Wangechi Mutu's solo show just opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario on Wednesday, right after Deutsche Bank announced her as its artist of the year for 2010. All in a week's work for Mutu, who is gearing up for a lot of big shows this year (some of her work is at the Guggenheim right now too). In my Q&A with her for the National Post, we got to touch on a some of the small aspects of her large, intense works. Here's an excerpt:
Q Your art is beautiful, but can also be difficult to look at. Why is it important for you to conjure both?
A I think the fact that we can't agree on what is beautiful and ugly is one of the things my work is founded upon. I don't go out of my way to do either one or the other, and I don't see massive divisions between them. It is hard when I ask people what they find beautiful and disturbing in my work, because I don't always agree. I'm like, "You don't find this beautiful? It's beautiful to me." But the discussion of what is beautiful and what is ugly is really deep and visceral. It's also a point of contention, because we often have beauty standards that only work in one direction.
Q You appeared in Vogue magazine last year. What was that like for you, as someone who's cut these magazines apart?
A I don't believe fashion magazines are an all-encapsulating evil. But I do think fashion plays a part in the oppression of women - you see the same kind of person in them all the time, and that's a fiction I was frustrated with because there's women of so many different cultures and sizes and shapes. So I was actually very proud to be photographed as a pregnant artist who is continuing my life with a career and a family. I think it's something a lot of women don't let be known, because for most women it is hard to be taken seriously while having a family.
For those who are interested in finding out more, I recommend reading this long-form interview Mutu did with the amazing Barbara Kruger in Interview mag a couple of years ago. Seeing the show isn't a bad idea either!
(Image of Mutu's Sleeping Heads 4 of 8 from the National Post )