Coiled Figure Project
Wangechi Mutu was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, and now divides her time between there and Brooklyn. She created The Seated III as part of a four-sculpture commission for the façade of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for the exhibition The NewOnes, will free Us. In 2020, The Seated III took up her vigil overlooking the Modern’s reflecting pond.
The artist has an interest in caryatids that is centered around the carved bodies of strong women that are incorporated into many traditions of classical African sculpture. They include the royal staffs of the Kingdom of Luba from Central Africa, the holy stools of the Yoruba kings, the figures of mothers in Makonde ritual stools, and many others. The caryatids of African sculpture predate the classical Greek and Roman architectural figures, which are essentially anthropomorphic columns. These particular African caryatids represent the divine female in her role as a central pillar and are symbolic of her responsibility in society. It is these singular caryatids that inspired The New Ones, those relieved from their role of eternal weight-bearers.
The Seated III's garment is fashioned from sinewy coils that envelop and protect her body, draping around her suggestively like heavy embellishment. The weight of her serpentine garment creates an armor and hugs the figure to show the bend of the knee, the cinch of the waist, and the strength in the shoulders. Though the figure is in repose, she is poised for action.
Create a small maquette sculpture of a coil draped figure. You will need a wooden base, small gauge wire, wire cutter and modeling clay. View the PDF instructions here.