que beleza – posted in Boulder, CO September 9, 2017

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Mira Schendel, untitled, 1966, watercolor and oil stick on paper.

The Portuguese words “que beleza” in the image above by Mira Schendel can be translated in several ways into English. They could mean “what a beauty,” or “what beauty,” or “how beautiful.” I love this ambiguity and multiplicity of meaning. Even though I know very little Portuguese I understand it to be a subtle and beautiful language.

I am starting to fall in love with another remarkable woman artist of the 20th century – the Brazilian artist Mira Schendel (1919 – 1988.) I have been reticent to take on a new artist with my specific form of “embodied research” that I have enacted with Russian/ American avant- garde filmaker Maya Deren, Indian minimalist Nasreen Mohamedi and with Portuguese conceptualist Helena Almeida. My process and research with these three artists has been remarkably productive and has pushed the boundaries of my work in drawing, performance and photography. I have surrendered in some way with each artist, a form of falling in love, and mirrored my own work in theirs and the results have been potent.

I am leaving for Portugal September 18th for another residency at the Obras Artist Residency. I will continue to work in the landscape in performative photographic work as I describe in the blog below “meeting her again in the landscape”. I will also be translating these elemental experiences and performances in the landscape into drawings. I have a whole retinue of performance artists I am looking at as I describe in “meeting her again in the landscape” but I am looking at Schendel for other reasons.

I am interested in the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of her work, her use of language and symbols, the looseness as well as the specific meaning of her paintings and drawings. We share common interests in phenomenology, though she was much more studied in philosophy than I will ever be. We also have shared cosmological /spiritual interests in Eastern philosophy and the I-Ching. I am also interested in her as a transnational artist and refugee artist moving from Europe to South America after WWII. Mira spoke 4 or 5 languages- German, Italian, Portuguese, French and English and used language in her work in a unique way. In São Paulo she was involved with philosophers and concrete poets as well as other artists involved in the South American modernist movement. I would like to go to São Paulo and look for her work and meet curators who have studied her and do a residency – if I can find the right situation. É possível.

Schendel is considered one of the most original and important artists of her time in Brazil but she is little known here in the U.S. Schendel was a prolific artist with works on paper and on acrylic, paintings as well as sculpture and installation. There was a large exhibit of her work at the Tate Modern and at the Pinocoteca do Estado in her native São Paulo in 2014, it was also at the Serralves in Porto. I unfortunately missed this show but I do have the beautiful catalogue and have collected as many catalogues of her work as I can.

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Mira Schendel, The Return of Achilles, 1964, Oil on canvas.

This is a short biography from the exhibition at the Serralves:

“Mira Schendel was born Myrrha Dagmar Dub in Zurich in 1919, to parents of Jewish heritage. She was brought up in Italy as a Catholic, studying philosophy at the Catholic University in Milan. During World War II, because of her Jewish roots, she was forced to leave university and stripped of her Italian nationality. Becoming a refugee, she travelled through Switzerland and Austria to what was then Yugoslavia. In 1949, she emigrated to Brazil, where she began her trajectory as an artist. She recalled: ‘I started painting in Brazil. Life was very hard, I had no money to pay for paint, but I bought cheap paint and painted passionately. It was a matter of life and death.’ In Brazil in these early years, largely self-taught, she adopted new approaches to painting, learning from the example of artists such as Giorgio Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Klee. From around 1953, when she moved to São Paulo, Mira Schendel began signing her works simply Mira.”


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Mira Schendel, Untitled (Todos), 1964. oil on canvas


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Mira Schendel, untitled, 1965, oil transfer drawing on rice paper.


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Mira Schendel, untitled, 1965, oil transfer drawing on rice paper.


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Mira Schendel, Objecto Graphico / Graphic Object , 1967, Graphite, transfer lettering and oil on rice paper with acrylic.



Mira Schendel, Still waves of probability / Ondas paradas de probabilidade, 1969 first installed at the Bienal de Sao Paolo, 2014 installed at the Tate Modern.


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Mira Schendel, I Ching, 1970, watercolor on paper.


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Mira Schendel, I Ching, 1970, watercolor on paper.


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Mira Schendel, untitled, c. 1985, Tempera and gold leaf on wood.


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Mira Schendel – I am not sure when she did this one but she did a whole series of Mandala paintings and I particularly like this one.


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Mira in front of her painting Todos (which was painted in 1964).

Que beleza! Todos!

meeting her again in the landscape / reencontrando-a em a paisagem – posted in Boulder, CO Sept 8, 2017

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Sherry Wiggins (photography by Luis Branco), Woman on Evoramonte/Mulheres em Evoramonte, 2015, black and white photograph.

I am returning to Portugal this month to the Obras Artist Residency to work in the landscape of the Alentejo in more “performative” works. In 2015 Luis Branco shot the image above of me titled Woman on Evoramonte / Mulheres em Evoramonte. There is a sense of connection to the land, the sky and the elements and a specific sense of feminine subjectivity in this image. I want to continue this practice of performing the elemental landscape and the elemental feminine body in new photographic works during this next residency. I will always be influenced by Portuguese conceptual artist Helena Almeida, however Helena does not work in the landscape. There are many women artists who have explored the feminine in the landscape and following are a few of my favorites. I do not reference any of these artists specifically in my own work, however I am walking on hallowed ground and swimming in hallowed waters in this work.


Marina Abramovic (Serbia, 1946)

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Marina Abramovic, The Space In Between, 2016, film.

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Marina Abramovic, The Space In Between, 2016, film.


Pina Bausch (German 1940-2009)

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Pina Bausch, Nelken/ Carnations, 1982, dance.

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Pina Bausch, Vollmond / Full Moon, 2006, dance.


Claude Cahun (France 1894-1954)

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Claude Cahun, Autoportrait/ Self-Portrait, 1939, black and white photograph.

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Claude Cahun, Autoportrait/ Self-Portrait, 1939, black and white photograph.

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Claude Cahun, Autoportrait/ Self-Portrait, 1932, black and white photograph.


Maya Deren (Russian/ American 1917-1961)

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Maya Deren, Ritual in Transfigured Time, 1946, film.

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Maya Deren, At Land, 1944. film.

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Maya Deren, At Land, 1944. film.


Valie Export (Austria 1940)

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Valie Export, Homometer, 1973, performance.

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Valie Export, Body Configurations, 1972-1976, performance.


Nan Goldin (American 1953)

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Nan Goldin, Self-Portrait on a bridge at Golden River at Silver Hill, 1998, color photograph.

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Nan Goldin, Geno by the Lake, Bavaria. 1994, color photograph.

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Nan Goldin, Sharon in the River Eagles Mire, PA, 1995, color photograph.


Ana Mendieta (Cuban/American 1949-85)

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Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Creek #2), 1974, film.

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Ana Mendieta, Image from Yagul, 1973. Photograph.



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Sherry Wiggins (photography by Luis Branco), Woman in the Canyon of the Bells/Mulheres no Pego do Sino, 2016, black and white photograph.

This image above Woman in the Canyon of the Bells/Mulheres no Pego do Sino, like the beginning image Woman on Evoramonte/Mulheres em Evoramonte, conveys the connection to the elemental landscape that I have experienced in Portugal. I will be continuing this practice in new works. I will also begin a new drawing practice related to these experiences of the elemental landscape. I leave September 18th for Portugal!



“Out of India – Drawings and Photographs” exhibiting at BMoCA at Macky August 17th to November 17th, 2017 – posted in Boulder August 12, 2017

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left image: Sherry Wiggins, Out of India, 2015, gouache and graphite on watercolor paper. right image: Sherry Wiggins, Dome at Humayan’s Tomb, 2014, black  and white photograph.

I am very happy to be installing the body of work titled Out of India in the gallery space at Macky Auditorium at the University of Colorado Campus. The photographs and drawings in this series, Out of India, are all based on architectural spaces in India and there is a wonderful coincidence between the architecture of Macky and the work.

BMoCA at Macky

Macky Auditorium Concert Hall

BMoCA at MACKY, an exciting collaboration between Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and Macky Auditorium, is located in the Gallery of the hall at the University of Colorado Boulder. Website:http://bmoca.org/exhibitions/2017/fall/sherry-wiggins-out-of-india-drawings-and-photographs

August 17 – November 17, 2017

Sherry Wiggins

Out of India – drawings and photographs

 Artist Reception Tuesday, September 5th, 5:30 – 7PM

Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and to ticketed patronsduring Macky Auditorium performances and events.

