Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey is the first survey of the artist’s work in America. Spanning a range of media including large-scale collages, video, and installations, the exhibit is on view at the Brooklyn Museum until March 9, 2014. Interestingly enough, Mutu’s own artistic journey to international stardom is every bit as fantastic.
In a first-person account about fame and failure, the Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based artist said, “I choose to pursue art without knowing exactly what path it would take.” Mutu’s father was a failed businessman who studied in the U.S. on a scholarship but couldn’t find, or hold on to, a proper job. This left a strong impression on young Mutu. “I was afraid to become an old person who was all confused, essentially going through my teenage years again with no sense of who I was or how to catch myself. That’s why I was so adamant about trying art early on.”
Mutu’s path to art was almost eclipsed when financial troubles led her to drop out out of Parsons School of Design for Social Research. She worked hard to earn a chance acceptance into Cooper Union, the prestigious arts & science college which recently ended its tuition-free policy. With her early struggles behind her, Mutu is now the most celebrated young African artist in the contemporary art world. “In a sense, failure is a tail that’s chasing me. I’m running away from it, but it’s attached to me. It helps me project myself forward,” she added.