Wangechi Mutu is an artist and sculptor who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Mutu was educated in Nairobi at Loreto Convent Msongari (1978–1989) and later studied at the United World College of the Atlantic, Wales (I.B., 1991). Mutu moved to New York in the 1990s, focusing on Fine Arts and Anthropology at The New School for Social Research and Parsons School of Art and Design. She earned a BFA from Cooper Union for the Advancement of the Arts and Science in 1996, and then received an MFA from Yale University (2000). While Mutu employs a variety of mediums including video, installation, and sculpture, she is best known for her large-scale collages on pieces of Mylar. Mutu’s works often make the female body central, and confront the viewer with “plant-like or animal-like elements and intertwined abstract patterns” (Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed. (2008). Art Now, Vol. 3: A cutting-edge selection of today’s most exciting artists. Taschen. p. 332.) that merge the organic and the surreal with human forms. These hybrid creatures have bodies made of a combination of machine, animal, human, and monster parts. Mutu constructs these warrior-like females out of magazine cutouts, sculpted and painted surfaces, and found materials.The sources her collage images range from a variety of media, including commercial fashion and lifestyle magazines, pornography, and automobile and motorcycle magazines. These distorted yet elegant figures that Mutu creates are based on the concept that,
“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.”(Merrily, Kerr. “WANGECHI MUTU”)
This idea is illustrated in works such as One Hundred Lavish Months of Bushwhack (2004). In this collage we see a reptile-like hybrid creature, poised as if she is on guard and tense. Her head and foot bleed profusely while a smaller monstrous creature appears to be holding up the wounded figure. This piece, like much of Mutu’s work, speaks to a historical, cultural, and personal narrative of post-imperialism, feminism, and globalization by combining images of the female body with contemporary narratives of African culture and tradition.
Her new book, A Fantastic Journey (Duke Press) is available now.