Ryan Wilde's Circus of Solitude: WINDOW, 91 Walker Street New York, NY (corner of Walker and Lafayette Street)

November 12, 2022 - January 8, 2023
In time for the holiday season, Ryan Wilde’s Circus of Solitude debuts at WINDOW, mimicking the decked out windows of 5th Avenue and playfully poking fun at the long American tradition of consumerism as a holiday pastime, particularly in New York City. Wilde’s circus, however, presents a different tone: a more melancholy, reflective experience that delves into the theatricality of sartorial identity; and explores the notion of the artist as performer, using a number of art historical references throughout this body of work.

A former milliner who worked in high fashion before switching to a career as an artist, Wilde is acutely aware of the performative nature of our outward appearance and how we sculpt and choose to present ourselves. The circus has always fascinated the artist: ringmasters and acrobats as unabashed entertainers, the honesty of its pure theatricality. Part of the impetus to create her own circus was as a mirror to her own experience as an artist and as a woman: masking the internal struggles and pain to present desirable sculptures and paintings; the expectation to be a beautiful wife and mother, perpetually performing for society. The isolation of the pandemic changed her relationship to the original ideas that drew her to the circus theme. Forced to separate her from the “prettier” half that had been on an outwardly facing stage, she wondered: without an audience, is a performer still a performer?

In this internal, personal shift, her art historical inspirations also shifted. Abandoning the dazzling images of Chagall, Degas, and Seurat that had swirled in her head, she opted instead for the solemnity of Picasso’s Saltimbanques; the solitude of Ugo Rondinone’s clowns; and the dynamism and edge of Calder’s circus. What happens to the performer without an audience? Has life simply pivoted to a more mundane performance for herself, for her family? Alone in the studio with this cast of characters, Wilde wondered if that other part of her disappeared entirely, put out to pasture as in Rilke’s Fifth Duino Elegy (another important inspiration for this body of work). Is this Circus of Solitude perhaps where the lost performer has gone to rest?
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