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SELECTED PROJECTS / SEARCHING SELVES, 2013 – ONGOING


The four images above are: (top left) a still from Maya Deren and Alexander Hamid’s 1947 film Meshes of the Afternoon, (top right) Claude Cahun as Buddha 1927, (bottom right) an untitled drawing by Nasreen Mohamedi from the 1970s, (bottom left) an image from Helena Almeida’s 1975 series Inhabited Paintings.

In 2013 Sherry Wiggins began working on a long-term project titled, “Searching Selves: An Intersubjective Art Practice with Remarkable Women Artists of the 20th Century.” Through extensive research and consideration Wiggins identifies artists whose work corresponds with her own in content, process, and/or material. She then produces her own artworks (in drawings, installations, photographs, performances and writings) as a result of these extended contemplations with these wonderful artists. Wiggins chooses artists who have extraordinary and rigorous art-making practices, and the relational process that she has enacted with these artists has pushed Wiggins’ own practice to new horizons. These investigations have led her to study, thus far - French writer and photographer Claude Cahun (1894-1954), Portuguese conceptualist Helena Almeida (1934 - 2018), Russian-American avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren (1917-1961), Indian minimalist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990), and Brazilian artist Mira Schendel (1919 – 1988). Wiggins has studied the work of Almeida, Mohamedi and Schendel in situ in Portugal, India and Brazil, respectively.

Wiggins most recent, and ongoing, Searching Selves project began in 2019 with her examination of, and interaction with, the work of French feminist, surrealist, intellectual, performer, photographer, writer Claude Cahun (1894-1954). Wiggins has chosen Cahun’s 1925 text titled Heroines to study and materialize. In the Heroines text Cahun pens fifteen essays deconstructing her heroines in early twentieth century, radical feminist fashion. These heroines are classical figures, women from the Bible, mythological and fairytale figures– Cinderella, Eve, Delilah, Helen, Sappho and many more. Cahun re-presents these women /heroines in more feminist and complex terms. Wiggins has chosen one of the essays in Heroines to embody and perform in her WIP titled, The Unknown Heroine. She plans to reconstruct several more of Cahun’s Heroines as her own.

In 2018, Wiggins traveled to Brazil to study the work of Brazilian artist Mira Schendel (1919 – 1988) in Sao Paolo and to work as an artist in residence at the Kaaysá Artist Residency in the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil. Mira Schendel immigrated to Brazil from Europe in the late 1940’s. She was a self-trained artist with deep interests in language, philosophy, phenomenology and a practitioner with the I Ching (the ancient book of Chinese wisdom and divination). Schendel’s work manifested in drawings, paintings, prints and sculpture. Wiggins has her own long-term practice with the I Ching. While at the Kaaysá residency Wiggins connected her I Ching practice to her experiences in the Atlantic rainforest and created ink drawings and performative photographs – this work is titled Mata Atlântica.

Wiggins began her study and embodiment of the work of Helena Almeida (1934-2018) in Portugal while an artist in residence at the OBRAS Foundation in Evoramonte, Portugal in 2015. Since the early 1970s Almeida, originally trained as a painter, used her own body in performances and “inhabited paintings” that are recorded as black and white photographs (sometimes painted with blue or red paint). Emboldened by Almeida’s method of using her own figure as the subject – Wiggins has realized several series of performative photographs with her collaborator, Portuguese photographer Luis Branco, over the last several years. Many of these images have been created in the landscape and environments of the Alentejo region of Portugal. These projects are documented on this website: Primavera, Portraits in Water, Meeting Her Again, Performing the Drawing, Flower and more. Wiggins and Branco have exhibited their collaborative photographic works in both the U.S. and Portugal.

In 2014, Wiggins traveled to Delhi, India to an artist residency at the Sanskriti Foundation to seek out the work of Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990). Wiggins met with curators who had known Mohamedi and saw many of her remarkable drawings in museums first hand. Mohamedi is known for drawings in ink and graphite that are highly refined and minimal. Mohamedi also had a photographic practice that was related to her drawings. While in Delhi, Wiggins imagined Mohamedi as her “guide” and conducted a photographic examination of various ancient sites. Wiggins brought these images back to her studio in the U.S. and developed a series of large abstract drawings in ink, graphite, and gouache. Wiggins’ series of drawings and photographs are titled Out of India and are documented on this website.

Wiggins also researched the work of the remarkable choreographer, filmmaker, and film theorist Maya Deren (1917-1961) and, in 2013, produced the work Me and Maya. This series of drawings and photographs were motivated by Wiggins’ interest in Maya Deren and Alexander Hamid’s 1947 surrealist film Meshes of the Afternoon. Deren is the lead actor in this black and white avant-garde film. Wiggins chose various mise-en-scenes from Deren’s film and inserted herself in them, mimicking Deren’s gestures in similar spaces in her own home. She documented these performances in black and white photographs. Wiggins created a series of optical geometric drawings that allude to the archetypal spaces and forms in the film and in Wiggins’ mimicked photographs. This series of black and white photographs and geometric drawings were installed together like a large surrealist storyboard. This work titled Me and Maya is also documented on this website.

The process that Wiggins has enacted repeatedly, and will continue to perform with these extraordinary artists, is a form of embodied research. Wiggins imagines these artists as her chosen mentors and guides even though she has never met any of them. Wiggins questions her own notions of self and identity in relationship to concepts of artistic territory, process and documentation, forms of identity and occupation, and definitions of feminine space in this long-term interrelational project. She documents this intensive research and practice on her blog: https://sherrywigginsblog.com/