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Wangechi Mutu | Kenyan Artist

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 01:23 AM EDT, 4 May 2010

Mixed Media Collage by Derrick Tyson

Mixed Media Collage by Derrick Tyson

My Dirty Little Heaven is an ambitious exhibit by Kenyan-born, New York based artist Wangechi Mutu.  Chosen as the 2010 Artist of the Year, Mutu’s installation is the first show in the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin Museum selected on the recommendation of the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council.

Mutu’s portfolio of work explores the objectification of women in the entertainment  and advertisement industries.  In a recent interview, Mutu recounted how the impetus for creating My Dirty Little Heaven resulted from her observation of the dearth of realistic portrayals of women in the media.

This was particularly evidenced by the images that adorned the covers of magazines, movies, commercials, etc., in which rarely if ever could she find herself or any other women.  Within the African-American spectrum the issue was even more skewed and pervasively misogynistic. Women are portrayed as prostitutes, mannequins or props to make male entertainers appear more virile, thus diminishing them both.

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Mutu began this series of collages using images cut from books about African art, National Geographic and fashion magazines, and interspersed these traditional photographic images with pop culture presentations of women.  Each canvas was a blank slate upon which she layered pop culture images, paintings, Papier-mâché, and photomontage to portray the ugliness that belies the projected illusion of ‘perfection.’

A perfection that is distinctly Eurocentric and often does not accord non-traditional genotypes with an equal levels of  esteem.  Her portrayal of women in her installation provides visual commentary as well as a social indictment of an industry that promotes elective surgery to achieve body perfection, skin bleaching to approximate creamy complexions, or dissects women into buttocks, breasts, thighs and stomachs to sell product; all of which conspires to imprison millions of women in a hopeless cycle of some form of body dysmorphic disorder.

Wangechi Mutu received a MFA from Yale University in 2000. Her work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Tate Modern, London; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the International Center of Photography, New York; and is part of permanent collections at such institutions as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

This talented artist has been featured in the Saatchi Gallery, the Susanne Vielmetter Gallery in Los Angeles, California, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Miami Art Museum, Tate Modern in London, the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York, Kunstpalast Dusseldorf in Germany, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She also participated in the Prospect 1 Biennial in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2008.

My Dirty Little Heaven will be on exhibit from 30 April – 13 May at the Guggenheim Berlin.

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About Ayanna Nahmias

Ayanna Nahmias was interviewed on Radio Netherlands Worldwide program titled 'The State We’re In,' about her life in Africa and her determination to transcend her past. She started the Nahmias Cipher Report to provide information to readers about life in emerging economies, and to provide alternative insight into the challenges faced by women and children living in these countries. The blog features stories from around the world to inspire other people to persevere and triumph in the face of great adversity. She blogs about current events in emerging economies, international politics, human rights abuses, women’s rights and child advocacy.

View all posts by Ayanna Nahmias

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