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Laurie Anderson's Geni Profile

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Laura Phillips Anderson

Current Location:: Southampton, Suffolk County, New York, United States
Birthplace: Glen Ellyn, DuPage County, Illinois, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Arthur Tyler Anderson and Mary Louise Anderson
Widow of Lou Reed

Occupation: Multi-media artist, musical instrument inventor, 1st and Last NASA artist in residence
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Laurie Anderson

Basic information by NNDB:

Laurie Anderson

  • AKA Laura Phillips Anderson
  • Born: 5-Jun-1947
  • Birthplace: Wayne, IL
  • Gender: Female
  • Religion: Buddhist (Ben M. Angel notes: apparently studied Zen, seems to declare a strong affinity with Buddhism in an interview in the January 2012 Believer magazine)
  • Race or Ethnicity: White
  • Sexual orientation: Straight
  • Occupation: Performance Artist, Musician (Ben M. Angel notes: she regards herself as a "multimedia artist")
  • Nationality: United States
  • Executive summary: Tape bow violinist and performance artist
  • Father: Arthur T. Anderson
  • Mother: Mary Louise Rowland
  • Brother: (four brothers, at least one an anthropologist)
  • Sister: (three sisters)
  • Husband: Lou Reed (musician, cohabiting since 1995, m. 12-Apr-2008)
  • High School: Glenbard West High School, Glen Ellyn, IL
  • University: Mills College (1965-66)
  • University: BA Art History, Barnard College (1966-69)
  • University: MFA Sculpture, Columbia University (1970-72)
  • Teacher: Instructor of Art History, City College of New York (1973-75)


Timeline taken from her Wikipedia article and other sources:

