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THE UNKNOWN HEROINE is a “story book” installation comprised of text and performative photographs made by Sherry Wiggins with Portuguese photographer Luís Filipe Branco. It is also a limited edition artists’ book made in collaboration with curator and writer Cydney Payton. This project is based on Wiggins’ interaction with, and physical embodiment of, French, feminist, surrealist writer and artist extraordinaire Claude Cahun (1894-1954).

Wiggins’ research led her to study Cahun’s seminal feminist text Heroines, first published in 1925. Here, Cahun traces fifteen heroines- Sappho, Delilah, Cinderella, Helen, Judith, and Eve among them. Cahun updates these well-known (and some lesser known) heroines with panache and humor and points out the oppressive characterizations that these heroines have endured over the last few centuries and millennia.

Wiggins enacts and visually materializes Cahun’s essay, “THE ESSENTIAL WIFE or the Unknown Princess,” one of the essays in Cahun’s Heroines text.  Wiggins performs these heightened roles of the “The Wife” and “the the Princess” with intensity- bringing to the work her own experience of living out these socially constructed characters. Branco captures these sharply pointed, at times unsettling, moments in rapid fire. Text accompanies the images, in which Wiggins describes the performance and her relationship to Cahun, and specifically this work.

The beautiful 64 page limited edition artists’ book that documents this project includes the essay “THE ESSENTIAL WIFE or the the Unknown Princess” by Claude Cahun, as well as the essay by Cydney Payton, “A Room of One’s Own”. You can contact the artist to purchase a copy of the book.

(photography by Luís Branco)