Lacy was raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California, which she called the “Appalachia of the West,” then studied science at university. She first came to international attention with “Three Weeks in May,” a three-week long series of performances in May 1977 that was reenacted in 2013. She placed a large map of LA in the public shopping mall near City Hall and each day went to the police department’s central office to obtain the previous day’s rape reports and stamped them on the map. She and a group of collaborators produced thirty additional events around the city, all on the theme of rape, garnering significant television and print media coverage for a previously taboo topic.
This integrated, publicly confrontational approach is a recurring them in Lacy’s work, drawing focus onto previously marginalized issues. In addition to rape, she has also tackled sexual violence, racism and age and class inequalities. Several projects, including Whisper, the Waves, the Wind, and its sequel, The Crystal Quilt, featured dramatic public performances involving hundreds of older women, focusing on the roles, needs, and inequities of gender and aging. Her recent work in the United Kingdom has focused on bringing together Muslim and Christian communities in an abandoned mill to create a performance, resulting in a multiscreen video installation. She has most recently spent months exploring the experiences of residents on both sides of the Irish border during Brexit, resulting in a new video installation.
In addition to her work as an artist, Lacy has also inspired generations through her writing and her educational positions. including serving as the Dean of Fine Arts at California College of the Arts from 1987 to 1997, and previously as the Arts Commissioner of Oakland, CA. She currently teaches at the University of Southern California, Roski School of Art and Design. Listen to the episode below.