14 September – 28 October 2023
The work of Mariken Wessels (°1963) comprises photography, video, as well as installation, sculpture and artists books. Her artistic vision has been shaped by her experiences in theater. She works with scenes and scenography, roleplay and character building. Multilayered projects interweave appropriated imagery and self-produced images to reimagine relationships between, for example, the public and private spheres or fiction and non-fiction. In recent years, the role of bodily expressions has become more prominent, mainly imagined through ceramic work, photography, collage and video.
The series Mama and The Sculptor and the standalone sculpture The Chosen One continue the artist’s quest for the physicality of the body. The sculptures and collages touch upon the attractive power of peeping at other people’s bodies or images of their bodies. The group of sculptures titled Mama connects the millennium-old tradition of so-called Venus figurines, usually interpreted as images that symbolize fertility, to present-day pornography-informed erotic imagery. The sculptures show breasts, sometimes morphing into a phallus and erogenous zones. The malleable material of clay has been transformed into something hard and artificial. Wessels develops her own glaze to give the skin of the sculptures a satin-like feel.
In The Sculptor series, Wessels pokes fun at the idea of the supreme male creator. The collages are based on photographs from 1970s porn magazines, from which Wessels cut out the female bodies and replaced them partly with clay, as the primal material for human creation. Both Mama and The Sculptor turn received ideas about the male-female relationship on their head, and poke fun at eroticism and sexuality in the age of algorithms. Wessels’ interpretation of the female body makes it abstract, liberating it from its status as muse to a male imagination. Works from both series have been published in Fruits of Labor (Van Zoetendaal, 2023), a co-publication with artist Ruth van Beek.
Wessels’ photographic works and artist’s books have been collected by museums, libraries and private collectors worldwide, among which the Centre Pompidou (Paris), ICP and MoMA (New York), Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Kunstmuseum Den Haag, Fotomuseum Antwerp (Belgium), de Verbeke Foundation (Belgium) en Ampersand Foundation (Johannesburg).