You Who Read Me with Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends

JUNE 1967. While Valerie Solanas issues a list of grievances called the SCUM Manifesto, Dorothy Iannone makes a grocery list for a boat trip to Iceland, where she will fall in love with fellow artist Dieter Roth, leaving her first (and last) marriage for the muse. A new book of Iannone’s works on paper begins with a reprinting of the series“An Icelandic Saga,” 1978-86, which tells of the meet-cute as if it were myth and continues nonchronologically through the now octogenarian’s ouevre, collecting the more memorable proofs of her love for what she, like Tibetan Buddhists and Heideggerians, calls the “ecstatic unity” of prima facie opposites.

A Cookbook, 1969, is literally a cookbook, but it’s also an illuminated manuscript in marker brights with diaristic, oddball annotations, while Berlin Beauties, 1978, is practically a cum manifesto. The Solanas who believed that sexual women were mindless would have hated Iannone, a Betty Boop look-alike whose body of work sings of Eros. The Solanas who declared her allegiance to “secure, self-confident, nasty . . . free-wheeling, arrogant females who consider themselves fit to rule the universe” would have loved Iannone, who fought censorship, taught herself everything, and was ignored by the art world until approximately 2005. “Well God could be a woman,” she writes in A Cookbook. “Sorry.” (She isn’t sorry.) Iannone was always a little too silly to be contemporary and too sybaritic to be feminist, yet her gaze stays proudly female, secure enough to be benevolent, even godlike. In Follow Me, 1977, a beautiful man with roses in his hair and a big erection is chained to a cross. The caption, in all caps, reads: “Centuries of Gazing at Your Fragility Have Augmented My Love for Your Sex.”

Spread from Dorothy Iannone’s A Cookbook, 1969, felt-tip pen on paper, closed: 11 3/4 × 9 1/2".
Spread from Dorothy Iannone’s A Cookbook, 1969, felt-tip pen on paper, closed: 11 3/4 × 9 1/2". Hans-Georg Gaul; courtesy the artist and Air de Paris, Paris

Your sex, her self: her subjects. Her best subjects, anyway. Some of the cheesier, mating-themed pieces make it easy to forget that Iannone’s unifying ecstasy was born of a radical divorce, for in the summer of 1967, as she writes, “Dorothy separated her destiny from that of her husband.” Indeed, the artist separated her destiny from all manner of husbands and fathers, from movements and institutions and irreligious isms, and could as well have written simply: “I am she.”