Wangechi Mutu - Marisa Wojcik
Wangechi Mutu is a female artist born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1972. In 2000 she got her Master's in Fine Arts at Yale University, School of Art and today she lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Mutu predominantly works in collage, cutting images from fashion magazines, National Geographic, and books on African Art. She likes to use conventional and unconventional images to compose the figures in her artwork, which are mostly of the female form. The female forms incorporate female icons from "magazine culture" and address the western world's obsession with body augmentation. She often includes other media to her collages such as watercolor and also does some sculpture. Most of her work, however focuses on the female form. She uses it as a base point for a lot of her work and expands upon it.
Inspiration for her work comes a lot from her cultural background. Mutu is interested in "questioning and understanding the definition of beauty." She draws and expands upon ideas of cultural identity, how we are caste in a system based on how our physical features represent where we are from. Other issues such as colonial history, fashion, and current African politics also permeate through her work. I think her work speaks truths about females in Africa that we as people from North America are simply ignorant about and just don't know. She is interested in incorporating Africa's past into her work, as to not push it aside as if it did not happen. The past is apart of the future and Mutu uses that in her work.
I thought it was interesting to compare the work of Wangechi Mutu with William Kentridge. Both were born and grew up in Africa, however Mutu is black and a woman and Kentridge is white and a man. Kentridge's work focused on the confusion, frustration, and guilt he had growing up during Apartheid in Africa. His process attempts to make sense of this confusion without trying to explain anything away. Mutu has the ability to challenge the current status and preconceptions in our society and culture from a very different angle, while still incorperating similar events as Kentridge. Personally, I view Kentridge's work as more tragic but honest while Mutu's is more blunt but yet optimistic for the future.
I would definitely suggest Wangechi Mutu to any female. But to anyone interested in woman's issues (western or African) or in African issues (historical or contemporary) to look into the works of Mutu. Her use of images of models that we've all seen in magazines and the media makes that aspect of her work identifiable to everyone, opening the door to delve further into the ideas she presents.
Wangechi Mutu Images:
Wangechi, Mutu. A Shady Promise. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008. 9-148.
"Wangechi Mutu." Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Sikkema Jenkins & Co. 24 Nov. 2008
"Wangechi Mutu." The Saatchi Gallery. 2003-2008. The Saatchi Gallery : London Contemporary Art Gallery. 23, 24 Nov. 2008