Faith Wilding is a Paraguayan American feminist artist, educator, and prolific writer. Wilding creates beautiful paintings and drawings, rife with organic imagery and personal notation. She has worked on projects, which relate to the effects that biotechnologies have on women.
Wilding emigrated to the United States in 1961 and received her M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 1973. Along with Judy Chicago, she was a founding member and key participant in the Feminist Art Program (FAP) at Fresno State University and at Cal Arts in the early 1970s. She still works with the collective that she cofounded, “subRosa.”
She participated in the feminist exhibition “Womanhouse” in 1972 where she exhibited her “Crocheted Environment” also known as the “Womb Room.” This was a web-filled room which totally enveloped a viewer. It was made of crochet patterns, that recalled spider webs, Gothic horror films, and human tissue. This work recast a domestic craft into an art medium.
In 1974, she made a documentation of her performance “Waiting.” In this 15 minute video Wilding sits, rocking back and forth, reciting a series of phrases, which all begin with the words, “Waiting for . .” as she progresses through life.
In 1976, Wilding was co-founder of the first feminist art movement in Southern California, which she chronicled in “By Our Own Hands.” Her 1979 painting “The Great Spiral” is a whorl of sinuous tendrils that twist and fill the frame. It evokes a swirling life force that is simultaneously animal and vegetal.
A recent retrospective in Pasadena, California highlights some of the works she has done over a 40 year period. Her body-size cutouts of dried leaf shapes float across a light blue wall. They are fleshy, streaked autumn colors that could suggest hair or skin. She has said that “many of my early feminist abstractions came from nature.” In several of her works women emerge from chrysalises and take on the shape of plants.
Her small 2009-2010 watercolors in “Tears Wall” depict teardrop shapes that suggest indeterminate forms, such as plant bulbs. Her 2017 “Papyrus Leaves” series delivers an ecofeminist message by showing images of tree-women surrounded by text, condemning the proliferation of genetically modified organisms and multinational trade deals.
Wilding has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the N.E.A. and other institutions. She has performed with ‘subRosa’ in Slovenia, Croatia, Berlin, Perth, and Zurich. She has exhibited in solo and group shows in Canada, Europe, Mexico, and Asia as well as in the Whitney Museum, MOCA, Documenta X, and others.
She is an emerita faculty member at the School of the Art Institute at Chicago and currently teaches in the M.F.A. Visual Art Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.