Below is text explaining the work and a few images from the exhibit.

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Sherry Wiggins, Stepwell at Mehrauli Park, 2014, Black and white archival print.


Sherry Wiggins, Out of India #1, 2015, Graphite and India ink on watercolor paper.

In 2014, Sherry Wiggins traveled to Delhi, India to participate in a residency at the Sanskriti Foundation where she investigated the work of artist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990). Mohamedi, known for her meditative drawings and black and white photography, developed a contemplative language within her art that drew from the ancient and Mughal architectural elements of her city. It was with Mohamedi as her imaginary guide and artistic mirror, that Wiggins entered a process of visiting and inhabiting those same ancient sites. In these magnificent spaces and iconic architectures Wiggins’ furthered the connection between her peripatetic practice, one that often builds drawings from photographs, and that of Mohamedi’s. By the time Wiggins returned to her studio in Boulder, a new body of abstract works in India ink, graphite and gouache was underway. Even though the two artists diverge in perspective and media, Mohamedi having worked largely in ink and pencil, they remain linked through their individual process whereby each mediated the architectural in India in search of connectivity between self and others, nature and the built world.

Sherry Wiggins is an interdisciplinary artist. Her work is rooted within cultural difference and spiritual transformation. She is concerned with art as a specifically feminine/ feminist relational process and enactment. Her artistic practice has taken multiple forms, often collaborative, over the last three decades: digital works, drawings, installations, performances, photographs, public art, sculptures, video, and writing. Exhibitions of her work include venues in China, Europe, India, Korea, Mexico, the Middle East, and South America, as well as in Colorado and throughout the United States. She received both BFA (1988) and MFA (2005) degrees from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Wiggins is represented by the Michael Warren Contemporary Gallery in Denver, Colorado. She documents her international research and practice on sherrywigginsblog.com.


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Sherry Wiggins, Qutb Minar Minaret, 2014, Black and white archival print.



Sherry Wiggins, Out of India #2, 2015, Gouache and graphite on watercolor paper.


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Sherry Wiggins, Gateway at Mehrauli Park, 2014, Black and white archival print.



Sherry Wiggins, Out of India #8, 2015, Graphite and India ink on watercolor paper.

APPROACH and RETURN to Portugal – posted in Boulder, CO August 1st, 2017

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Sherry Wiggins, Above and Below Series, oil paint on board, 2002-2003.

I have been consulting the I Ching or Book of Changes off and on for many years. I have an affinity with this ancient Chinese text. I use it as a resource, an inspiration and even an oracle. Above and Below are a series of small paintings I made a while ago that are based primarily on readings from the I Ching as well as on photographs of my body and of natural phenomenon. This particular image above shows the “river” or “path” that the I Ching displays for me – always moving and transforming. The eight primary hexagrams of the I Ching describe elemental forces in nature and in the world that are also at work in our own psyches (anyway this is how I interpret it). There are the eight primary hexagrams in the I-Ching – The Creative Heaven, The Receptive Earth, The Abysmal Water, The Clinging Fire, The Arousing Thunder, Keeping Still Mountain, The Gentle Penetrating Wind and The Joyous Lake.

The hexagrams are “read” by placing one primary trigram above and one trigram below to make a hexagram – either by throwing coins or yarrow sticks. What is above effects what is below and vice versa – I love this.

I threw the I Ching on my birthday in July and I got hexagram # 19 titled LIN / APPROACH. This hexagram has the element of K’un The Receptive Earth above and the element of Tui The Joyous Lake below. The hexagram of APROACH then changes to the hexagram #24 that is titled FU/RETURN. RETURN shows the element of K’un The Receptive Earth above and the element of Chen The Arousing Thunder below. These hexagrams signal an auspicious APROACH and RETURN for me to one of my favorite places – the Alentejo in Portugal and the Obras Artist Residency. I have a big connection to this place and the people there. My practice is peripatetic – I connect to new ground in foreign lands and I also end up wandering into unique aesthetic, cultural and even spiritual territories.

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Sherry Wiggins, Above and Below Series, oil paint on board, 2002-2003.

