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Wangechi Mutu: A Necessary Madness

Wangechi Mutu (born 1972) is a visual artist known primarily for her painting, sculpture, film, and performance work. Born in Kenya and educated at Yale University, she has lived and established her career in New York for more than twenty years. Mutu’s work has directed the female body as subject through collage painting, immersive installation, and live and video performance all the while exploring questions of self-image, gender constructs, cultural trauma, and environmental destruction as well as notions of beauty and power. Mutu has observed: “Females carry the marks, language and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.” Piecing together magazine imagery with painted surfaces and found materials, Mutu’s collages explore the split nature of cultural identity, referencing colonial history, fashion and contemporary African politics. Mutu portrays the inner and outer ideals of self with physical attributes clipped from lifestyle magazines: the woman’s face being a racial distortion, her mind occupied by a prototypical white model. Drawing from the aesthetics of traditional African crafts, Mutu engages in her own form of story telling; her works document the contemporary myth-making of endangered cultural heritage.

Riding Death to my Sleep, 2002, ink collage on paper, 60 x 44 inches

Wangechi Mutu, Forbidden Fruit Picker (2015)

Film produced and directed by Anne Makepeace

Running time 5 minutes

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the film.

Art images: Wikiart

Text adapted from Saatchi Gallery.

This post was curated by Michael Simms.

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