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  • Artist's Statement:The Plural Wife Project
  • Angela Ellsworth (bio)

The Plural Wife Project navigates issues of the body in relation to gender, sexuality, and cultural history of the Western United States through sculptural objects and performance. The project is embedded in excavating personal history to understand my queer identity as an extension of the nonheteronormative communities established by my ancestors. I am a fourth-generation Mormon; my ancestors were some of the earliest Mormons to pioneer the West. They were prophets and poets who spoke in tongues, lived within the construct of polygamy, and practiced mystical aspects of Mormonism. Focusing on sister-wives as a point of departure for discussing contemporary issues around nonheteronormative relationships, I reimagine a community of women with their own visionary and revelatory powers as they pioneer new personal histories.

"Seer Bonnets" is an ongoing series of sculptural pioneer bonnets covered in thousands of pearl-tipped corsage pins, creating subtle patterns on the exteriors and sharp, treacherous interiors. Standing in for the estimated thirty-five wives of Joseph Smith, "Seer Bonnets" suggests a new tool of translation, nodding to the tools Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon. The installation "Seer Bonnets: A Continuing Offense" was included at the seventeenth Biennale of Sydney (2010), the Bellevue Art Museum (2011), and the Phoenix Art Museum (2011-12).

"Sister-Wife Performances" is site-specific performances with multiple female performers dressed in uniform pastel dresses, animating realities of everyday life. Through subversive gestures made in silence, performers communicate desires, intentions, and obstacles to one another in various public situations. These performances have been produced at the Chicago Cultural Center for the IN>TIME performance event (2010); the Museum of Contemporary Art, during the seventeenth Biennale of Sydney (2010); Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles (2010); the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University, Orange (2010); and the Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe (2011-12). [End Page 48]


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Fig. 1.

Seer Bonnets: A Continuing Offense, installation view, 2009-10. Pearl-tipped corsage pins, fabric, steel, and white oak plank, dimensions variable (roughly twenty thousand pearl-tipped corsage pins per bonnet). Courtesy of the artist and Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale. Photo Credit: Paul Green.

[End Page 49]


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Fig. 2.

Seer Bonnets: A Continuing Offense, 2009-10 (detail). Pearl-tipped corsage pins, fabric, steel, and white oak plank, dimensions variable (roughly twenty thousand pearl-tipped corsage pins per bonnet). Courtesy of the artist and Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale. Photo Credit: Paul Green.

[End Page 50]


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Fig. 3.

(SydneyB_8) Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, 2010. Performance still. Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy of the artist and Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale. Photo credit: Tania Katan.

[End Page 51]


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Fig. 4.

(SydneyB_10) Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, 2010. Performance still. Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy of the artist and Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale. Photo credit: Ken Brass.

[End Page 52]

Angela Ellsworth

Angela Ellsworth is a multidisciplinary artist and associate professor in the School of Art at Arizona State University in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Her drawings, installations, and performances explore the female body. Aiming to connect the body with art, and public with private experience, her solo and collaborative artworks and performances have examined wide-ranging subjects, such as physical fitness and religious tradition. She has presented work nationally and internationally at numerous places, including the Getty Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney. The many reviews include Art News and Art in America. She is represented by Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale and Fehily Contemporary in Melbourne. For more information please visit www.aellsworth.com.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1536-0334
Print ISSN
0160-9009
Pages
pp. 48-52
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-20
Open Access
No
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