Saya Woolfalk

Saya Woolfalk

Born: 1979, Gifu, Japan

Biography and Information

Saya Woolfalk (b. 1979) blends historical information with science fiction and fantasy. Her interdisciplinary practice includes installation, video, painting, digital collage, textiles, and more. In her ongoing series The Empathics, she creates a new world with a fictional race of women who become human-plant hybrids. Every new body of work is like a new chapter in the series. During Woolfalk’s recent residency at the Newark Museum of Art, she began to study the museum’s plant collection through the perspective of the Empathics. This archeological-style investigation examines these medicinal plants and their relationship to American identity from an outsider’s perspective. 

Saya Woolfalk has exhibited her work internationally, including solo exhibitions at Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey; the Chrysler Museum of Art in Virginia; the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco; SCAD Museum in Georgia; Everson Museum of Art in New York; Sheldon Museum of Art in Nebraska; and the Mead Museum of Art in Massachusetts, among many others. Her works are in major collections like the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Mead Art Museum, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, the Newark Museum of Art, the Chrysler Museum of Art, and the Seattle Art Museum. Woolfalk has received several prestigious awards, including the Fulbright Grant, Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. In 2019 she presented a TED X talk. Woolfalk lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. 

Saya Woolfalk’s work is currently on exhibition at the Newark Museum of Art through December 31, 2022.

My current work is focused on the meanings of different kinds of hybridity. In part, this project developed out of my own experience as a black, white, and Japanese American woman. But it also emerges from my broader interest in exploring how hybridities (of cultures, races, and ethnicities; humans and machines; etc.) are becoming more apparent, but also more fraught and confounding in American society. My ongoing science fiction inspired project, The Empathics, is about fictional humans who physically and culturally metamorphose as they merge identities and cross species, taking on characteristics of various cultures while becoming a fusion of animal and plant. The material culture and biology of The Empathics is the synthesis of diverse sources. – Saya Woolfalk

2006 Whitney Independent Study Program, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, Studio Art
2008 coursework, City College of New York, Media Communication Arts (Cinematography)
2002/8 coursework, Fashion Institute of Technology (Animation, Fashion Construction)
2004 MFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Sculpture
2004 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME
2001 BA, Brown University, Providence, RI, Visual Art & Economics, Honors in Visual Art

Solo Exhibitions
Saya Woolfalk: Field Notes from the Empathic Universe,The Newark Museum of Art, Newark, NJ
Saya Woolfalk: Tumbling into Landscape, The Newark Museum of Art, NJ
From Bones We Rise, The Empathics, Rowan University Art Gallery, Glassboro, NJ

Saya Woolfalk: Future Relics From a Landscape of Anticipation, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects at Independent, New York, NY

Saya Woolfalk: Empathic Cloud Divination, Tube Factory, Indianapolis, IN
Saya Woolfalk: A Cabinet of Anticipation, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH
Saya Woolfalk: Augmented Visionary Reality Outpost, Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA
Saya Woolfalk: Expedition to ChimaCloud, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Visionary Reality Outpost, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI

Hybrid Digital Home, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
Lessons From the Institute of Empathy, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA

ChimaCloud and the Pose System, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, NY
Saya Woolfalk: Life Products and the ChimaCloud, Mead Museum of Art, Amherst, MA

Saya Woolfalk: Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NE
ChimaCloud, Times Square Midnight Moment, New York, NY
ChimaCloud, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY
Saya Woolfalk: To Dream the Electric Dream, SCAD Museum, Savannah, GA

The Pollen Catchers’ Color Mixing Machine, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling, New York, NY
Saya Woolfalk: ChimaTEK: Hybridity Visualization System, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, NY, Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta, GA

Saya Woolfalk Videos: 2005 – 2014, WPA, Washington D.C.
Saya Woolfalk: ChimaTEK: Hybridity Visualization Mandala (performance), Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
ChimaTEKChrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA
Saya Woolfalk, Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY
Saya Woolfalk, Emerson-Dorsch Gallery, Miami, FL

Alcott Gallery, UNC Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
The EmpathicsFlecker Gallery, SUNY Suffolk, New York, NY
The Empathics, Living Arts, Tulsa, OK
Chimera, Third Streaming, New York, NY

The Empathics, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ

No Place, Bloomfield College, Bloomfield, NJ

Institute of EmpathyReal Art Ways, Hartford, CT
The Institute for the Analysis of Empathy, Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, MA

