The Female Prototype: Formal Analysis of Wangechi Mutu’s Tiny Split Character
As you walk up the cold, concrete steps, it looms above you, intimidating and inviting all at the same time. A wall of windows gives you an intimate peek before entering, without showing too much, heightening the anticipation. A pair of small, rotating doors, portal you into another world. The Museum of Contemporary Art’s interior is vast and simplistic, leaving a sense that the building itself is detached from the wonder it holds within its walls. Winding up the stairs and through the showrooms, the pieces almost come to life against the stark white walls. Moving through Seeing Is a Kind of Thinking: A Jim Nutt Companion, each section displays a theme more controversial, and complex then the next. Wangechi Mutu’s Tiny Split Character, is modest, even beautiful, among the many grotesque images surrounding it. Dark, deformed bodies, riddled with sexual innuendo, sometimes subtle, more often blunt, line the walls. Although Tiny Split Character, portrays the same thing, it does so gracefully, as opposed to its counterparts. Tiny Split Character depicts the figure of a woman, distorted, in an awkward, yet seductive pose. Off to her left, a tiny figure of a woman, who is distorted as well, is suspended in mid air, head bent back, leg extended. The face of the smaller woman has a masculine feel, with an eerily large smile slapped across it. Her pose and facial expression gives the sense of freedom, an almost carefree demeanor. Armless, breasts exposed, and stiletto heels complete this misshapen representation of female sexuality. The larger woman looks at the smaller one with big, beautiful, eyes almost longingly. Perhaps the tiny woman is a representation of what, and who, the larger woman wants to be. Maybe even who she use to be, before she became a victim to the exploitation and misrepresentation of woman in society. Luscious lips are the only other human characteristic enhancing her face. The larger woman is contrived with more oddities then her ideological interpretation. Gears and mechanical parts comprise her shoulders and part of her chest, showing the machine she has become, but also showing strength, and her indestructible nature. Flowers adorn her, softening her machinery and warped body while showing a soft, feminine side, without subjugating it. A tattered, purple garment is the only thing covering her lower half, purple being the color of royalty. Her body is nearly completely covered in holes. Maybe her façade is fading, or maybe she is literally falling apart, finally dissolving under the constant pressure and scrutiny. Her trunk is composed of a sickening green color, possibly representing the sickness at her core. A disease that is consuming her and other women alike. Wangechi Mutu has said that, "Females carry the marks, language and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body," (Kerr par. 4). A red streak washes over her side, cascading from her waist, down her hip, and on to her thigh, accentuating her curves, and again playing up her sexuality. The finishing touch, manicured hands and stiletto heels. All this against a simple white background, darkness encroaching the top center and corners. Wangechi Mutu uses, “magazine images of women and makes them almost monstrous. Her figures boast transplanted eyes that seem too large, too small, too far apart or too close together to be human,” (Croal par. 1). Tiny Split Character is an abstract piece of art, representing the female form. She selected certain aspects she saw and either exaggerated or highlighted them to get her message across. Politi examines how her creative process begins “with accidental splattering” that eventually “build up layers of materials” (par. 3). The artist chooses to use sheets of cut Mylar, “a non-absorptive synthetic material” (Roach par. 3) on which she is able to manipulate...
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