Wangechi Mutu
Tree Spirit, 2004-06
Ink, spray paint, collage, fur, glitter on mylar
80 x 42 inches
The Fowler Collection

Wangechi Mutu's works on paper are beautifully delicate collages of photographs, magazine clippings, drawing, and painting. She uses this multimedia format to explore the various ways the female body has been represented across cultures. These bodies might be shown as fashion mannequins or as anonymous objects of desire, but Mutu points out that women worldwide are expected to conform to localized standards of beauty and availability. The artist therefore distorts beauty. Here, the figure's arms and legs look like prosthetics, the figure-shaping corset keeps the body under control, and the mask hides the woman's identity. Tree Spirit, like much of Mutu's work, mixes references to mythology and science fiction, proposing that the female body can also be understood as a restorative life source that is both earthbound and transcendent.

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