The secret lives of Lawrence professors

Kayla Wilson

Associate Professors of Studio Art John Shimon and Julie Lindemann recently opened their exhibition “Sentimental and Specific.” Both grew up in rural Wisconsin and have been collaborating since the 1980’s, when they met at UW-Madison and collaborated on a much different project.At the time, John “Pukeface” Shimon had a band and recruited Lindemann to play drums. “I was recruited due to my lack of drumming skills,” Lindemann said, adding that people claimed she looked like a “combination between Phyllis Diller and Marilyn Monroe.”

The band, Hollywood Autopsy, became part of the flourishing Madison music scene. They opened for bands like The Replacements, and X actually opened for them. As a group comprised of art and film students, their performances often featured odd found objects on the stage.

The experience allowed them to meet a lot of people and be directly involved with them, which, according to Shimon, “demystified a lot of artists.” However, Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys still owes them a lot of favors. Hollywood Autopsy even made it to 42 on the Dutch charts.

During this time, the duo continued to collaborate in their art. Lindemann explained that she was always taking pictures, having worked in the darkroom at an early age and setting up scenes with her father. She didn’t think of it as serious art until the end of her undergraduate years, thinking it wasn’t the most practical career path.

Shimon summed up his photography beginnings this way: “I just liked the pictures.” Shimon and Lindemann have “always tried to make it harder.” Said Shimon: “It started as a challenge, which became an investigation into the history of the medium.”

After graduating from Madison, J&J moved to New York City’s Lower East Side, where many of their friends were immersed in the East Village scene. After some of those friends died from AIDS, it became really hard to stay in Manhattan, so the two moved back to Wisconsin, this time settling in Milwaukee.

While working for the Milwaukee Art Museum taking PR photos, they were able to meet “every big artist from the ’80s.”

“These experiences [in New York and Milwaukee], were a bigger education than going to college,” says Shimon.

The couple did return to school however, studying under Rhondal McKinney, Shimon’s “favorite photographer in the whole world,” at Illinois State University. While at ISU, J&J taught a continuing education class in Milwaukee, where a recent Lawrence grad informed them that they should teach at Lawrence.

Some years later, in 2000, Lindemann and Shimon were invited to show their work at Wriston and were subsequently approached to teach one photography class for one term. “We responded to the pull,” Shimon says and they were appointed to the faculty the following year. Adds Lindemann “We saw the potential.”

Outside of photography and teaching, the twosome’s primary hobby is gardening. J&J live on a 50-acre farm (formerly Shimon’s grandfather’s) and have an extensive organic garden where they grow their own fruits and vegetables.

They do not own a working television. “We can get South Park sometimes, but not for very long,” said Lindemann. Without the distractions of a television, Shimon is currently reading Wholeness by Alex Gerber Jr., which he describes as “flaky and new age.” Lindemann is reading 1000 Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze.