Hannah Wilke examined and challenged notions of femininity, feminism, and sexuality through her intense, unapologetic depiction of the female body. Untitled from the Hannah Wilke Monument is both the product and documentation of Wilke’s nine-hour performance called “My Country-‘tis of Thee” at the Albright-Knox on the occasion of the United States Bicentennial on July 4, 1976. The performance, in which Wilke transformed a patriotic into a matriarchic theme, involved the local community. She created three twelve-foot photographs of herself appearing bare-breasted and stoic as a goddess figure emulating Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Eight Caryatid Figures flanking the Albright-Knox’s Delaware Stairs. She then gave willing participants fruit-flavored bubble gum to chew and return to her, which she shaped into a series of abstract, organic forms affixed to index cards that were placed over the photographs. Wilke intended the vaginal shapes of these small sculptures to interrupt the viewer’s gaze and ultimately bring attention to his or her relationship with the imagery and the objectification of the female body. Decades later, Wilke’s highly personal, aggressive, and political work endures as a strong symbol that continues to confront social boundaries.
Label from One Another: Spiderlike, I Spin Mirrors, March 7–June 1, 2014