No PlaceUniversity at Buffalo Art Gallery, Center for the Arts, Buffalo, NY

Saya Woolfalk: Three Videos, Paul Robeson Galleries, Rutgers, Newark, NJ

No Place: Wonders from that World, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

Jumble Patch: Transitional Love Objects, Heidi Cho Gallery, New York, NY
Trousseaux: Love Object, SubCity, Chicago, IL

Lovescape, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
Paradise Imagined, 12 x 12 New Artists/New Work, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL

Group Exhibitions
Another World, Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM
Rising Sun,
 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum, Philadelphia, PA

Abstracted Migrations: Ideas on Embodied Motion, Firelei Báez, Saya Woolfalk and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum The Galleries at Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, PA
Transformed: Objects Reimagined by American Artists, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ
When Evening Has Passed and Tomorrow Comes, Kimball Art Center, Park City, UT
Garmenting: Costume and Contemporary Art, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY
Saint Somebody: Technologies of the Divine, Art Vault, Santa Fe, NM
Born in Flames: Feminist Futures, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY

Future Texts: Imagining Utopia in a Time of Crisis and Change, SJ Weiler Fund, New York, NY
Firelei Baez, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrom, Saya Woolfalk, Galleries at Moore, Philadelphia, PA
Never Done: 100 Years of Women in Politics and Beyond, Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY
A Beautiful Struggle: Black Feminist Futurism, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI
No horizon, no edge to Liquid, Zabludowicz Collection, London, England

A Legacy of Firsts: The Everson Collects, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, NY
Figuring the Floral, Wave Hill, The Bronx, NY
Embody, Mandeville Gallery, Schenectady, NY
Pouring into an Array of Characters, Galerie im Turm, Berlin, Germany
New Age, New Age: Strategies for Survival, DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, IL
Parallels and Peripheries, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, MI
Present Bodies: Papermaking at Dieu Donné, BRIC, Brooklyn, NY
Furies, Fairies, Visionaries, Pen + Brush, New York, NY

In This Imperfect Present Moment, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Parallels and Peripheries, ArtCenter South Florida, Miami, FL
The Future Is Female, 21c Museum Hotel, Bentonville, AR
hyphenative, SU Art Galleries, Salisbury, MD
In Times of Perseus, Sargent’s Daughters, New York, NY
Next Art Tainan, Soka Art Center, Tainan, Taiwan

The Embedded Message, Visual Arts Center of Richmond, VA
Color: Coded, The New Art Center, Newton, MA
Multiple Modernisms, The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA
(self), Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, Portland, OR
Works on Paper 2017, The Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC
Dialogues in Drawing, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, CA

American Histories, Pi Artworks, London, England
Bedazzled, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
Past Present Future, Grand Rapids Art Museum, MI
Sisters of the Moon: Feminism, Art, and Magic, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Lexington, KY
Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Anthems for the Mother Earth Goddess, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
Between History and the Body, The 8th Floor (The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation), New York, NY
Les Oracles, XPO Gallery, Paris, France
Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA

Rockaway!, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY
Herland, 60 Wall Gallery, New York, NY
Brides of Anansi: Fiber and Contemporary ArtSpelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA
PaperWork: Drawings, Prints, and Collages, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York, NY

The Shadows Took Shape, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY
Migrating Identities, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
Approximately Infinite Universe, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA
Nu Age Hustle, Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY
Masqueraders are the Ancestors of Protestors, IMC Lab + Gallery, New York, NY
Space is the Place, Disjecta, Portland, OR
nowhere differentiable, Simon Center for Physics and Geometry, Stony Brook University
Metaphysical Interventions, LeRoy Neiman Gallery, Columbia University, New York
Interwoven: Art.Craft.Design, Arlington Art Center, Arlington, Virginia

Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN, traveled to Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba, and Glenbow Art Museum, Clagary, Canada
Super HUMAN, Central Utah Art Center, Ephraim, UT and Aljira Center for the Arts, Newark, NJ
MIE: Portraits, Freight+Volume, New York, NY
Journey of Peace, Concordia College, Bronxville, NY
All Good Things Become Wild and Free, HF Johnson Gallery of Art at Carthage College, Kenosha, WI

