In this interview, Marguerite Wibaux shares her journey as an artist and her deep interest in identity; how her work interrogates the self and how others see us, challenging us to look inside ourselves to our core.
Marguerite Wibaux is a New York-based French visual artist. Her practice, rooted in a social experimentation, began with portraiture of strangers and now extends to sculpture and installation. Born in Argentina, raised in Peru and Italy, living in China and now USA, Marguerite Wibaux has spent a great deal of her life abroad. This international exposure has been central in the development of Wibaux's questioning of identity and belonging, topics at the core of her art.
Marguerite Wibaux started her career with a solo show by a French cultural institution in Boston in 2018. Since then, she has been part of multiple group shows in France, Italy, Greece, and New York. In 2021, her solo presentation “Horror Vacui” at Spring/Break art fair in New York was reviewed by Maria Brito as “top 5 artist to discover”. Her work was featured in Ante Mag, The Jamaica Gleaner, and Create! Magazine. Wibaux is represented in the USA by The Locker Room (Instagram: @thelockerrroomnyc).
You’ve lived in so many different places! Can you talk a bit about this journey? Where are you originally from and what led you to New York City, where you are currently based?
My journey into different places comes from luck as much as curiosity, and a willingness to get out of my comfort zone. I am French, because both my parents are, and that’s my cultural background. But I was born in Argentina and I lived in Peru and Italy as a child. I studied in the Netherlands and in China. After a few years in Paris, I had the opportunity to move to the USA, first to Boston and then New York.
New York is a very unique place where so many of the people you meet are not originally from here. Everybody is a stranger, hence nobody is. There is a special energy and freedom to shape your identity here.
Has your experience living in a diverse array of cities and cultures influenced your interest in identity, which much of your work addresses?
Yes indeed, it shaped my personality and the lens through which I see the world. As a kid I was always the new one, the odd one. I felt that I didn't belong anywhere. Once an adult, I decided to find interconnectedness and universal understanding through art. How one perceives self, how one wants to be seen, and how one is actually seen by others is at the core of my art.
You work in a wide range of media. What material was your first love?
I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. Most kids get the opportunity to hold a pen or a brush, and it’s a great way to start really looking at the world and the people around you. It’s only in 2018 that I experienced sculpture in clay for the first time, and it was love at first touch.
Color is a very important part of my work, so painting is a key medium. I am currently working on a series of portraits where I surround my model with reproduction of their Instagram, intersecting the private self in contrast with the social/online self. Each painting takes a very long time to create; I always have one ongoing.
I am also fond of sculpture: I can get more conceptual and more experimental with materials, integrating notions of space and interactivity. I learn a lot with each new idea and project, it’s exciting. When you make a sculpture, you create a presence in the room. There is a god-like megalomaniac thrill that comes with it. I also believe that sculpture has a strong ability to interrogate the viewer.
Much of your work seems to have a feminist overarching theme or undertone. Can you talk about this aspect of your work?
My overarching theme is identity in the modern age, how disorienting it can be. How difficult it is in a world saturated with images and conflicting representations.
Gender is a determining factor of our identity, and there are so many injections laid upon women. For example on social media, how readily the female user is slut-shamed even though the algorithm rewards hyper-sexualized imagery. My works aim at pointing out these contradictions.
I dislike how women are expected to act and live within the limits of an assigned role. For myself, as an artist, that means that I explore the matter of the female identity - but not only. My work is as much about women than it is about men.
I’m personally very drawn to your sculptural series Please Love Me. Can you talk a bit about this series and your intention behind it?
I love paradoxes. From a formal perspective, this body of work juxtaposes the nobility of statues with the triviality of everyday objects. From a conceptual one, it walks the line between what makes you alive and what kills you.
The Medusa with wires is simultaneously empowered and stuck in its connectivity. Icarus is a victim of hubris, he got too high and he melted down, or maybe the pills are what’s holding him together? The Girl with the knife is provocative and rebellious but also young and vulnerable, and might hurt herself.
This collection of sculpture is a window into our time, filled with contradictions, technology, drugs, violence, hysteria, and solitude. I like my characters to look noble despite their weaknesses. I believe that it’s impossible to completely figure one’s self out, but we can still love and be loved. Hence the title “Please love me”.
What would you say has been one of the highlights of your career thus far?
First and foremost, I believe a career is made over time, through a multitude of steps and lots of endurance, so it is hard to pick one highlight. Nevertheless, I would say that my work is here to create conversation, and whenever I have a meaningful conversation, whether it is with the public at an opening, with a collector or art professional during a studio visit, or right here with an art critic, it’s a highlight. I feel right where I am supposed to be, fulfilling my purpose.
What activity never ceases to inspire you?
I need food for thought. So I am always reading philosophical magazines and contemporary essays, listening to podcasts, and in the search for meaningful encounters and genuine conversation. I am very bad at small talk, the maximum I can talk about the weather is two sentences.
What are you looking forward to?
Presently, I am looking forward to diving into my studio practice. I have a lot of ideas and work planned ahead and I can’t wait to actually create them. For the upcoming months, I am very excited about having for the first time some pieces at the Untitled Art fair in Miami.