The image below is titled Woman on Evoramonte or Mulher em Evoramonte. It was one of the many images that photographer Luís Branco made with me in the fall of 2015 in Portugal in the town of Evoramonte very near the Obras Artist Residency. It displays the elemental connection that I have made with this place and the power of the collaboration with this talented photographer. In the I Ching terminology this image displays my connection to The Creative Heaven above and The Receptive Earth below.

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Sherry Wiggins, Woman on Evoramonte, 2015, black and white photograph, 48 x 32in (photograph by Luís Branco).

I took this last picture at Herdade de Marmelaire at the Obras Artist Residency in 2015. I will RETURN and be in Portugal at the Obras Artist Residency September 19th through October 27th of this year. First I am putting up my exhibit titled Out of India of my drawings and photographs from India. This work (which is also part of my peripatetic practice) Out of India will be at BMoCA at Macky Auditorium in Boulder, Colorado August 17th to November 17th with a reception at Macky Auditorium Tuesday, September 5th from 5:30 to 7pm. I will send out notices and previews soon 🙂

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Sherry Wiggins, Looking towards Evoramonte, black and white photograph, 2015.

Meditation Drawings – posted in Boulder July 9th, 2017

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Sherry Wiggins, Meditation Drawings, graphite and red pencil on paper, eighteen drawings each 10″ x 12″ framed, 1999

I am thinking about drawing practices again, my own as well as my pantheon of women drawers listed in my recent blog. This set of drawings I call Meditation Drawings. I drew them in 1999 while I was taking a class with sculptor James Surls at Anderson Ranch. The class was called “A Search for Self.” I was in a funny place in my art life – tired of the constraints of large-scale installation and public art that I had been involved with. James is a wonderful artist and a generous and inspiring teacher. I just didn’t really want to make sculpture, he supported me in developing a drawing practice.

I found the well known book “Tantra Art” by Ajit Mookerjee in the library at Anderson Ranch. There is a meditation practice described in the book that broadly outlines a visualization practice. At the time I was not a practicing Buddhist and had little training in this. I also found in the book some ancient devotional text alluding to the Great Goddess Chandi Devi. I took 20 words from this prayer to the Goddess (in Hindu and Buddhist traditions there are many devotional practices to many Goddesses).

The words are – Consciousness Reason Sleep Hunger Shadow Energy Thirst Forgiveness Species Bashfulness Peace Faith Loveliness Fortune Vocation Memory Compassion Fulfillment Mother Illusion

I initiated my own meditation and visualization practice utilizing the instructions and these 20 words from the “Tantra Art” book. Following are some of the individual drawings. They are all either 8” x 8” or 8” x 10”. They are just graphite and some red pencil on paper. I later matted them and framed them in frames that are 10 x 12 as pictured above. This practice was transformational for me – a new way to articulate outer and inner worlds.


1 72 consiousness 098Consciousness


2 72 Reason 110Reason


3 72 Sleep 109Sleep


8 72 foregiveness 102Forgiveness


10 72 bashfulness 101Bashfullness


15 72 vocation 099Vocation


12 72 faith 107Faith


6 72 energy 108Energy

I am reviewing these rituals and exercises and drawings of eighteen years ago because I think it might be the best drawing practice I have ever done, conceptually and materially. There is a simplicity to the idea and the carry through.






drawing practice – my evolving pantheon of women drawers of the 20th Century – posted in Colorado July 2017

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LOUISE BOURGEOIS, I want to…, c. 1962

I am continuing my research on women artists of the 20th Century – now on women artists who have drawn as part of their artistic practice. Instead of focusing on a single artist’s work, I have been developing a pantheon of women artists/drawers of the 20th Century. Here are a few of my qualifications for inclusion in my pantheon:

– I really love/admire the artist’s drawing works (and other parts of their artistic practice) both conceptually and aesthetically

– that there is some relationship in material and content to my own artistic and drawing practice

– that there is some relationship to environmental, feminist, philosophical, political or spiritual practice that I want to examine in more detail


I – Helena Almeida, Portuguese, (1934)

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HELENA ALMEIDA, study for the series Seducir / Seduce, 2002


II – Louise Bourgeois, born in France /American, (1911 – 2010)

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LOUISE BOURGEOIS. Insomnia Drawing, c. 1994-1995


III – Vija Celmins , born in Latvia /American, (1938)

