My work considers the idea that symbolic and ideological systems can be activated and re-imagined through collaboration, imaginative play and masquerade. To effect this re-imagining objects, bodies, and landscapes are constructed to immerse us in the logic of another place.
My current project, The Institute of Empathy is a mixed media installation that explores the work of a fictional group of women called Empathics. I use this science-fiction inspired project to undermine stable conceptions of identity and examine how hybrid identities emerge and transform through different kinds of biological and cultural contact. The Empathics strive for a condition of permanent and ongoing hybridization and the Institute is their research hub. Through it, they seek to transform their biology, social organization, and knowledge. My project relies on the blending of fiction and fact and the results of real collaboration are captured and displayed as the material culture of this fictional institute.
The work I produced for my first solo museum exhibition – The Empathics at Montclair Art Museum – was created during my Workspace residency at Dieu Donné. The Empathics would look completely different had I not been an artist-in-residence. As I began to experiment in the wet studio, I tried to translate what I do with fabric into paper. Amy Jacobs helped me play as we transformed flat sheets of abaca into translucent skins. Like a mad scientist, I mixed pigments and pulp, and pulp painted the skins with pigmented linen. The wet abaca sheets were then laminate cast onto human forms and bones. Dieu Donné gave me the opportunity to work spontaneously in ways that textiles and painting do not allow. It has been an incredible experience.
— Saya Woolfalk, 2012
Saya Woolfalk is based in New York City and holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.