Vulnerabilities (2017) by Janis Mars Wunderlich is a larger-than-life bust which documents a time of significant transition in my life. I had just begun a new relationship after divorcing from a long-term marriage. I acquired a new job at a small liberal arts college, after straddling two adjunct positions at large universities. This brought on my subsequent move from my home state of Ohio to Illinois, where I purchased a century old home to rehabilitate. I had also just returned from a summer in Eastern Germany, where I researched the complicated history of Meissen porcelain.
In this bust, I felt compelled to capture the complex dualities layered in my human experience: the joy and fear of a new identity, exhaustion and excitement stemming from a long midwestern relocation, the thrill of pulling away from the security of an unfulfilling marriage, only to voluntarily thrust myself into emotional dependency on a new partner.
A delicate woman emerges from a beast’s mouth, and we aren’t sure if she has been swallowed by it, or if she wears it victoriously like a skinned cloak. The beast and the angry ,lunging geese, represent the many possible dangers that lie ahead. Despite her vulnerabilities, she powerfully rises from the beast’s sharp teeth and focuses forward. Her face bears the scars of her many struggles.
The very creation of this piece brought on disaster: Its face blew apart in the firing process. As I attempted to piece her fragmented face back together using mosaic grout, I realized that her imperfections made her more closely aligned to my experiences. Our lives often become fractured fairy tales, but with resilience and forgiveness we can rise above our vulnerabilities and fragility to become ever stronger.