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The Woods Women and Other Works
October 25 – November 23, 2022
installation view with glasss sculpures on Yves Klein table and framed collages
Installation view:
The Woods Women and Other Works

Saya Woolfalk creates works of art that combine elements of her African American, Japanese, and European heritage, with allusions to anthropology, feminist theory, science fiction, and Eastern religions. During the past decade, in numerous multimedia exhibitions, installations, performances, and screenings, she has created the story of the Empathics, an elaborate fiction that she has woven around a community of female plant-human hybrids who possess extraordinary abilities to understand the feelings, desires, and motivations of others.
In her third solo show at the gallery, Woolfalk introduces The Woods Women, a secret society that predates her Empathic Universe. The exhibition includes the artist’s newest works on paper, inspired by her study of the renowned Hudson River School and herbarium collections at The Newark Museum of Art where she was the Artist in Residence in 2019.
In each of the four related collages entitled The Woods Woman, a silhouetted head is adorned and subtitled with a medicinal plant (Goldenrod, Meadowsweet, Sassafras, and Cannabis), as well as “jewels” that the artist has meticulously cut from silver and gold papers. In the two largest works in the exhibition, Birthing a New Sky: Manuscripts 5 and 6, Woolfalk addresses the “speculative fiction” of the American landscape tradition exemplified by the idealized landscapes of nineteenth-century artists such as Frederick Church and Thomas Cole. Also drawing inspiration from the Afro-Native American painter Richard Mayhew ,and his concept of the “mindscape,” she posits an alternative American creation myth in her reimagining of the earth and sky. While appearing to be simple abstractions, these works are quite complex, composed of hundreds of intricately pieced and layered elements created from handmade Japanese papers that she has painted and stained with watercolor and gouache, Japanese silver foil, and acrylic medium.
Celestial and historical references also occur in Woolfalk’s newest sculptures, hand-blown, glass objects created during the artist’s recent residency at the renowned Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle. Created in a variety of gourd-like shapes, they refer to The Big Dipper star formation, which in rural nineteenth-century America was also known as The Drinking Gourd, a reference to the hollowed out gourd used by enslaved Africans (and other rural Americans) as a water dipper, which became an important signpost for fleeing slaves as they journeyed north along the Underground Railroad.
Other works on view include sculpture created from found objects, prints, collages and a painting on paper.
Two solo presentations of works by Saya Woolfalk are currently on view at the Newark Museum of Art:Saya Woolfalk: Field Notes from the Empathic Universe (through December 31, 2022) and Saya Woolfalk: Tumbling into Landscape (through the Summer of 2023). Her major, multimedia installation entitled Lessons From the Institute of Empathy, commissioned and acquired by the Seattle Art Museum, has remained on extended view there since 2018.
Additional solo museum shows have taken place at the Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City; the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; the Mead Art Museum; The SCAD Museum of Art; the Sheldon Museum of Art; the Chrysler Museum of Art; and the Everson Museum of Art among many others. She has participated in group shows at leading museums, galleries, and alternatives spaces throughout the U.S. and in Asia. Works by the artist are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Newark Museum of Art; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Seattle Art Museum; the Chrysler Museum of Art; the Weatherspoon Art Museum, and many others.
Saya Woolfalk has also been the recipient of numerous honors, awards, and commissions. She is currently at work on three major public monuments in three U.S. cities, dedicated to the memories of Coretta Scott King (Atlanta); Marjorie Stoneman Douglas (Miami); and Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Los Angeles), supported by the Hulu streaming service.
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects is located in Suite 411 at 401 Broadway on the northwest corner of Broadway and Walker Street in Tribeca. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 12 to 6 pm and by appointment.
IDs are required to enter the building. Press 4 on the panel situated on the north wall of the lobby to access the next available elevator.

401 Broadway, Suite 411  New York, N.Y. 10013  info@tonkonow.com