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work in progress, multiple color digital images and text, sizes vary

Sherry Wiggins initiated a new body of performative photographic works with text titled, The Unknown Heroine in 2019 with photographer Luís Branco. This project is based on Wiggins’ intellectual interaction with, and physical embodiment of, French, feminist, surrealist writer and artist extraordinaire Claude Cahun (1894-1954).

Wiggins’ work has led her to an in-depth study of Cahun’s seminal 1925 text, Heroines. Here, Cahun traces fifteen heroines- Sappho, Delilah, Cinderella, Helen, Judith, and Eve among them. Cahun plumbs biblical, mythical, allegorical, historical, and fairy tale sources for these figures, and through them delivers early 20th century radical feminist conceptions of gender and femininity.

In the Wiggins/Branco series titled The Unknown Heroine Wiggins enacts and visually materializes Cahun’s essay, “THE ESSENTIAL WIFE or the 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 and sardonic humor, 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 Unknown Heroine,” a work of text and image, will be produced as both a book and exhibition.
(photography by Luís Branco)