I first learned about Wangechi Mutu on the blog mater mea. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, but living and loving in Brooklyn, New York, mater mea introduced her to me as a black woman delicately balancing a prosperous career as an artist and mother. Despite the gorgeous photos of her home displaying her studio, and the long form interview that gave insight into her life and philosophies, I had no idea what I was in for when I journeyed to Brooklyn this weekend to see her work.
Installed at the Brooklyn Museum, Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey is an other worldly experience. I'll avoid trying to summarize what the work is like (I tried explaining it to someone earlier... and failed) so I'll let the official description do the talking:
Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey is the first survey in the United States of this internationally renowned, Brooklyn-based artist. Spanning from the mid-1990s to the present, the exhibition unites more than fifty pieces, including Mutu’s signature large-scale collages as well as video works, never-before-seen sketchbook drawings, a site-specific wall drawing, and sculptural installations.I did not choose to go to the exhibit with an artistic research intention in mind but there came a point walking through the gallery examining the pieces when I could not help but start writing:
...Mutu scrutinizes globalization by combining found materials, magazine cutouts, sculpture, and painted imagery. Sampling such diverse sources as African traditions, international politics, the fashion industry, pornography, and science fiction, her work explores gender, race, war, colonialism, global consumption, and the exoticization of the black female body. Read more.
Gorilla elephant woman-fly. In a funkalicious fruit field!I have never been to a visual art exhibit that has been so transformative. So real. In the way that I make art. This is how I make dance. So I am flying high, seeing my reflection as artist. woman. black. who creates new realities through experiential art. guerillaELEPHANTwoman-fly!
Chuckling at work titles such as Yo Mama. Giggling at the possibility for new realities of black woman-ness.
This is real. This is what it is. Panty trees. Red panty trees (!) whose lace and polka dots and hearts are just out of reach. Strange fruit on a tree. Except on one wall, and then another, and then another... where the temptation to touch is overwhelming.
Haunted by "Amazing Grace." "Is it just me or do you hear it too?" Video: Wade in the Water (think Revelations) re-imagined.
Video: Let me get down (body positioning), so I can get DOWN (eat. cake.).
Loving the proliferation of glitter, sparkle, metallics. Fantastical fairy badass-ness.
Half way through, I've become used to seeing these creatures. I accept that I am in another world. But I am still flesh and blood. So maybe this is real?
Far away, outlined imagining, but close up in the details is where all the truth is.
Go experience yourself:
October 11, 2013–March 9, 2014
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 4th Floor