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Hannah Wilke

Artist 123

Hannah Wilke Chewing Gum

Hannah Wilke (1940-1993), is an American feminist conceptual artist, who is best known for her performances, photographs, and sculptures, many of which incorporate vulva imagery and her own nude body.

When asked why she employed non-traditional materials such as lint, chewing gum, erasers, and vintage postcards, Wilke replied, “I chose gum because it’s the perfect metaphor for the American woman—chew her up, get what you want out of her, throw her out and pop in a new piece.”

Texturality and physicality are inextricable from the politics of her work; their very fabric is imbued with her statement of intent.

She created signature vaginal sculptures in terra cotta and her early ceramic sculptures were exhibited extensively.

Hannah Wilke was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1987 and underwent extensive treatment including a bone marrow transplant. She died of cancer in Houston, Texas, in 1993 at age 52.

She disrupts the image of the beautiful, seductive female existing for the sole purpose of male identification and fantasy by placing tiny pieces of chewing gum all over her body, which are molded in the shape of tiny vaginas. These tiny sculptures are humorous but telling; they speak to the way women are "chewed up," consumed, and exploited.

Wilke deliberately makes herself into the abject. She calls out the way women are debased in our culture by debasing herself in her work.


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