About the Exhibition:
The seven textiles on exhibit represent all that is known to exist of the 70+ works in a series created by artist, Weelsee Wen during the years 2018 -2048, owned by artist Judy Rushin. The whereabouts or even the existence of the other works remains unknown. This first of its kind exhibition is made possible by the efforts of scholars and scientists working collaboratively and simultaneously in the years 2018 and 2056. The life-sized and highly textured pieces on view represent jumpsuits of various utilitarian functions ranging from mechanic’s coveralls to hazmat suits. They are made from cotton, wool, and synthetic fibers painted with various syn- thetic dyes and paints. While documentation exists for more than 70 of this series, current and future researchers are only able to find seven. This of course leads to speculation as to whether Wen actually produced all 70 pieces, planned to produce them and never did, or created descrip- tions of these works that were deemed sufficient in lieu of actual execution. Wen is notorious for issuing contradictory accounts from one inter- view or essay to the next, making verification all the more problematic.
Rushin, who has been obsessed with Wen’s work for decades, asserts that the seven pieces in this show express Wen’s personal identification with the working-class ethos whereas others claim the pieces are a broader reflection of fashion trends that mirror shifting paradigms of adapt- ability and disaster preparedness associated with hazmat chic, disaster chic, bio-hazard chic, INCH (I’m never coming home) chic, etc. In either case, accuracy and misinterpretation are the result of available material evidence, historical record, cultural and personal prejudice and assumptions, nostalgia and/or wish fulfillment.
Rushin further asserts that she was a mentor and primary influence on the young Wen. At some point the two had an acrimonious falling out, details of which remain unclear. Despite this bad blood, Rushin felt that the artistic and cultural relevance as well as the breakthrough in research methodology represented by the simultaneous present/future retrieval of this body of work was too important to ignore.
We should note that some future scholars reject the idea that Rushin had any influence on Wen whatsoever, claiming that the current exhibition was mounted out of an impulse of self-aggran- dizement, and a desperate bid for reflected glory. Still other future historians question whether Wen exist/s/ed at all and may, in fact, be a creation of some other artist whose purpose is to misdirect and obscure. One factor supporting both of these positions is that there is no known photograph of Rushin and Wen taken together.
CONTROVERSY Several theories surround the relationship between Rushin and Wen. Scholars appear to be in agreement that Wen studied with and worked closely with Rushin during the years 2001 – 2009, at which time they experienced an acrimonious parting of the ways that no one seems to know anything about. Subsequent to the breakup Rushin claimed to have been Wen’s most important mentor and influence. Conversely, Wen characterized her period with Rushin as insignificant and miserable. Adding further to the confusion is the fact that not a single photograph exists of the two together. This has led to speculation that they are, in fact, one and the same person, with Wen
a créatúr of Rushin’s devising. Harsher critics suggest that this was a gambit by Rushin to compensate for the disadvantages she faced as a post-mature artist in a youth and media driven art world. This theory posits that Rushin is, in fact, not only the creator of Wen, but of her entire body of work as well. Other equally harsh critics suggest that Rushin has merely claimed and exaggerated her association with Wen to deflect from her own critical and popular irrelevance.
About the Artist:
Judy Rushin (b.1959) is an American artist who works across a variety of media. For over 2 decades Rushin has continuously sought new ways to cre- ate meaning from materials through painting and sculpture. While she works in a wide array of me- dia, the structural basis of Painting – frame, support, surface – have always been her physical jumping off point. She began weaving her own canvases two years ago and has become hooked on textiles. An underlying idea in many of Rushin’s projects is the human capacity to adapt to a wide variety of situations. Recently Rushin has specifically been making work about the near future.
Weelsee Wen (b.1972) is a Chinese-Brazilian artist who is surrounded by great controversy. Rumor has it that as a child, she spent a lot of time in her par- ents’ auto shop in São Paulo making clothes from used rags. In 2000 Wen moved to the US to study art but soon found that art school had nothing to offer her and dropped out. Little is known of her whereabouts from 2009 – 2048. Weelsee Wen is a figment of Judy Rushin’s imagination who exists across multiple intersecting timelines. Weelsee Wen (b.1972) is a Chinese-Brazilian artist who is surrounded by great controversy. Rumor has it that as a child, she spent a lot of time in her par- ents’ auto shop in São Paulo making clothes from used rags. In 2000 Wen moved to the US to study art but soon found that art school had nothing to offer her and dropped out. Little is known of her whereabouts from 2009 – 2048. Weelsee Wen is a figment of Judy Rushin’s imagination who exists across multiple intersecting timelines.