Now On View

Joan Jonas: I Know Why They Left

January 23 - October 20, 2019
Fenway Gallery

I Know Why They Left is a new series of drawings by the 2017 Artist-in-Residence Joan Jonas, centered on the vast array of mythical and archetypal animals present in the Museum’s collection.

Drawn from lace, stone, metal, wood, tapestries, and paintings, the animal figures allude to the importance of nature’s life-force and our disruptive human presence. Jonas’s ability to conjure wonder, fear, and humor through poetic images are just some of the reasons why her work has a magical effect on us.


This artist's book features full-color reproductions of a new series of Joan Jonas's drawings of the vast array of mythical and archetypal animals found among the objects in the Gardner's collection.

About the Artist

Joan Jonas (b. 1936, USA) is the recipient of numerous fellowships, honors, and awards. She received her B.A. in Art History from Mount Holyoke College, studied sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and received her M.F.A. in sculpture from Columbia University. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Jonas was active in the New York art scene, mingling with Nancy Holt, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Robert Whitman; dancers and choreographers Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer, and Trisha Brown; and composers and musicians John Cage, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and La Monte Young. Exposure to these various disciplines fed into the layering of art forms in her own work.

Jonas began teaching at MIT in 1998 and is currently Professor Emerita at the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology with the School of Architecture and Planning.

Artist-in-Residence Joan Jonas explains her inspiration for this exhibition.

Artist Talk & Book Signing with Joan Jonas

Join us for a panel discussion about this exhibition and a book signing on September 12.

The Artist-in-Residence Program is directed by Pieranna Cavalchini, the Tom and Lisa Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art, and is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Barbara Lee Program Fund. This exhibition is also supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which receives support from the State of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.