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Wendy Mike: The Sculpted Life of an Artist.

Above, a video of the permanent installation at the St. Francis Orthopedic Hospital in Colorado Springs, created on a rock climbing theme and modeled for by a local rock climber. The soundtrack is an excerpt from Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble's "Canticum Calamatis Maritimae."

Wendy Mike, the sculptor who created the installation shown above, says of herself that she is obsessed with the human form. The obsession perhaps came from the trials of overcoming her own physical disability. She expressed her determination by being a tomboy and a girl who never wore pink. She always loved the human form, its tension, and movement, so appreciates its beauty and every human's desire to have the body work perfectly. From the age of four, she knew she was an artist in contrast to her parents, who were scientists. She would cry when she could not make things look like they appeared. Known in grade school as the "artist," she studied figure drawing at Scripps College in Clairmont, CA at the age of fifteen! Those extra credits helped her graduate high school early, so at seventeen she began to travel and study dance and the figure. This combination allowed her to counter the solitary quiet of producing art with engagement in the world of performance, where she not only danced but also sang and acted. After being hired for a musical, moving to New York, getting an agent, and sixteen years of that life, she got tired of the pretty, stupid girl roles she was being offered. The business of Broadway and its demands on the female body to be thin, thin, thin, turned her off. So, she went back to art, where she developed her ideas about the human form.

"Nothing could stop me from producing art." Wendy Mike

Rose Exposed (yellow) Fabric, wood, brass. 11x6x5 inches. Wendy Mike.

This piece is from the Exposed/Revealed series of sculptures. All of the figures in the series (see illustrate the movement of the body without the body itself, as though the clothing keeps the memory of the physical impression. With the body gone, the mind is not distracted by its presence and thus focuses on what is revealed by its absence. The flyng leap movement, chest out, legs outstretched to take a giant step forward, exposes a daring character. No shrinking violet this one - feminine, summer dress aside - this woman takes the world head-on. Perhaps it is the spirit of the activist. Mike's mother was such an activist and a member of CORE, a group led by John Lewis, civil rights activist who marched with Dr. King and who also became a much respected member of the House of Representatives. Wendy Mike became part of the Women's Action Coalition in New York, sitting on the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion. Moving forward seems to be the theme here.

Carapace Tropicae Fabric, metal and thread 36X14x12" Wendy Mike

On the other hand, a different feminine energy manifests in this piece. When one thinks of a carapace, one thinks of a hard shell like what appears on anthropods, such as turtles, crustacions, and arachnids. However, here we have a rather innocent, joyful display of lovely feminine colors, yes pink, but also pale orange, baby blue printed with red-violet butterflies, and traces of white. A carapace is a shield, and this figure has chosen the most "girlie" of wrappings as her armor. She is attractive yes, but complicated, as can be seen by the multiple layers of wrapping and the sway in the hip. Lines of two songs come to mind. First the Isley Brothers' "Who's That Lady?" They sing, "Your eyes tell me to pursue, but you say Look yeah, but don't touch, baby." The other lyric is the introduction to the song, "I Live in a Tropical Country," by a famous Brazilian singer, Wilson Simonal, who starts by dedicating the song to "The beauty, grace, charm, and poison of the Brazilian woman." And yes brightly colored creatures in the tropics are often

poisonous. Is she, or is she not?

Galea-Athena Fabric, paper, metal and wood 18x10x7" Wendy Mike

Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, the essence of intellect, was also a confident, clever, master of disguises, and a great warrior. A master of the "womanly arts," she has also been summed up in Greek mythology as the perfect example of brains and brawn. As a warrior she is often pictured with a helmet, a galea. Here she is depicted with her own special galea, a helmet of fabric that circles her head like a crown, but a crown that is sutured on, closing up an open wound. We see torn fabric in the cheek and what appears to be a tapestry tack holding the face in place. This Athena has been through the wars. This piece seems to point to the history of women in a patriarchal society. The goddess has not always won the battle, but in the pendulum swing beween matriachy (prehistoric societies) and patriarchy (historically written society), the war has not been lost. The pedulum must come to rest in the middle, allowing both sides to function in consort, like the positive and negative charges on a battery. It is that combination that makes things work for everyone's benefit.

Say Her Name: Breonna (Isis from the tomb) African fabric, NY Times, wire and found object.

Breonna (Isis, from the tomb), a haunting description indeed for someone who died so tragically. Saying the name is important. It was the ancient Egyptians who wrote in the Book of the Dead, "That which is named must exist...that which is remembered lives." So Breonna lives on in image, an American in red, white, and blue, an African in the fabric of that continent, and a cultural icon dressed in headlines. Isis still speaks from the tomb to remind us of our wrong assumptions about others. Wendy Mike's dedication to cultural diversity, and the empowerment of women is demonstrated in many ways in her art. In 1992 in Art in the Anchorage (Brooklyn Bridge), Mike created her first installation, Violence Against Women. As can be seen in many of the items shown here, her sculpture is often expressed in papers, fabrics, wrapped and wovern items, things not associated with the hard metals of sculpture, yet useful household items, most commonly associated with women. Through the choice of those materials and the themes she expresses with them, we move away from expectations in bronze and see a different perspective.

Mounted - Icarus Mixed media, brass and glass 60x10x10"

From Wendy Mike's Sculpture Series - Mounted, comes Icarus, the perfect image of trying to fly too high. His wings have melted, and gravity has him in its grip, coiling about him like a serpent of inevitability. Once again Wendy Mike shows her great skill and comprehension of the human body in this piece that covers almost every possible human movement in a figure that falls backward in a tumble down to earth. It is the opposite of the beautiful rock climbing figures that transcend the limitations of the body to push it to greater heights. Here the poignant expression on Icarus' face as he sees his hopes dashed call forth that common human understanding of our global ambitions to indeed transcend our mortality. Icarus failed. Yet, just like the rock climbers, humans persist, for one day we may all indeed become gods.

Mike's journey through body-oriented art forms, whether her life drawing studies of the human form or her understanding of how the body moves, learned from dance and acting, has convinced her that the journey is as important as the destination. Or as she says, "The process is as important as the product." So true, Wendy, so true.

Wendy Mike's work and career accolades can be seen on her website

Her installation at St. Francis Interquest Orthopedic Hospital is a permanent one and readily viewable.

Mike is also the founder of Future Self: Art for Youth at Risk.

The Artist's recommended reading:

The Alphabet and the Goddess by Leonard Shlain.


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