Drypoint - Ocean Surface 1983 by Vija Celmins born 1938

VIJA CELMINS, Ocean, 1975


IV – Ellen Gallagher, American, (1965)

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 V – Susan Hefuna, German / Egyptian, (1962)

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SUSAN HEFUNA, Building (in nine parts), 2009


VI – Eva Hesse , born in Germany / American, (1936-1970)

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EVA HESSE, Untitled, 1966


VII – Hilma af Klint, Swedish, (1862 – 1944)

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HILMA AF KLINT, Series 11, No. 3a, The Buddha’s Standpoint in the Earthly Life, 1920


VIII – Anna Maria Maiolino. born in Italy / Brazilian (1942)

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ANNA MARIA MAIOLINO, Desde A ate M (from A to M) from the series Mapas Mentais (Mental Maps), 1972 – 99


IX – Agnes Martin, born in Canada/ American, (1912 – 2004)

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AGNES MARTIN, Untitled, c. 1960


X – Nasreen Mohamedi, Indian, (1937-1990)

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XI – Ree Morton, American , (1936 – 1977)

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REE MORTON, Untitled, c. 1972


XII – Mira Schendel, born in Switzerland / Brazilian, (1919 – 1988)

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MIRA SCHENDEL, Untitled from the series Graphic Objects, c. 1972


XIII – Atsuko Tanaka, Japanese, (1932 – 2005)

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ATSUKO TANAKA, Round on Sand, 1968

This is an evolving pantheon.  I have 13 artists in my drawing pantheon at this point. If you have any suggestions for me let me know. Vija Celmins comes to me via Cydney Payton’s suggestion and Atsuko Tanaka was suggested by Sandra Firmin. I am excited about researching all these artists drawing practices and continuing to develop my own drawing practice in the coming months.


space and subjectivity / espaço e subjetividade – posted in Boulder June 7, 2017

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left image: Helena Almeida, Pintura Habitada, 1977, black and white photograph with acrylic paint, 40 x 30cm. right image: Sherry Wiggins, untitled, digital color image, 2015, (image by Robert Kittila).

This post describes some of the correspondences and differences in my recent work and Helena Almeida’s work – in particular in regards to space and subjectivity.

“To try and open up a space, to get out at any cost, it’s a very strong feeling throughout my work. It has become a matter of condemnation and survival. I feel myself virtually always on the borderline, where these two spaces meet, wait, hesitate and quiver. It is a temptation to stop there and watch my inner process, living in a dream in two directions. But this is unbearable and swiftly something comes out of me, as if trying to surpass me. Anyway, I have succeeded to come out through my finger tips.” – Helena Almeida 1978 

“Intentar abrir un espacio, saír custe o que custe, é un sentimento moi forte nos meus traballos. Converteuse nunha cuestión de condena e de super vivencia. Síntome case sempre no limiar no cal eses dous espacios se atopan, agardan, dubidan e vibran. É unha tentación ficar e asistir ó meu propio proceso, vivindo un soño con dúas direcccións. Pero iso é intolerable e, apresuradamente, calquera cousa se libera en min como se quixese saírme ó paso.De todos modos, xa consgeuín saír poa punta dos meus dedos.”- Helena Almeida 1978

I recently found this quote by Helena Almeida in the catalogue from her exhibition in 2000 at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. I love the way she talks about space and her relationship to it, I have a similar physiological and primal relationship with space – in art and life.

I chose Helena Almeida as the subject for my “embodied research” project (thank you for the term Sandra Q. Firmin) because of my deep interest in and appreciation for her work both conceptually and aesthetically. I admire her diligent art practice where she has used her body as the subject in her work over the last 5 decades. I love the minimalism of her serial black and white images. I like how the blue paint alters your perception of the space of the photograph. Is it a photograph? Is it a performance? Is it a painting? I particularly admire the way she deals with the feminine subject – using her own body to convey inner states of mind without signaling a personal or autobiographical narrative. There is a naturalness and lack of conceit in her work, even though it is meticulously thought out. There are no costumes or disguises- she wears black clothing or white clothing, black shoes, it is always very simple. She choreographs her body in the basic space /neutral space of her studio/atelier.


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Helena Almeida, three images from the series Pintura Habita / Inhabited Painting, 1975, black and white photographs with acrylic paint, each 46 x 50cm.


