Collection Artwork
Paula Wilson (born Chicago, Illinois, 1975)
In the Desert: Mooning
collagraph on muslin from two plates, handprinted collage on muslin and inkjet collage on silk on canvas and wood
Island Press at Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri, established 1978)
overall size: 69 1/2 x 43 3/4 in.
Tang purchase

Object Label

In the Desert: Mooning is a joyful work emblematic of Paula Wilson’s deep reverence for both nature and the female form. The rear end, with accentuated highlights that punningly resemble crescent moons, is a recurring motif in the artist’s work. The moon can be seen as a feminine symbol because of the association between moon cycles and menstrual cycles, as well as the duality between sun and moon as it relates to the duality between male and female. In Greek mythology, the sun (masculinity) rules the whole cosmos while the moon (femininity) rules the earth and its oceans. Here, the moon, reimagined as a rear end in the sky, imbues the print with erotic feminine power.

Although it stands vertically, the work resembles a rug upon a wooden floor. Wilson rejects a longstanding art-world notion that textile arts, historically associated with domestic “women’s work,” are not “high art”; she seeks to elevate and honor the labor- intensive rituals of rug making. Tucked into the desert landscape is a trio of picnickers, sitting upon a similar rug. Their attention is not on the rear end in the sky, but instead on one another. These individuals, like all of us, are unconsciously connected to the quiet labors of women just by existing on this earth. This work seemingly celebrates these labors and uplifts feminine creative power.
–Caroline Coxe ’20

From the exhibition: Lover Earth
Art and Ecosexuality (May 30 – August 23, 2020)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

Tang Collective Catalog

Paula Wilson cites Audre Lorde’s 1978 essay “Uses of the Erotic, The Erotic as Power” as driving inspiration behind much of her work. The essay is about redefining eroticism as a source of power for women and dismantling the patriarchal structures that have rendered the erotic as pornographic. According to Lorde, the erotic embodies a woman’s deep satisfaction and fulfillment that empowers her to fight the powers that oppress women, particularly Black women. Wilson’s In The Desert: Mooning celebrates feminine power and creativity. The colossal rear end on the horizon recalls Lorde’s essay; it reads as an erotic deity and a source of power for the ecosystem around it. The derrière is a motif in Wilson’s work and is usually accentuated with highlights that punningly resemble crescent moons, as demonstrated in this work. The lunar reference is symbolic of moon cycles and menstrual cycles, as well as the gendered duality of sun and moon as masculine and feminine. ⁠ In The Desert: Mooning pays homage to textile arts, historically associated with domestic “women’s work.” Paula Wilson seeks to elevate the labor-intensive rituals of rug making and celebrate the labors of women. In doing so, Wilson demonstrates a deep reverence for the threads of nature, erotic power and feminine creativity that are woven together to create the fabric of our earth.
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