Threewalls is honored to present Fearful Symmetries, the first retrospective exhibition of the influential feminist artist, Faith Wilding. Widely known as a performance artist, Wilding was a key figure in the formation of the first Feminist Art Program in Fresno in 1970, and at Cal Arts in 1971. She was a major contributor to the now historical, month-long collaborative feminist installation Womanhouse, sited in an abandoned mansion in Los Angeles in 1972, where she performed her highly celebrated work Waiting.
Fearful Symmetries, curates a selection of works from Wilding's studio practice spanning the past forty years, highlighting a range of works on paper – drawings, watercolors, collage and paintings – exhibited together here for the first time. Taking up key, allegorical imagery in Wilding's work, the exhibition focuses on themes of “becoming,” both the transformative event itself, and the threshold to transfiguration. This state of in-between-ness is articulated through imagery of leaves, the chrysalis, hybrid beings, and liminal circumstances themselves, like “waiting”, the subject of Wilding's two prominent performances Waiting and Wait-With.
Wilding's work manages to be both delicate and harsh, in its exploration of the pivotal moment between private revelation and public manifestation. Viewed together, her work makes a powerful impression about psychological and physical transition and transformation. In the depiction of the chrysalis and the embryo, for example, gestation is suggested, while in imagery of tears, wounds and “recombinant” bodies, emergence and materialization are pronounced. The sum of these parts provides a unique account of how themes of emergence were central to Wilding's articulation of feminism, and her own reflections on a childhood growing up in an intentional Christian commune.
Alongside the exhibition is a curated archive, featuring Wilding's work with the collaborative research and performance group subRosa; rare videos of performances made throughout her career; and papers and publications dating from Wilding's participation in the Feminist Art Program in the 1970s.
A series of special events punctuate the exhibition, including a performance and discussion with Irina Aristarkhova on January 9; two screenings of feminist films from Wilding's archives at The Nightingale theater, January 29 and February 5; and on February 14, a reading from her memoir-in progress about growing up in a commune in Paraguay. Wilding's exhibition was planned to coincide with her reception of a Lifetime Achievement and President’s Art & Activism Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art at the College Art Association annual conference on February 15.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication featuring original writings by Irina Aristarkhova, Elizabeth Hess and Mario Ontiveros.
Faith Wilding is Professor Emerita of performance art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a graduate faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and currently a visiting scholar at the Pembroke Center, Brown University. Born in Paraguay, Wilding received her BA from the University of Iowa. and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. Wilding was a co-initiator of the Feminist Art Programs in Fresno and at Cal Arts, and key contributor to the Womanhouse exhibition with Crocheted Environment and her Waiting performance. Her artwork and writing has been featured in major feminist exhibitions including WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution; Sexual Politics; Division of Labor: Women’s Work in Contemporary Art; and re.act Feminism.
Wilding has exhibited nationally and internationally, including the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid; Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow; MoMA PS1 and the Bronx Museum of Art in New York; Museum of Contemporary Art and Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; UC Riverside Museum of Art; the Singapore Art Museum; and many others. Wilding cofounded and collaborates with subRosa, a cyberfeminist cell of cultural producers using BioArt and tactical performance in the public sphere to explore and critique the intersections of information and biotechnologies in women's bodies, lives, and work, and she is the co-editor of Domain Errors! Cyberfeminist Practices! She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Creative Capital grant, and NEA artist grants.