Hannah Wilke the Remarkable

Posted: November 17, 2010 in Uncategorized
Hannah Wilke was a pioneering feminist conceptual artist. Born in 1940 as the second child to Selma and Emanuel Butter, was born Arlene Hannah Butter in New York City. She attended public school in Queens, and graduated from Great Neck High School in 1957. She then attended Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, receiving  a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1962.
Wilke taught art throughout her career, gave workshops and participated in panels and conferences about women’s art (hannahwilke.com). She taught art from 1962-1965 at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in PA, and from 1965-1970 at White Plains HIgh School in NY. She joined the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan in 1972 and founded the ceramics department. There, she taught sculpture and ceramics until 1991.
In 1972 she had her fist one-woman gallery exhibitions at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York and Margo Leain Gallery, Los Angeles (hannawilke.com).
In 1987 Wilke was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent extensive treatment which included a bone marrow transplant. During the time of her treatment, instead of hiding herself, she showed herself off, through numerous photographs taken of herself. It was like a slap in the face, and an in-your-face type of experience. Instead of running from death it was almost as if she was looking at it dead on, ready to face it.
IntraVenus grew out of this experience, which was a group of monumental photographs documenting her final illness. It was turned into an exhibition and held at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in 1994 and to Yerba Buena Arts Center in San Francisco, the Santa Monica Museum, Weatherspoon Art Gallery in Greensboro NC, Woodruff Gallery in Atalanta GA, and many more.
Of these, one of her most famous were the S.O.S. photographs, were glamorous photos of herself with wart-like objects all over her body and face. “Wilke covered her body with the small vulva forms she shaped from used chewing gum. The gums, mimicking the larger form of the folded sculptures, represent scars or growths and contrast with Wilke’s flirtatious advertisement style glamour poses” (re-title.com).
Wilke said, “I chose gum because it’s the perfect metaphor for the American woman – chew her up, get what you want out of her, throw her out and pop in a new piece” (re-title.com).
Her exhibition received First Place Award in 1994 and 1996 for best show in an art gallery from the International Association of Art Critics (hannawilkes.com)
Hannah Wilkes was obviously an amazing individual who brought controversy and reality to the table. Though her Intra Venus made people a little uncomfortable, the elegance, peacefulness and beauty she expressed undoubtedly shone through it, and made her an astounding individual to be cherished dearly. Her story greatly impacted me.

Further Information:
Click here to view an article that captures the essence of Hannah Wilke just years before her death.
All images are sourced by the link attached to them. Click the image to find the link source.



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