  • Born June 5, 1947, in Glen Ellyn (supported by the artist herself), DuPage County, Illinois, US, to parents Arthur Tyler and Mary Louise Rowland Anderson
  • In 1957, at age 10, she was convinced by her grandmother Louise Rowland that the world would end in a year, and she spent the next year "alienating her family and friends" in constant prayer. In 1958, the world didn't end. Around the same time, she was forced to take violin lessons. She also tended to go to school early to feed fish.
  • In 1959, at age 12, she attempted to do a flip from a high diving board and missed the pool she was trying to dive into, breaking her back and leaving her paralyzed. Through sheer determination, and against the expectations of her doctors ("This was the first time I realized that adults are idiots"), she managed to recover control of her limbs, all the while reading the entire works of Jean-Paul Sartre.
  • By 1961, she shed her "Frankenstein-like" back brace and resumed playing violin and took part in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra sometime afterward.
  • In 1963, she saw violin as a distraction from other subjects that she was then interested (physics, German, etc.), and she dropped the instrument at age 16.
  • In 1965, after several attempts, she won the Junior Miss Illinois beauty pageant at the age of 18. Graduated Class of 1965 from Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, and left almost immediately for the west coast.
  • In 1965-66, attended Mills College, an all-women's undergraduate school in San Francisco, and took pre-med courses. She dropped her plans to go into medicine after discovering that she hated the sight of blood, and preferred the diagrams more than the information they conveyed. (Her teachers advised that she wasn't "really cut out for this".) She left after a semester "a very unhappy undergraduate", without having even established contact with members of the Music Program there (she would eventually collaborate with experimental music figure Pauline Oliveros, who was established at Mills when Anderson was there).
  • In 1966, entered Barnard College in New York City ("It was like going to New York and going to school on the side"). She lived in a studio apartment in the city, and not on campus.
  • In 1969, performed her first performance art piece, a symphony played on automobile horns. She attained membership in the Phi Beta Kappa honors society at Barnard College and graduated with a bachelor of arts magna cum alude in Art History.
  • In 1970, entered Columbia University and pursued a master's degree in Sculpture. While at Columbia, she began to draw comics for an underground zine called Baloney Moccasins in 1970, published George DiCaprio, father of actor Leonardo DiCaprio. She would later write articles for publications like Artforum and Avalanche.
  • In 1971, produced her first children's books: The Package and Certainly Carrie, Cut the Cake. She also illustrated for several children's books in this period.
  • In 1972, obtained her master's in fine arts from Columbia University in Sculpture. One of her sculptures was a tape player with a musical tape loop, embedded into a large table covered with rubber with notches cut into it. The only way to hear the music was to sit at the table, place your elbows into the notches, and cover your ears with your hands. She later would relate at ISEA2012 a story about Sol Lewitt, poet and sculptor, who expressed generosity to an unknown artist working in Rome on a November day when the two of them were delayed a couple weeks over the start of a show. She performed for the first time this year her Duets on Ice, in which she played while on skates frozen in a block of ice; the performance ended when the ice melted her skates free.
  • In 1973, began to teach art history at City College of New York.
  • In 1974, she spent a few weeks hitchhiking to the North Pole during a heat wave, making it as far as the Magnetic North Pole in Canada. in the same year, spent time in Chiapas, Mexico, with her brother, who was an anthropologist studying the Tzotzil Mayan people. Both experiences were described in her 1995 album "The Ugly One with the Jewels".
  • In 1975, she ended her term as a teacher of art history at City College of New York, in what could be described as by mutual agreement. ("I quit. Not before they fired me, but it was very close...")
  • In 1977, created the tape-bow violin, which used magnetic tape instead of horsehair in the bow, and a tapehead on the bridge. Contributed two works to the compilation New Music for Electronic and Recorded Media - "New York Social Life" and "Time to Go". She met New York Serb artist Marina Abramovic a year after she met and began collaborating with Dutch performance artist Ulay.
  • In 1978, performed and MC'ed at a concert at the Nova Convention in the Lower East Side of NYC, becoming closely tied in to the New York avant-garde scene (she related this experience at ISEA2012 in a story about William S. Burroughs' dark humor). Also met Andy Kaufman this year at the Elise Club in Queens. She would later act as straight woman to his practical jokes, both in clubs (inter-gender wrestling) and at Coney Island (Andy getting in the Rotowhirl and then pretend panicking, crying "We're all going to die"). The text to Rotowhirl in "The Ugly One with the Jewels" described these antics.
  • In January 1980, took part in Word of Mouth, a gathering of 37 people with 12 artists (including New York Serb artist Marina Abramovic) that took place on the Equatorial Pacific island of Panape. The meeting, jail break, and commemoration of the dead that took place during this event were included in "Word of Mouth" in the 1995 album The Ugly One with the Jewels.
  • In 1981, produced with John Giorno and William S. Burroughs a studio album entitled "You are the guy I want to share my money with." Her single "O Superman" was released (with B-track "Walk the Dog") and reached No. 2 in the British pop charts after getting airplay on the John Peel show; it would be included in the following year in her Big Science album and on United States Live in 1983 (released back to back with Mr. Heartbreak). The track was intended as commentary on the failure of technology to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Iran during the Carter presidency a couple years earlier.
