Lehmann’s first serious photographic work was a series of photographs of professional, middle aged couples at home in San Francisco. These portraits, done in the early 70s, mirrored troubles in her own marriage and documented a moment in American history when the institution of marriage became problematic. After two years on the project she became convinced that all marriages were full of irony and humor. She stayed married. Those photographs won her a National Endowment award, which made her legitimate enough to teach at SF State, SF Art Institute, and UC Extention for 20 years.
The second serious photographic work (1977 to 1981) were a series of photographs which show people alone and naked, struggling with shame and self-revelation. From her point of view, these formal, frontal, black and white photographs portray liveliness and presence. The photographic events became a part of an optimistic attitude stemming from the 60’s liberation movements.
In the nineteen eighties, while teaching, Lehmann underwent a re-education. Reading postmodernist theorists, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, and Julia Kristeva, and collaborating with the performance artist, Linda Montano, Lehmann did Spoken-word performances. During these Feminist times, she engaged with Yvonne Rainer and Jane Gallup. Her work was influenced by Cindy Sherman and
Sherry Levine’s fictional photographs and appropriations. The camera became her dedicated copy machine.
Straightforward copies of comic book and pulp magazine covers were her next project. For Lehmann, these cartoons were a treasure trove of universal, unconscious representations. Interested in the coded discourses represented on the covers, Lehmann found a wealth of archaic wisdom and stupidity.
After an exhibition, Gory Allegories, at Media Gallery in San Francisco, Lehmann began to cut up and collage the material. In 1991 Lehmann had a show, Thin Skin, in the Grey Gallery at NYU where she collaborated with her eldest daughter, Barbara Lehmann, who had by this time become an East Village artist and writer. Barbara’s early bout with cancer made both of them familiar with the horrendous anxiety that could invade a home.
Invited to mount a retrospective exhibit called Amazing at The Lab in June of 2000, Lehmann refined a method of transferring the collaged cartoons onto large pieces of heavy weight drawing paper which she then colored with pastels. As the work expanded to a study of the history of art, she rethought her work and life: her daughter appeared as an ancient Egyptian funeral portrait. After preparing this exhibit Lehmann began to paint. Without a camera or computer between her and what her eyes and hands conspire, Lehmann says she feels a sense of freedom.