Hannah Wilke (1940 – 1993) was a leading artist of the feminist art movement that began in the 1970s. Her primary subject was her own body, explored in sculptures, drawings, photographs, and performance as part of a larger investigation of femininity and sexuality. Venus Pareve (1982 – 84) comprises twenty-five sculptural self-portraits, hand-modeled and then cast in plaster of Paris or edible kosher chocolate.
Wilke often presents herself in the role Venus, the Roman goddess of Love, sex and fertility. These figures, like many celebrated classical sculptures of the goddess, lack arms and legs — their beauty is without agency; they are helpless objects of desire.
The title, too, mimics the names of famous Greek and Roman states: Venus de Milo, Venus Pudica, Venus Genetrix. Pareve, however, is a Hebrew term from Jewish dietary law, signifying food that contains neither dairy nor meat and that therefore may be eaten without restriction. Venus Pareve critiques the perception of woman’s bodies as objects of consumption.
Photographed in The Jewish Museum in NYC.