In the above works from the series titled Inhabited Paintings  Almeida wrestles with the space by painting the photograph/performance with her signature blue paint. The blue paint alters the action so that there are several levels of dimension and space and time. The original actions in the mirrored space offer the image of Almeida both “real” and reflected, then Almeida paints on the image – she paints on the reflected image of herself as well as the “real” image of herself. Almeida is constantly questioning the spaces her body is occupying. What is the back? What is the front? What is the reflection?  I think this questioning of the space is very sophisticated and interesting.


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Helena Almeida, Ponto de Fuga / Vanishing Point, 1982, Black and White Photograph, 210 x 126 cm


29 72 helena-almeida-negro-espesso-1981 copy 2Helena Almeida, Thick Black / Negro Espesso, 1981, Black and White Photograph, 250 x 126cm.


The two works above of Almeida’s, Thick Black and Vanishing Point, were inspiration for the works I first made in the studio and on the terrace of the Obras Artist Residency in 2015. Almeida chose paper as the ground and I chose white artist canvas for the floor of the studio at Obras. The Obras studio is pictured below.  I placed various cloth constructions  – a red rosette, a black square with a chair, a circular piece, and a rectangular construction on the white canvas ground. These cloth constructions reference my own geometric drawings. When I entered these flat fabric constructions on the ground of the studio and the terrace, I considered that I was “inhabiting” these geometric spaces in a similar manner to Almeida’s idea of her “Inhabited Paintings.” Photographer Luís Branco climbed up to the top of the ladder to shoot this series of images and it is an odd and distorted perspective. There is a strange sense of dimensionality and space in these images and of my interactions with these spaces.


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The studio at Obras Artist Residency with the white canvas and red rosette.


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Sherry Wiggins, Flower/ Flor, 2015, series of three color photographs, (images by Luís Branco).


I am coiled “within” the flower then I am emerging “out of” the flower. The texture of the red cloth of the flower and the white canvas background also offers another illusion of dimension and space in the images.


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Sherry Wiggins, series of four Chair/Cadeira, 2015, color photographs, 24 x 24 in. each, (images by Luís Branco).


I am pushing into space behind me in the chair, I am escaping and emerging from the two-dimensional space into the three dimensional space of the chair. The space is both “real” and illusionary.


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Sherry Wiggins, series of four, Chair/Cadeira, 2015, color photographs, 24 x 24 in. each, (images by Luís Branco). Installation at the Palacio in Estremoz, Portugal.

We installed these Chairs on the floor on black cloth for the exhibit in the Palacio in Estremoz.


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Sherry Wiggins, Performing the Drawing, 2015, nine color images, each 24 x 24in. (images by Rui Fernandes). Sherry Wiggins, Flower, 2015, color image, 48 x 48in. (image by Luís Branco). Installation at the Michael Warren Contemporary Gallery, Denver, CO.

Performing the Drawing is shown installed above. I am not sure why this series of nine images are so successful but I think it has to do with the real and illusionary layers of space and dimension in the images. These images were taken with a camera on a drone on the terrace at the Obras Artist Residency by Rui Fernandes.


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Sherry Wiggins, Performing the Drawing, 2015, one of nine color images, each 24 x 24in. (images by Rui Fernandes).



Shooting Performing the Drawing on the terrace of the Obras Artist Residency. (image by Rui Fernandes)


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Sherry Wiggins, Performing the Drawing, 2015, one of nine color images, each 24 x 24in. (images by Rui Fernandes).


There are several levels of space and dimension in this series of nine images– the flat terrace outside the studio, the crinkled white canvas, the figure in the black cloth (me) gesturing, the blue shadow cast on the figure(s), the upright second figure (Cydney Payton) adjusting the fabric. The photograph then collapses all these other dimensions into a wholly new dimension. Even the pixilation of the image adds a sense of spaciousness to these images.

After working in the studio and on the terrace with the white canvas cloth I wanted to work outside in specific architectural and natural settings in Portugal. Almeida works almost exclusively in the space of her studio. This was a definite departure from Almeida’s practice back towards my own –  the landscape and architectural environments have always played a large part in my work. Regardless of the spaces and environments I am performing or inhabiting within, I am still searching for a similar sense of the female subject which is not autobiographical nor portraiture and is similar to Almeida’s sense of subject.

