Saya Woolfalk

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Saya Woolfalk (born 1979, Gifu City, Japan) is an American artist known for her multimedia exploration of hybridity, science, race, and sex.


Woolfalk was born in Gifu City, Japan, to a Japanese mother and a mixed-race African American and white father. She grew up in Scarsdale, NY, and has an art studio in Manhattan. Woolfalk was educated at Brown University (B.A. Visual Art and Economics 2001) and earned her M.F.A. in Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004. Woolfalk moved to New York in the 2006, to participate in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program, and was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2007-2008. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, the anthropologist, Sean T. Mitchell, and their daughter.


Woolfalk’s work has exhibited at galleries and museums around the United States and abroad, including PS1/MoMA in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Studio Museum in Harlem, Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. And she participated in PERFORMA09.

In the New York Times, art critic Holland Cotter wrote of Woolfalk's piece, "Chimera," at Third Streaming Gallery, that "Ms. Woolfalk has created her own society of mythological beings called the Empathics, who not only blend racial and ethnic differences, but also dissolve the line between humans and plants. These sculptural figures, with their blossom heads, are fantastic but, as with all fundamentally spiritual art, a complex moral thread runs through the fantasy." [1]

Art critic Roberta Smith of The New York Times called the piece, "Ethnography of No Place," that Woolfalk developed with anthropologist and filmmaker, Rachael Lears, “a little tour de force of performance, animation, born-again Pattern and Decoration, soft sculpture and anthropological satire.” [2]

Lowery Stokes Sims has written that "Woolfalk is single-handedly guiding us back to the original promise of modern art. Suprematism and Constructivism in Russia, De Stijl in the Netherlands introduced formal devices such the elimination or blunting of figural reference, the use of simple geometric shapes and primary colors in the belief that these encourage a transnational, un-xenophobic perspective that would lead us to open-minded future. Therefore we underestimate Saya Woolfalk at our peril, because it is conviction such as hers that can move cultures and shift the meta-narrative." [3]

She has received a number of prestigious awards including a Fulbright for research in Maranhão, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, an Art Matters Grant and has been an artist-in-residence at the Newark Museum, University at Buffalo, Yaddo, Sculpture Space and Dieu Donne Papermill.

With funding from the NEA, her solo exhibition, "The Institute of Empathy," ran at Real Art Ways Hartford, CT from the fall of 2010 to the Spring of 2011. Her first major solo exhibition at a North American museum opened at the Montclair Art Museum in October 2012.


  1. ^ Holland, Cotter (18 April 2013). "Museum and Gallery Listings for April 19-25". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Roberta, Smith (9 September 2008). "A Hot Conceptualist Finds the Secret of Skin". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Sims, Lowery Stokes (2011). NoPlaceans and Empathics. Hartford: Real Art Ways. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 

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