Young Artists: Saya Woolfalk

Young Artists: Saya Woolfalk

November 2008

Timothy McCahill

For the last two years Saya Woolfalk has practically lived in No Place, the futuristic work she is creating through painting, sculpture and video. So it’s not surprising that when she talks about it, the line between fact and fiction seems a little fuzzy. More than just a plain old multimedia installation, No Place has its own inhabitants and culture. The bubbly 29-year-old delights in describing every nook and cranny. “I talk about it as if it could be real,” admits Woolfalk, who is completing a yearlong stint as an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where No Place was recently shown. “But I never forget that it’s another place.”

Woolfalk’s world is inhabited by half-human, half-plant figures called No Placeans, who in her paintings are portrayed roaming a psychedelic landscape reminiscent of Yellow Submarine. In one piece, they appear in front of a blue and yellow building surrounded by pink phalluses. As part of the project, Woolfalk filmed the No Placeans—played by the artist, her friends and colleagues—in the style of a documentary…

…Though the piece grew partly out of Woolfalk’s reflections on utopia, her influences also originate closer to home. Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and an African-American and white father, Woolfalk draws on Japanese anime and traditional African garments for many of her characters and costumes, blending cultures so that her work feels at once foreign and familiar. “Because I’m mixed race, I have this idea that to leave the conversation ambiguous is interesting,” she says…

Read the entire interview here.

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