Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hannah Wilke: Putting Illness In The Picture


Hannah Wilke was an artist who worked until her death. Rather than end her photographic practice when she became ill, Wilke recorded her illness for all to see. These self-portraits(taken for Wilke by Donald Goddard) are part of her Intra-Venus Series and were taken in or near her hospital bed in 1992. The bed, whether in sickness or in health, is a key site of our identity - it is where we are born, sleep, make love, seek refuge and finally die. Wilke herself died of cancer in 1993, but not before leaving us with an incredible collection of photographs charting the progression of her illness and the progressive decay of her body. All the images show pain but some, like the one on the right, perhaps reveal an acceptance and a sense of peace. She must have been a very strong individual.

1 comment:

Giskin said...

Thanks for posting this, Beth. It reminds me of Jo Spence's work who charted her cancer photographically. For her, working in the 1980s, it was partly as a form of resistance to traditional portraiture but also a means of regaining control of 'the gaze' which she found disempowering in a medical setting.