some of the room’s furnishings and a reflection of a chandelier in a mirror.
A third, informal component of the Liebovitz exhibit is mounted on the "Wall" in the Wexner lobby and includes feature portraits and related prints taken by Liebovitz of artists who have appeared at the Wexner over the years.
On Nov. 9-11, Liebovitz will visit the Center to accept the Wexner Prize, given to "a contemporary artist in any field who has been consistently original, influential and challenging to convention." During her visit Liebovitz will deliver a talk that’s open to the public.
From Nov. 15-18, the Wexner, a multidisciplinary arts center that features an array of theater, music and dance performances, will also stage "Sontag; Reborn," a tender look at the prolific essayist and long-time Liebovitz companion before she became a world-renowned author and activist.
If You’re Going . . .
For more information on the Wexner Center and Liebovitz Exhibit, phone 614-292-3535 or visit website wexarts.org/annie.
For a place to stay, the Lofts Hotel, 55 E. Nationwide Blvd., is offering a Liebovitz Exhibit Package that includes two tickets to the show, overnight accommodations, valet parking, a $25 gift card for one of 14 participating restaurants, two tickets for a movie of your choice at the Arena Grand Movie Theater and a complimentary breakfast at Max and Erma’s Restaurant. Phone 614-461-2642 or www.55lofts.com.
For a place to dine, Lemongrass, 641 N. High Street, features Pan Asian dishes such as sushi, sashimi, soups and a variety of creative Asian dishes, many with a European twist. Entree examples include Hawaiian duck and banana-wrapped orange roughy served in a colorful, artsy atmosphere. Phone 614-224-1414 or www.lemongrassfusion.com.
Dave Zuchowski is a travel writer for CNHI News Service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.