Hannah Wilke was American born in 1940 and later died from cancer in 1993. Wilke produced works observing feminism and femininity, sex and sexuality working in painting, sculpture, video, photography and performance art. Wilke was one of the first female artists to use her own image within her works. Using a mix medium of photography and sculpture Wilke promotes feminism and positivity surrounding the female body/form whilst at the same time commenting on the objectification of women throughout history.
In S.O.S ‘Starification Object series’ Hannah Wilke is assumed to have taken on the celebrity role suggested from the title “star”. Many of her series titles consist of witty wordplay, as Wilke was fond of linguistic games and frequently engaged…show more content… The small sculptures decorating her body appear as scars on her flesh, recalling practices used by certain African cultures of ritual ‘scarification’ as a means of beautification. Symbolically related to the admired keloid designs on their bodies, in which African women undergo hundreds of painful cuts, Wilke alludes to the painful regimes American women inflict upon themselves in rituals of beautification. In one of the photograph from the series, Wilke clutches a Mickey Mouse toy tight to her partly nude body as she gazes off-camera wearing sunglasses. She assumed the role of the celebrity art star as if gazing off camera to imaginary…show more content… The fact that Wilke herself was, of the standard beautiful and a sexually desirable woman does not confuse her aim of critique but rather reinforces her commentary on women’s roles and gender stereotypes. Wilke’s body as an object of desire whilst being scarred with chewing gum became a reminder to her; that being a Jew during the war she would have been branded and buried if she wasn’t born in America. Asserting female sexuality Wilke makes the ‘otherness’ visible rather than being hidden and invisible, it is marked over the body with reasoning that the female organs frighten people because they don’t know what they look like. ‘Are we afraid of the vagina’.
The photographs were documented from the exhibition, where Wilke handed chewing gum to the audience as they entered the galley and requested the gum to be chewed, twisted into a vaginal shape then stuck on her nude body. A quote from Avis Berman’s ‘a decade of progress, but could a female chardin make a living today’ Wilke stated “I chose gum because it was 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