International artist Faith Wilding (second from left) attended the opening of her show, “Faith Wilding: Fearful Symmetries,” that will be exhibited at the UHCL Art Gallery through Dec. 8. Visit the gallery located on the first floor of the university’s Bayou Building, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. – noon. Pictured (l to r) are Art Representative Keith Couser, Wilding, Exhibition Curator Shannon Stratton and UHCL Art Gallery Coordinator of Audience Development and Adjunct Instructor of Art History Jeff Bowen.
Feminist art icon Faith Wilding is sharing a lifetime of artwork by traveling nationally with her exhibition "Faith Wilding: Fearful Symmetries," which is currently on display at the UHCL Art Gallery.
"Fearful Symmetries" is Wilding's first retrospective exhibition; the name references Wilding's love of art and literature.
Wilding is a William Blake scholar and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a focus on literature from the University of Iowa. The phrase "Fearful Symmetries" comes from Blake's poem "The Tyger," which suggests symmetries in nature are sometimes uncomfortable.
"You can see the symmetries a lot in my work," Wilding said. "They [artwork] are never perfect symmetry. There is always a kind of active symmetry that doesn't always tidily fit together."
This symmetry is apparent in "biodresses" from the "Embryoworld" series, a Xerox collage with watercolor, ink and resin on vellum, with the combination of a medieval armored head and soft lower body that carries a fetus being watched by surveillance cameras.
Along with collages, "Fearful Symmetries" features paintings, sculptures, drawings and sketches.
The exhibition reveals Wilding's themes of "waiting" and "becoming," which have remained consistent in her lifetime of work. At the retrospective's opening reception, Shannon Stratton, the curator of the exhibition, revealed "Fearful Symmetries" was built around these themes.
"There's this imagery always running through the work: the cocoon, the chrysalides, the butterfly, the leaf, the flower, things that are sort of in the process of opening up and are in the act of becoming," Stratton said.
Wilding is well known in the feminist art community for being one of the first 15 students in the Feminist Art Program that was brought to the California Institute of the Arts by Judy Chicago. Both Wilding and Chicago participated in the feminist art installation "Womanhouse." It was inside "Womanhouse" where Wilding performed her memorable poem, "Waiting."
"It ['Waiting'] had an enormous reception; it has been shown everywhere worldwide," Wilding said. "Lots of people, especially young people, have re-performed it. I get asked all the time for permission, and I always give permission."
Even in 2016, 'Waiting' continues to inspire women to take action.
"I always say that I did 'Waiting' so that women wouldn't have to wait anymore, or at least not wait in that passive way. The character keeps going, 'I'm waiting for life to begin,' well I'm sorry, life has already begun! It's great to have expectation, but work towards something."
"Fearful Symmetries" also displays a video of Wilding's performance of "Waiting" alongside her 2007 "undone" version, "Wait-With."
"In 'Wait-With' I talk about waiting with other people as a political act of solidarity," Wilding said. "Like Martin Luther King Jr., waiting and throwing him in jail for the Civil Rights Movement, to kind of [seeing] it as an action to wait with others to make a better world together."
"Fearful Symmetries" is the first nationally traveling exhibition to be on display in the UHCL Art Gallery. However, this is not the first time UHCL has hosted a feminist artist's exhibition.
Chicago's controversial art installation "The Dinner Party" brought many people and opinions to UHCL in 1980. In 2011, Chicago allowed the UHCL community to look behind-the-scenes of "The Dinner Party" with the installation, "Setting the Table."
"UHCL actually hosted the second showing of Judy Chicago's 'Dinner Party,'" Wilding said. "Which maybe had something to do with it [UHCL inviting Wilding]. I worked with her in the early feminist art days, was a graduate student of hers and knew her very well. There is a kind of interesting feminist heritage here [UHCL], so that's really great and I'm very happy to be here."
Jeff Bowen, UHCL Art Gallery's coordinator of audience development, said he is proud to have Wilding's art on display for three months.
"I'm thrilled to showcase such a national icon and influential person who has been creating art since the 1970s," Bowen said. "It's a really great thing for UHCL and the city of Houston."
"Faith Wilding: Fearful Symmetries" will be on display until Dec. 8 in the UHCL Art Gallery, located on the first floor of the Bayou Building.