  • In 1983, obtained a Guggenheim Fellowship.
  • At the start of 1984, joined Nam June Paik in her work "Good morning Mr. Orwell." Also collaborated with Jean Michel Jarre in the work Zoolook. On NBC, she appeared on The New Show with her piece entitled "Mach 20" a spoken word Voice of Authority work about, well, scale.
  • In 1986, released concert movie Home of the Brave, and provided soundtracks to Spaulding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box (Gray died 2004). Collaborated with Peter Gabriel on the video "This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)". Later worked with him on plans for a high-tech amusement park (which hasn't yet come to fruition). Also released "Language is a Virus," taken from William S. Burroughs' "The Ticket that Exploded".
  • In 1988, played at the Jazzfest Berlin.
  • In 1989, released Strange Angels after spending a year in singing lessons. In lieu of releasing videos, she tried out releasing a string of Personal Service Announcements for VH-1 that included commentary on the National Debt, the National Anthem, Women and Money (relating an epiphany given to her during a protest at the Manhattan Playboy Club in the early 1970s), and School Lunches on TV (the music channel describes her as their No. 86 all time best woman performer). She also released the documentary Heavy Petting, the single Babydoll, and Hiawatha.
  • In 1990, released her video Beautiful Red Dress.
  • In 1991, served on the jury at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival. Produced a documentary at the same time about the history of the face in art entitled Human Face. She also took part in a Buddhist ceremony with the Dalai Lama at which she took an oath "I pledged for the remainder of my life to be open and friendly."
  • In 1992, met Lou Reed at a musician-run jazz festival organized by John Zorn (wearing a T-shirt saying "Rhythm and Jews") in Munich, Germany (she thought he was a British artist when they met there - such was how separated the two's worlds were at that time) - they jammed together on a song that Reed wrote that had been dedicated to Andy Warhol (following Songs for Drella, written with John Cale in a reunion of Velvet Underground after Warhol's death), after which Reed said that Anderson did the song "just like I would have". The two became romantically involved and began to live with each other by 1995. (At ISEA2012, she noted that before they lived together, "they shopped for electronics together".)
  • In 1994, released Puppet Motel and Bright Red (the latter with Lou Reed's participation). Also contributed to Verde, anil, amarelo, cor de rosa e carvão (or Rose and Charcoal, a work in which Lou Reed also took part) and released her retrospective Stories from the Nerve Bible, as well as the video "In Our Sleep" with Reed.
  • In 1995, released spoken word album The Ugly One With the Jewels.
  • In 1996, performed for the AIDS benefit album Silencio=Muerte: Red Hot + Latin produced by the Red Hot Organization and assisted Lou Reed in his album Set the Twilight Reeling (Hang on to your Emotions featured the two in a duet). She provided a supplemental entry for the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on New York City, one which included an entry on the World Trade Center.
  • In 1997, assisted Lou Reed with the re-release of Perfect Day (made popular again by the film Trainspotting a year earlier) which reached the top of the British charts.
  • In 1998, provided her voice in the Rugrats Movie (one of the baby singers in the number "The World is Something New to Me"). By this time, she invents a 6-foot tall "Talking Stick" that as a MIDI controller could replicate sounds. It was later confiscated by TSA on suspicion that it was a security hazard.
  • In 1999, began work on Songs and Stories From Moby Dick, which was released the following year.
  • In 2000, released her anthology Talk Normal. Also assisted with Lou Reed's album Ecstasy, and collaborated with Jean Michel Jarre in Metamorphoses.
  • In early 2001, released Life on a String. Recorded her audiobook reading of Don Delillo's The Body Artist.
  • Following Sept. 11, 2001, performed concerts in New York City that eventually made it onto the benefit album Live in New York. Her pet rat terrier dog Lolabelle first appears in media in the New York Times. At a 2012 Dirtday! presentation in Boulder, Colorado, she described her social animal as a "mall dog" that "came from one of the puppy mills that grind down dogs and then sell them in batches in malls... she was bought by a couple that were in the middle of a divorce, and as it turned out no one would take her - the woman didn't want her and the husband didn't want her - the boy wanted her, but nobody really wanted the boy." The husband took her to Canada to kayak for a month before thinking through and crying about what he wanted to do with her, an experience in which Anderson described as the advent of the dog learning empathy. She was about two years old at this time.
  • In 2003, she assisted Lou Reed with his The Raven concept album (on Edgar Allen Poe). Also around the same time, she received a phone call from NASA asking her to become their first-ever artist in resident. In the first call, she didn't believe them and hung up the phone. After several calls, she began to believe them and asked what an artist in resident did. When they responded, "What do you think they do," she thought "Who are these people?" (according to later interviews) but then accepted the appointment. (She and Reed interviewed on Charlie Rose shortly after her initial facilities tour and before her ride in the "Vomit Comet"). After touring NASA facilities, building up impressions on what everyone did, she released the poem "The End of the Moon." She opted for poetry as she felt that the work NASA was doing was too amazing to really do justice to it in any multimedia presentation. Also, The Musée Art Contemporain of Lyon in France produced a touring retrospective of her work, entitled The Record of the Time: Sound in the Work of Laurie Anderson.
