Hannah Wilke was born in New York City on March 7, 1940. She received her university degree in 1960 and her teaching degree in 1961 from Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Philadelphia. In 1965 she returned to New York where she lived and worked until her death from lymphoma on January 28, 1993.
In the late 1950s, Wilke invented a "female iconography" based on organic forms related to bodily and vaginal imagery; she was thus one of the first artists to deal directly with feminist issues. Initially she modeled small terracotta objects made precious by their boxlike enclosures. These gradually evolved during the 1960s into gestural folded shapes with names like Venus Basin and Teasel Cushion. During the early 1970s, Wilke began to work with latex to create large hanging wall sculptures, and with other malleable materials such as lead, kneaded erasers, lint, and chewing gum. Concurrently, she became involved with video performance, body art, photography, and film, using herself and her life in a series of works, dating from the 1970s into the '90s, that aggressively parody sexual stereotypes, playfully question human and societal relations, and bridge the time and space between life and death. Wilke's last more-than-life-size watercolor and photo self-portraits, her floor sculptures and readymade medical objects, her everyday videos and drawings made with her own hair carry her exploration to a new level of revelation.
Wilke received major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Her art has been represented since 1972 in New York by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, which organized the exhibition of her last work, "IntraVenus", for its international tour in 1994-97. Retrospectives have been mounted by Washington Project for the Arts in Washington, D.C. (1979), the University of Missouri, St. Louis (1989), the University of Illinois, Chicago (1996), the Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center in Denmark (1998), the Umea Kunstmuseum in Sweden (1999), the Helsinki City Art Museum in Finland (1999), and the Neue Gesellschaft fur bildende Kunst and Haus am Kleispark in Berlin, Germany (2000).
Feminist Artist Statement
Please refer to the following publications for statements by Hannah Wilke, along with essays about the artist and her work:
Orgaz, Laura Fernandez et al. Exchange Values. Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain: Artium, 2006.
Uninterrupted Career: Hannah Wilke 1940-1993. Essays by Frank Wagner et al. Berlin, Germany: Neue Gessellschaft fur bildende Kunst, 2000.
Hannah Wilke: A Retrospective. Edited by Elisabeth Delin Hansen, Kirsten Dynnol and Donald Goddard. Nikolaj, Copenhagen: Contemporary Art Center, 1998.
Intra-Venus. Essays by Amelia Jones, Donald Goddard, Robert McKaskell, Marsie Scharlatt and Renny Pritikin. New York, NY: Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, 1995.
Hannah Wilke: A Retrospective. Edited by Thomas H. Kochheiser. Essay by Joanna Frueh. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1989.
*Additional publications can be found in Hannah Wilke's complete CV.