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Prints and Drawings
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Artist: Lorna Simpson, American, born 1960

Wigs

1994

Portfolio of waterless lithographs printed on felt: 21 images and 17 text panels

As exhibited: 182.9 × 411.5 cm (72 × 162 in.)
Katharine Ordway Fund
2000.30.1.1-.21
Traditionally considered, together with costumes, as a vehicle of transformation and metamorphosis, wigs symbolize an act of self-fashioning and self-representation. The wigs in Lorna Simpson’s installation, however, are vacant and oriented away from the viewer, thus obscuring the subject(s) that might wear them. Consequently, the wigs become the sole marker by which a viewer can hypothesize the physical, racial, and sexual identity of the anonymous body. By removing the body, Simpson prompts the viewer to recognize the cultural assumptions implicit in the viewing of various hairstyles, such as those that are braided or woven, as characteristically African American.
Geography: 
Made in United States
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Works on Paper - Prints
Bibliography: 

Pamela Franks and Robert E. Steele, Embodied: Black Identities in American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2010), 12, 23, 38–40, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.