Faith Wilding
Wounded Painting/Painted Wounds

Faith Wilding Untitled, 1995.
Watercolor & xerox collage on paper, 12 x 9 inches.
My beginnings as a practicing young artist were concurrent with my wholehearted participation in the "second wave" feminist movement in the USA, beginning in the late 60s. It was an activist movement based heavily in radical socialist and liberatory political theories. For me—as for many of my sisters—the model of the concurrence of theory and practice has never become obsolete.

My art practice is complex and interdisciplinary. Twenty-five years ago I worked in environments (installations), performance, radio and audio art, writing, collaborations, drawing, painting and sculpture. Today, I still do, as this kind of multi-disciplinary practice best accommodates the subject matter, content, and purposes of my work. My recent mixed media collage words on paper, and my painted "wounds" represent a cherished and long-standing commitment to drawing/painting, as a way of exploring visually psychological and philosophical ideas based in language. I think of these works as "recombinants," for they recombine not only traditional media such as watercolor painting and meticulous ink drawing with the much newer methods of collage and montage, but they also speak of the psychic state of the body today—the recombined war body, which has been violently cobbled together from nomadic social, cultural and political fragments. The recombinant body is an uneasy, monstrous depository of melancholic historical fragments expressed as animal, human, organic and machine parts. It is a body both beautiful and strange in its monstrous (im)possibilities. Feminist art likewise is a recombinant practice and philosophy, an attempt at practicing (im)possibilities.

I like to think of my visual work as a kind of "applied theory" based in research about contemporary social and cultural phenomena and ideas. My latest project, Wall of Wounds, is an example of such "applied theory." "Show your wound!" is an imperative which seems to be the motivation fueling TV and radio's talk-show entertainment all across America today. We have revised Descartes: I hurt, therefore I am. Victimhood is the new privileged status for consumers. It gives everyone an edge. Wounds as entertainment: pain as pastime and spectacle; a perfect foil for genuine economic, social and personal trauma.

Wall of Wounds seeks to comment on this situation using the medium of painting to restore affect in opposition to the spectacle of pain. At the same time it draws attention to the consumption aspect of the talk-show phenomenon, by inviting the viewer to acquire a personalized wound—a unique, original, hand-painted wound, signed by the artist. Get your wound here cheap, only $15! What a bargain! The fluid, repulsive beauty of the small vulnerable paintings is irresistible. Imagine! your own wallet-sized wound.

Each wound has a title drawn from a seemingly inexhaustible list of categories: patriotic wound, political wound, infectious wound, deep wound, phallic wound, flesh wound, soul wound, heart wound, false wound, faith wound, bullet wound, knife wound, urban wound, tropical wound, unhealable wound, perpetual wound, jagged wound, self-inflicted wound, family wound, congenital wound, nomadic wound, love wound. Believe your wound. Choose your wound. Pick your wound. Lick your wound. Bless your wound. Curse your wound. Feed a wound. Starve a wound. Embrace your wound, etc. etc.

The wound paintings start as random "Rorschach" paint-blot images on skin-like transparent tissue paper. Each one is then further manipulated with brush and pen. I am currently very interested in random and involuntary processes and in the ideas they give me for consciously manipulated and developed images. My next move will be to scan these images into the computer and to subject them to electronic manipulation. I will then be able to combine the hand-made and the machine made in book-works, WWWEB pages, and other formats.

Addendum (Fall 1996): The ripple effect of painted wounds is a new project: embryoworld, in which I am commenting on the new "assisted conception" technologies. This project has everything to do with the languages of science and art which encode our deepest fears, desires, and longings in narratives of evolution, choice, idealization, immortality and perfectibility. An installation of mixed media embryo paintings is accompanied by a textual pedigree which detours the narratives of the reproductive technologies.

Faith Wilding is a multi-disciplinary artist. She is represented by Bronwyn Keenan Gallery in New York; and is Visiting Faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and at the MFA in Visual Art Program at Vermont College.


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