All reproductions of Hannah Wilke’s work were removed due to copyrights issues. Here’s the link to her virtual home.

“The motif of symbolic woundedness, as tied to the social experience of femininity, prefigured Wilke’s development of physical illness, a lymphoma diagnosed in 1987 and around which the Intra-Venus series was articulated. While Wilke’s work from the 1970s suggests that the “wounds” of femininity, as experienced in patriarchal culture, might one day be removed or transformed, the same could unfortunately not be said of her disease, which proved fatal in 1993. Besides the psychoanalytic connection between the sight of the female body and (the threat of ) castration, it is possible that Wilke’s visual association of womanhood with woundedness might have stemmed from witnessing her mother’s breast cancer. In effect, Wilke began to perform nude in 1970, after her mother’s mastectomy.12 Wilke’s exposure to her mother’s “real wound” may thus have inspired the analogy she drew in turning the hidden, psychic wounds of femininity into meaningful physical marks. That woundedness should appear as a motif to figure both visible and invisible pain is not surprising, considering the  ncommunicable nature of suffering. If pain, both moral and physical, is pre-symbolic,13 changing, and ungraspable in nature, then the transmission of such experience needs to be translated into a clearly identifiable form. From this perspective, the motif of the wound not only emerged in Wilke’s practice as the physical consequence of illness, but also was employed as an active, signifying mark, which visibly indicated the non-figurable pain that brought it into being.”

Tamar Tembeck

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