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ArtWorks: Wangechi Mutu

Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2018

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In anticipation of the 2018 Des Moines Art Center Gala | ARTWORKS, each week through September we will feature a new artist and artwork that illustrates the power of art to connect, to transform, to empower and so much more.

This week’s post features the work of artist Wangechi Mutu and the power of art to explore.

Wangechi Mutu is a Kenyan born internationally renowned artist who has studied in both New York and Nairobi. In her work she explores themes of sexuality and femininity, consumerism and excess, violence, and the rift between nature and culture, ethnicity and identity.

On October 4, 2018, Mutu will be giving a lecture at the Art Center. She will speak about her work and developments in her art and how the events in her life have influenced and shaped her practice. Make reservations now!

The Art Center accessioned Mutu’s stunning black bronze Water Woman in 2017. Water Woman is currently on view in the exhibition, In the Spirit of Louse Noun in the Anna K. Meredith Gallery through September 2. Water Woman is the first work by Mutu in the Art Center’s collection.

Water Woman is a stylized, black bronze sculpture of a nguva, a water-woman of East African folklore that blends human characteristics with those of the dugong, an endangered relative of the manatee. The artist has said the nguva represents a “bewitching female aquatic being with powers to entrance and drown susceptible mortals.” In contrast to the ubiquitous Western iconography rooted in Hellenic, Nordic, and Anglo-Saxon depictions of silken-haired women with pale skin, here the siren is represented by the luminous, charcoal colored female body, which is a vein of inquiry central to Mutu’s work.

Learn more about artist Wangechi Mutu on ArtNet.

Wangechi Mutu Water Woman

Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan, active United States, born 1972)
Water Woman, 2017
36 × 65 × 70 inches / 400 lb.
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Purchased with funds from the Edmundson Art
Foundation, Inc., 2017.25
Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

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