  • In 2004, Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind) described the expenditure for an Artist in Residence at NASA as exemplifying everything that was wrong with Big Government -- part of the "$386 billion of waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending... every American business and every American family must make hard decisions to stand by their budget," and the position, which entailed a token expenditure of 20,000 USD, was discontinued. Around this time, Anderson took part in creating the Opening Ceremony show for the Athens Olympics. She also collaborated in the creation of a multimedia project for the Paris Opera Ballet
  • In 2005, at the World Expo in Aichi, Japan, she got the idea for Homeland while doing a film called Hidden Inside Mountains. During a visual fable presentation, she came across one postcard describing the feeling of losing something. She later realized she connected to this feeling when looking back on the US invasion of Iraq, coming to realize that she lost her country at that time. The idea for the album took a couple years to gel. She also took part in a tour of the Russian Space Program, apparently requested by the Russians after her Artist in Residence status at NASA expired. She recorded her impressions at the Art Catalyst's Space Soon event. She also released a multimedia exhibit called The Waters Reglitterized at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York.
  • In 2006, she provided the work "The Fifth Plague" in the 4AD release Plague Songs. She also narrated Ric Burns's Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film. In October, she performed at the Leonard Cohen tribute Came so far for Beauty in Dublin.
  • In 2007, performed on tour her material for her upcoming album Homeland. Her Voice of Authority persona takes on the name Fenway Bergamot at Lou Reed's suggestion. A visual image of Fenway is featured on the album (Laurie with painted-on eyebrows and moustache). She also became the 13th awardee of the Gish Prize, joining the likes of Frank Gehry, Isabelle Allende, Arthur Miller, and Peter Sellers for "outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life."
  • On Apr. 12, 2008, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson married in a private ceremony in Boulder, Colorado (according to BBC, at the "Boulder Mountain Marriage License Office" - an unconfirmed location). A little more than two weeks later, she was performing her works for Homeland in Moscow. After her return to North America, she recorded with her new husband "Lost Art of Conversation" in Canada that June. In the Guardian, she describes America as "a good place for stories."
  • In January 2009, her longtime companion, a rat terrier named Lolabelle, was diagnosed with insulinoma pancreatic cancer. In order to render her last days with a little more fun, Anderson had a trainer teach her how to make music. In this same year, her mother died.
  • In January 2010, released William S. Burroughs: A Man Within. In February, Delusion was released for the Vancouver Olympics. In May, she and Lou hosted the Vivid Sydney festival in Australia, an event that included a concert for dogs - thousands of dogs showed up (this was inspired by an agreement with cellist Yo-Yo Ma where whoever arranged a concert for dogs first would invite the other to it). In June, she released Homeland, and performed the track "Only an Expert" on the David Letterman Show a month later. Lolabelle expands into painting.
  • In 2011, collaborated on the experimental jazz album New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges. In February, presented the Classical awards in the Grammys. Her piece "Flow" was nominated for best pop instrumental. On April 17, her 12-year-old companion, a rat terrier named Lolabelle, died of insulinoma pancreatic cancer. In accordance with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, her 49 days in the Bardo ended on Laurie's 64th birthday, marking the day that according to that tradition she would be reborn somewhere ("I’m kind of a believer in magic numbers, in a way."). On May 1, she performed the James Salter short story Raphael at the Parrish Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition "Juliao Sarmento: Artists and Writers/House and Home". In October, she displayed an homage to Lolabelle at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in New York. In December, alongside her husband, Lou Reed, she took part in the Occupy Art protest at the Lincoln Center in New York after the final showing of Satyagraha, an opera on Gandhi and peaceful protest.
  • In 2012, her work Another Day in America was committed to theater early in the year. In March, she took part in the "A Room for London" installation and was recorded at an Occupy Wall Street event in New York with husband Lou Reed. In May, she became the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. On May 10, received an honorary doctorate from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan following delivery of the commencement speech that year at Radio City Music Hall. Part of the speech included performing a "mouth violin," essentially a pillow speaker placed in her mouth that played a violin piece while she mouthed through the performance to modify the sound, as if "singing like a violin." In Fall, she took part in the ISEA2012: Albuquerque, Machine Wilderness as a performer and guest speaker.
  • In 2013, she was touring with the Kronos Quartet (a group founded in Seattle, but which shortly after forming moved to San Francisco, where Anderson went to school about a decade before their move) in a show that combines (through special software) sound and text images. Around the same time, in the spring, her husband Lou Reed suffered from a failing liver. He underwent a successful liver transplant in Cleveland, Ohio, that kept him going for an additional half year.
  • On Oct. 27, 2013, her husband, Lou Reed, passed away from liver disease. According to accounts, he never gave up to the very end, even performing Tai Chi exercises in the last hour of his life.
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Laurie Anderson's Timeline

June 5, 1947
Glen Ellyn, DuPage County, Illinois, United States