While first rejected by many critics for her conventional beauty, New York born-and-bred artist Hannah Wilke broke many boundaries for contemporary artists throughout the 1970s.
Wilke used everyday and unusual (for the time) materials like chewing gum to create her work as well as utilizing her body as a canvas.
After graduating from Philadelphia's Tyler School of Art, she began to teach art at high schools and eventually sculpture at New York's School of Visual Arts.
Wilke is often regarded as one of the pioneer figures for the Feminist art movement. Nowadays, it's relatively common to find vaginal imagery and symbolism throughout modern feminist art, but her career took off during a time where clay vulvas meticulously laid out on a wall or floor space challenged viewers to consider the objectification of women's bodies.
One of her most notable works is a collection of black & white photographs titled 'S. O. S. Starification Object Series'. She poses directly for the camera, accessorizing herself in outfits while simultaneously being shirtless showing the scars she would form out of chewing gum.
Wilke chose chewing gum as a metaphor of the treatment towards women: "I chose gum because it's the perfect metaphor for the American woman - chew her up, get what you want out of her, throw her out and pop in a new piece."
Throughout her life, she would collaborate artistically with her lovers. Swedish-American artist Claes Oldenburg and Wilke (pictured above with Kenneth Tyler, printer) had a relationship from 1969 to 1977, who often photographed her with given direction- so the work would be considered self-portraiture. One of the most recognizable photos they created together was an advertisement for her solo exhibition at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, taken in her studio at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles during 1970.
Before losing her life to lymphoma in 1993, Wilke was married to English journalist Donald Goddard, often collaborating with him as well. Together they created a series called 'So Help Me Hannah' (1978) which contained various black & white photos of Wilke, only wearing white strappy stilettos while showing off a handgun (pictured below).
Wilke's final series of work titled 'Intra-Venus' (1992) was a collection of personal color portraits taken by Goddard, documenting her process through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Previously producing flowery and highly sexual art, 'Intra-Venus' depicted her transition from midlife happiness to deterioration by chemotherapy. Along with that, the series also included some watercolor drawings and a 16-channel videotape installation.
Deliberate female sexuality made Wilke's work hard to categorize in artistic institutions while she was living, but after her passing her work became acquired into many collections within the MoMA, the Whitney, LACMA, Paris's Pompidou, and the like.