Chicago

Anne Wilson

Roy Boyd Gallery

Anne Wilson is drawn to utilizing and examining the only fiber our bodies actually make—hair. Using false hair, she divides her attention between the hair that we adorn and the kind that is ignored, considered vaguely embarrassing. Her sculptures are metaphors for the human condition in general, and for the shifting position and situation of women in particular.

Wilson’s “I Cut My Hair” series, 1992–93, is composed of disembodied luxuriant manes. They are presented very hieratically, almost like an inventory of the incredible range of hair color, texture, and its systems of display. These plaits are still so culturally loaded that they cause one to speculate about the personalities of their sources, as if they actually had been cut from the heads of women who had grown their hair several feet long. Their mute, vertical presentation also evokes sacrifice and loss, the sense that these are trophies chronicling a personal commitment and a willingness to surrender oneself, simultaneously suggestive of vanity and humility.

Grafts (#1), 1993, has a crankier and grittier atmosphere. Wilson took a rather pristine piece of table linen and pierced it with four roughly circular holes, then irregularly stitched tufts and bits of hair and thread around them. The domesticity evoked by the table linen is undercut by the hair that erupts as if around a wound, succeeding less in knitting together these apertures than in highlighting their presence. Kinky and unkempt, these wisps of hair poetically chronicle a breakdown in a system—an embroidery of “natural” mania replaces and reacts to an embroidery of servitude.

Her “Areas of Disrepair” series, 1993—composed of 14 shelf units with six elements each—consists of small pieces of fabric drawn from old tablecloths and handkerchiefs, all punctured by small holes that Wilson either encircles or patches with knits of dark hair and thread. Here, Wilson engages in a kind of esthetic rescue of exhausted and spent materials. With her monochromatic activity, she stitches the stitched, calling attention to fragility with the most delicate of means. Wilson’s handiwork is certainly an interweaving of tendencies, an application of practices and skills long ascribed to the world of women. In her hands, it pays homage to her predecessors, while establishing that their situation cannot he mended.

James Yood