Filipa Oliveira, a curator at the Forum Eugenio de Almeida in Evora, wrote about the way Almeida portrays herself in her work.

“Helena Almeida refuses the concept of self-portrait as a transparent reproduction of an individual personality. There isn’t an autobiographical aspect in her work: she is not herself. The spectator who attempts to unravel the subject author in her portrait is left wanting. Her images usurp a tautological desire for meaning that the immediate and pseudo-transparent nature of photography seems to allow. She takes on a mask-without ever recurring to disguises or makeup – in order to be photographable. As the main character in her works, Almeida introduces in them a paradoxical element: while she makes the author visible (and never stops being the author), the artist continuously postpones the possibility of knowing her identity.” – Filipa Oliveira, from the catalogue Helena Almeida: Inside Me, pg. 7.


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Sherry Wiggins, Woman on Evoramote, 2015, black and white image, 48 x 32in, (image by Luís Branco)

There is a sense of the spaciousness of the earth and the sky and of the woman’s /my connection to the vast horizon. I am on top of the mountain at Evoramonte. The image is still quite abstract and the feminine subject is “any woman” albeit an older woman. In these more specific settings a sense of the mystical and mythical feminine starts to emerge. In these images outside you see more clearly how I tend to use my body to relate to spaces, while Almeida tends to use her body to create space, like in her images below.


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Helena Almeida, I Am Here, 2005, black and white photograph, 125 x 145 cm.

I think there is a similar though more abstract sense of feminine presence in Almeida’s series I Am Here above and also in her series Inside of Me below. It does seem archtypal and primal as well.


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Helena Almeida, Inside of Me, 2000, black and white photograph.


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Sherry Wiggins, Woman in the Canyon of the Bells, 2016, black and white photograph, 48 x 32in (image by Luís Branco).


In this final image above that Luís Branco took during a photo-shoot in November of 2016 I am still performing the feminine in a Helena-ish way. But the mystery and beauty of the place dominates. This place is called the Pego do Sino or Canyon of the Bells. It is as if I am part of this place/ space. Luis took 100’s of images over several shoots and hours to get this one. I think this is the mistresspiece /masterpiece of the collaboration in Portugal. I wonder what Helena would think?

I will end with a quote by Helena Almeida. This quote and the quote at the beginning  of the post are both from the catalogue from Almeida’s exhibition in 2000 at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. I love reading her own words (translated in English) and her concept of plurality vs. subjectivity. I think this is similar to my own sense of  portraying / performing an archetypal presence or a more universal feminine subjectivity.

“They’re not self-portraits because I don’t find in them my own subjectivity, but rather my plurality, which I make appear in a kind of stage setting. Would that they were self-portraits! In any case, I can say that they are stage settings executed within a small or sometimes large format (in the sense painting/theatre) in which I appear as a fictional character. These scenes are made as if they were the narrative of a spark –appearance / disappearance – recounted with the silence of sign language, projections which I would like to contain the deep sound of the body; images that tell what happens before the image, before movement as thought, before history and, above all before intentionality. And to be able to see them move into the sumptuous category of the meaningful. I’ve wanted to make a great effort to try working with that empty, and dense dimension of pre-movement, of pre-event, with its dark, deformed weight. A kind of penultimate expression.” – Helena Almeida 1994

Non son autorretratos, posto que non atopo neles a miña subxectividade, senón o meu plural, ó que fago comparecer nunha especie de escena. Serán autorretratos! Sen embargo, podo dicer que son postas en escena executadas nun pequeno, ou por veces grande, encadre (nosentido do cadro / teatro), no que aparezo coma unha ficción. Estas escenas fanse coma se fosen a narrativa dunho escintilación, dunha aparición / desaparición contada co silencio da linguaxe dos xordos. Proxeccións que quero que conteñan o son do corpo profundo. Imaxes que contan o que acontece antes da imaxe, antes do movement como pensamento, antes da historia e, sobre todo, antes da intencionalidade. E, especialmente, velas pasadas á categoría suntuosa do significante. Quixen sentir nun esforzo supremo esa zona baleira e densa do pre-movemento, do pre-acontecemento co seu peso escuroe deforme. Nunha especie de penúltima expresión. – Helena Almeida 1994