Anat Ebgi is pleased to present a solo installation of historic and recent works by Faith Wilding at the 2023 edition of The Art Show, organized by the Art Dealers Association of America. The fair is open to the public from Thursday, November 2 – Sunday, November 5, with a gala preview on the evening of Wednesday, November 1.
Focusing on the artist’s biomorphic abstraction of plants and corporeal iconography, this presentation places both historic and recent works alongside one another to examine throughlines across Wilding’s career.
Brilliant gold leaf illuminated works of the 70s, including major pieces from her Leaf Goddess series, are buttressed by intimate compositions. The recent watercolor and gold leaf works on paper tie back to this early body of work, with unfurling leaves and undulating organic abstractions. The presentation includes a major silk wrapped work on paper, Bird of Paradise: Virgin Goddess (1978), a suite of pieces from the late 70s, and a selection of works on paper from the last two years. Following the global pandemic, Wilding’s return to the studio over the past few years have been one of the most prolific periods of her career, creating a significant body of work that culminates and ties together her nearly six-decades of work.
Avowed eco-feminist Faith Wilding has nurtured an art and activist practice to address the deterioration of the natural world, spiritual exuberance, and biopolitics. Renowned for her contributions to feminism and environmentalism, Wilding emerged at the forefront of Feminist Art in Los Angeles during the late 1960s and 1970s. Wilding was a co-initiator of the Feminist Art Program at CalArts alongside Miriam Shapiro and Judy Chicago. The Feminist Art Program produced Womanhouse in 1972, an art installation and performance space focusing on collaborative and feminist ideas. Wilding’s work continues to interrogate societal narratives, challenging the status quo in art-making, life, and politics.
Wilding’s experience of growing up in a pacifist commune in Paraguay (as part of the Bruderhof Anabaptists) with little contact with the outside world had a tremendous impact on her. Ecstatic childhood experiences of wild nature, studying the South American jungle forests and waterways planted early seeds that would inform her work upon arriving to the U.S. at age 18. She quickly combined these experiences with her research into connections between women and nature, examining the ecological, in-spirited philosophies of ecofeminism.
Her works from the 1970s were inspired by research into early medieval herbals, bestiaries, alchemical manuscripts, and Books of Hours of the Virgin. “All life is emerging, penetrating the heart,” Wilding wrote in her journal while working on her ‘Imago Femina’ series from this period. Included in this presentation is Imago Femina “My Heart-Shell Breaks Open…” for H.D. (1978), which depicts a shell and a luscious whorl of tendrils emerging from within. Leaf Goddess (1976), an abstract botanical piece depicts a border of leaves surrounding a light and dark pink form, seemingly opening and expanding across the paper—animated by a totemic life force, metaphoric for becoming, transformation, and turning outward. Definitively by this period, Wilding had developed an expansive iconography of botanical and female forms that still drive her practice today in even more complex ways such as Tropical Lace (2020) or The Secret Flower (2022).
Wilding’s methods and materials combine the rigor of scientific illustration with the fantastic imagery of illuminated manuscripts. Though her work is inextricably linked to plants and nature, she does not depict (or abstract) flowers, like many of her art historical forebears. She instead digs into symmetrical dualities: up and down, in and out, open and closed, evoking mystical, personal, and esoteric narratives. Roots, branches, leaves, shells, sinuous forms, all serve as lyrical metaphors for regeneration, considering what it feels like to observe one’s own body and world, as it changes, evolves, withers away, and becomes something new. Both delicate and harsh, Wilding’s work explores the pivotal moment between private revelation and public manifestation.
Faith Wilding (b. 1943, Paraguay) has exhibited extensively worldwide since the late 1960s. A 2014 retrospective of Wilding’s work, Fearful Symmetries, traveled to five venues across the United States. Wilding’s work was also included in the seminal survey WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, organized by Cornelia Butler, which traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles) to the National Museum of Women (Washington DC), PS1 Contemporary Art Center (Long Island), and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Womanhouse, an influential Los Angeles exhibition, installation, and performance space organized through the CalArts Feminist Art Program. At Womanhouse, Wilding’s Womb Room fiber installation and performance, Waiting, are some of the best known and highly influential works of the 1970s Feminist Art Movement. Wilding’s book By Our Own Hands, catalogs this important era of experimentation and collaboration that defined west coast Feminist art during the early 1970s.
Wilding has exhibited at museums such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; The Drawing Center, New York, NY; Documenta X, Kassel, Germany; the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, MA; the Singapore Art Museum, Singapore; the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, Spain; Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland; and the Bronx Museum of Art, New York, NY. Wilding is Professor Emerita of Performance Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught at institutions Cooper Union, New York University, the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Art Institute. While teaching at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1990s and 200s she was a co-founder of the cyberfeminist collective, subRosa. Wilding was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009 and has been the recipient of numerous grants for the past five decades. In 2014, she was awarded the prestigious Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Hammer Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, Minneapolis Institute of Art, RISD Museum, University Club of Chicago, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Wilding lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.