Studio visit: Wendy Richmond

All images © Jon-Marc Seimon, 2018

Wendy Richmond works with her hands. Her works are elemental. Like breath. Like salt. Every hand is hers, gnarled, forged by evolution and life, and tempered by her deep emotion and keen intellect as she gropes and claws her way through loss to whatever lies beyond.

I visited her studio a few days ago, to talk about her work and to talk about mine. I wasn’t quite prepared for the visceral impact of her prodigious output. My first impression was of an archaeological field site, racks of neatly arrayed and classified body parts—all hands and arms, it turns out, and all hers. Adjacent, a big table containing a rubble of fragments, waiting to be sorted. And a few other smaller pedestals, displaying particularly worthy artifacts. It was like walking into Pompeii, the bone fields of the Olduvai Gorge, maybe Cambodia… And yet, all these forms, literally petrified, nevertheless retain their vitality, the moment of their inception captured for a fraction of eternity.

Working these images yesterday, I entered a deep reverie—how could one not?—reflecting on my own mortality, the way that my own body is beginning to betray me (having endured a life of at-best benign neglect if not wantonly reckless abuse). The ascendency of the next generation as the generation that raised me fades…                                

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Touchpoints:

• David Wojnarowicz’s visage emerging from the dirt (or is it being buried?).

• Robert Mapplethorpe’s final self-portrait, with death’s head in focus, and his resolute, defiant expression, already losing its sharpness, looming behind. 

• Percy Bysshe Shelley—Ozymandias (excerpt)

“…Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read…”