Virgins of Palermo’ is a celebration of the women of Palermo and the great Rococo artist Serpotta on the occasion of his birth date 363 years ago. WW becomes a time traveller via the sculptor’s 18th century stucco work, assembling souvenirs of original 19th and 20th century studio portraits from Palermo and transports them through the medium of collage into a 21st century dimension.
WW pays homage to Serpotta’s love of the feminine, which is infused with an innocent sensuality that can also be found in the images of the virgins in the photographs. They introduce a surreal Freudian journey inspired by the city, sea, and religious settings. White, the luminous colour of innocence and sacrifice is a central theme throughout the artwork, echoing the white of the stucco’s marble dust. Serpotta’s allustratura is reflected in the subtle chiaroscuro of the photographs, images drawn by light. The virgins are accompanied by the four early patron saints of Palermo - Cristina, Ninfa, Olivia and Agata - who are adorned with flowers in reference to their depictions of the four seasons at the landmark piazza ‘Quattro Canti’. Today’s main patroness Santa Rosalia becomes a visionary that speaks through a sea shell.
The virgins’ confirmation and wedding dresses emulate the sculptures draperies as seen in the Oratorio de San Lorenzo. Seashells and mollusks, a recurring motif of WW’s collages and of the Rococo period, refer to the sensual natural forms of the female figure, symbolizing love, fertility, and sexuality. By using studio portraits these once important objects of identity come back to life through the medium of collage, and the now nameless virgins of Palermo are memorialized and imbued with new histories.