Hannah Wilke’s Sculptures in the Landscape exhibition showcases previously never-before seen photographs from the 1970s feminist icon.
Walking into Sculptures in the Landscape at Temple Contemporary, knowing only that the late Hannah Wilke was a second wave feminist artist and that these works were positioned to explore femininity and nature, I anticipated seeing a passé, narrow representation of the female body standing in for the experience of womanhood itself. Chalk it up to my coming-of-age in the twenty-first century, but art that substitutes biological female anatomy, as opposed to other experiences shared by women, doesn’t come across as particularly brave or bold in the way it must have in the late 20th century. Despite these concerns, the exhibition is an expansive, playful, and sometimes psychedelic exercise in feminist art’s sculptural malleability, and subverted the preconceptions I had going in.
Sculpture in the Landscape does center the form of the vulva, but the materials used to recreate it– chewing gum, ceramics, metal – in ways that comment on both common women’s experiences as well as the natural surroundings where these pieces of gum are placed. Most significantly, Wilke’s photographs don’t raise the form of the vulva as something unknowably magical or mysterious, but presents them in matter-of-fact contexts to emphasize their ordinariness and naturalness.
Exhibition Review by Deborah Krieger