Saya Woolfalk

 
 

Saya Woolfalk’s multimedia project The Empathics invents an elaborate mythology surrounding a group of women who come upon a burial site that prompts visions and eventually transforms the women into the titular Empathics, hybridized beings that are part-plant, part-animal.  The playful appearance of Woolfalk’s work—rainbow-colored figures dressed in handcrafted costumes made of fleece, felt, and spandex—may at first belie the complex parable of cultural hybridization that it offers. The artist takes a pseudo-anthropological approach to her project, often presenting sculptural work according to the conventions of dioramas in natural history museums.  In a similar spirit, Woolfalk has created a convincing website for the Institute of Empathy, where the Empathics document and study their own transformation and culture, which is radically democratic and environmentally minded. (http://instituteofempathy.org/)

According to Woolfalk’s legend, the Empathics—so named because of their receptivity to foreign genetic materials—develop multiple heads, with multiple brains, allowing them to organize their interspecies knowledge and move fluidly between cultures.  In a process called Utopia Conjuring Therapy (UCT), the Empathics guide one another through “lucid dreaming.”  These guided visions are then objectified in the form of visionary paintings, which are collected into the book Empathetic Plant Alchemy.  After many sessions of guided dreaming, some of the Empathics reach a higher, ‘unified’ state in which they develop petal-covered wings that allow them to participate in ‘aerial displays.’

 

2011
gouache on paper
40 x 30 in
Collection of Margo and Frank Walter. © Saya Woolfalk
2011
gouache on paper
40 x 30 in
Collection of Margo and Frank Walter. © Saya Woolfalk
2011
gouache on paper
40 x 30 in
Collection of Margo and Frank Walter. © Saya Woolfalk