Rose Shulman-Litwin on Hannah Wilke

“People are still too scared to do what she did.”

Pioneering feminist conceptual artist Hannah Wilke inspires student artist Rose Shulman-Litwin to be braver and more confident in her work and in her body. Wilke’s innovative, controversial and deeply personal artwork mesmerizes and challenges viewers, even now, decades after her death. Rose tells us, “People are still too scared to do what she did.” Wilke used nude and semi-nude images of her own body — throughout her life — to confront cultural stereotypes of femininity, feminism, and sexuality, beginning a dialogue still relevant today. Rose tells us the story of Hannah Wilke, a woman who dared to control her own body, her own image, and how Hannah persevered in her art to the end of her life. Hannah Wilke was ahead of her time, but her courage and determination live on, inspiring contemporary artists. Our storytellers share these astonishing women with us conversationally and unscripted; we fact-check afterwards and note any major discrepancies for accuracy.


Rose Shulman-Litwin

Rose Shulman-Litwin is from Los Angeles, California, and is currently a rising senior at New York University. She is majoring in Studio Art with a focus on painting and sculpture. She is a founding member of a New York-based queer art collective called Color Club. Rose became involved with Look What SHE Did! In Fall 2017 after Cat Oriel (youth advisor) hosted an event at her alma mater, The Archer School For Girls.

Featured Woman

Hannah Wilke

Daring feminist conceptual artist Hannah Wilke worked in sculpture, drawing, assemblage, photography, performance and installation. She used the various mediums to examine and challenge prevailing notions of femininity, feminism, and sexuality. She was one of the first artists to use vaginal imagery in her work with the purpose of directly engaging with feminist issues. During the late 1950s through the early 1970s, Wilke worked on creating a type of female iconography based on the body, constructing abstract, organic forms that closely resembled female genitalia. During the 1970s, she began to use her own body for performance pieces that she called her “performalist self-portraits.” These performances, immortalized on video or in photographs, confront erotic stereotypes by calling attention to and making ironic the conventional gestures, poses, and attributes of the female body. In the years before she died of cancer in 1993, Wilke had herself photographed and videotaped during treatment as her body changed. Innovative and controversial throughout her life, Wilke’s place in 20th century art continues to be established since her death.