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Weelsee Wen

The six textiles shown here are all that are 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. Current and future scholars and scientists have been working collaboratively and simultaneously in the years 2018 and 2056 to recover her work. The life-sized and highly textured pieces represent jumpsuits of various utilitarian functions ranging from mechanic’s coveralls to hazmat suits. They are made from cotton, wool, and synthetic fibers, paints and dyes. While documentation exists for more than 70 of this series, current and future researchers are only able to find six. This of course leads to speculation as to whether Wen actually produced all 70 pieces, planned to produce them and never did, or created descriptions of these works that were deemed sufficient in lieu of actual execution.  Wen is notorious for issuing contradictory accounts from one interview or essay to the next, making verification all the more problematic. 

Rushin claims that these pieces express Wen’s personal identification with working-class ethos. Other critics and scholars assert the pieces are a broader reflection of fashion trends that mirror shifting paradigms of adaptability 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-aggrandizement, 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.

Weelsee Wen (b.1972) is a Chinese-Brazilian artist who is surrounded by great controversy. Little is known about her other than that she exists across multiple intersecting timelines and is a figment of Judy Rushin’s imagination.