Bunny ReduxThe Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA
The Bearden Project, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (catalogue)
The February Show, Ogilvy and Mather, New York, NY
Uncovered, Eden Rock Gallery, St. Barts
Playboy Redux, Copro Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art, Craft and Design, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX
ThreadsSenga Nengudi, Saya Woolfalk, Rashawn Griffin, and Shinique Smith, Eli Klein Fine Art, Beijing, China
The Sitting Room: 4 Studies, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA
Collected: Reflections on the Permanent Collection, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY
Transhuman Conditions, Arlington Arts Center, Arlington, VI
Losing Yourself, Maryland Art Place, Baltimore, MD
Playboy Redux, Rotofugi Gallery, Chicago, IL
Companion, The Elizabeth Foundation, New York

AIM 29: Living and Dreaming, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY
Super Girl, Nexus Art Place, Baltimore, MD
The OpenDeitch Studios, Long Island City, NY
Losing Yourself, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Back to the Garden, Deutsche Bank Art Gallery, New York, NY
More Art Less Filler II, Space 204 Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Playing Around, Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, Brattleboro, VT
Making It, Deutsche Bank Art Gallery, New York, NY
2012+, The Drop Urban Art Infill, New York, NY
PulseTaller Boricua / Puerto Rican Workshop, New York, NY
Next Post,Rupert Ravens Contemporary, Newark, NJ
If I Didn’t Care: Generational Artists Discuss Cultural HistoriesThe Park School, Baltimore, MD

New Intuitions: Artist-In-Residence, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY
In Transit, Moti Hasson Gallery, New York, NY
Storytellers, Paperwork Gallery, Baltimore, MD
Once Upon A Time, Ise Cultural Foundation, New York, NY

Simulasian, Asian Contemporary Art Fair, New York, NY
Kazuo Ohno 101: Three-Week Butoh Parade, Japan Society, New York, NY
Jamaica Flux, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Queens, NY
Yokohama Boogie: Under the Influence, ZAIM, Yokohama, Japan
U Can’t Touch Dis: The New Asian Art, Zone Chelsea, New York, NY
Young Sculptors Competition, Hiestand Galleries, Miami University, Oxford, OH
Float, Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NY
Whitney ISP, Artists Space, New York, NY

Works on Paper, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC
Saya Woolfalk and James Fotopoulos, Momenta Art, Williamsburg, NY (curated by Eric Heist)
Treemendous, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY
Dead of WinterHudson Valley Center of Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY
Peace King Mother Nature, Second Gallery, South Boston, MA
YEA! Young Emerging Artists, Westchester Arts Council, White Plains, NY
Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA 2004 and 2005 Recipient Exhibition, CUE Art Foundation, New York, NY
The Jaundiced EyeScope-NY, entrance installation, New York, NY
d’Afrique d’Asie, Artist Commune, Hong Kong, China
Chimaera, Tenri Cultural  Institute, New York, NY
National Psyche, Lab Art Space, San Francisco, CA
The Studio VisitExit Art, New York, NY

Greater New York 2005, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY
Production of Escapism—a project by Rashid JohnsonIndianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Indianapolis, IN
Holiday WindowsExit Art, New York, NY
d’Afrique d’Asie, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York, NY
Working Process: a glimpse into the artist’s studio practice, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
Sinister, The Museum at the Tarble Arts Center, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL

Scary/Cute, Flux Factory, Queens, NY
Social SeductionThe Betty Rymer Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
The Chicago 11, Florida Southern College, Lakeland, FL
Spring Fever, Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM
Unlucky in Love, School of the Art Institute, Chicago, IL

As Small As Possible, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
December Group ShowG-2 Gallery, Chicago, IL
Remark/Remarket, 1926 Halsted Gallery, Chicago, IL
Project Room: Richard Levy Gallery, Scope Art LA, Los Angeles, CA
Group Exhibition, 2003, Stray Show, Chicago, IL
Artwindows 2003G’Bani, Chicago, IL
Fieldwork; in honor of national women’s history month, 1926 Halsted, Chicago, IL

National Juried Exhibition, Ceres Gallery, New York, NY
unfoldingobject: critical selectionsMiranda Fine Arts & Henaine Fine Art, Port Chester, NY
EA50: HEREart’s 6th Annual Emerging Artists Show, HEREart, New York, NY
Exhibition to Benefit Breast Cancer Research, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY

Annual Group Exhibition, The Museum at F.I.T., New York, NY
Juried Exhibition, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence, RI

Baltimore Museum of Art
Chrysler Museum of Art
Davis Museum at Wellesley College
Deutsche Bank, New York
Everson Museum of Art
Fleming Museum of Art
The Ford Foundation Collection, New York
JPMorgan Chase Bank, New York
Mead Art Museum
Montclair Art Museum
Newark Museum
Portland State University
Seattle Art Museum
Studio Museum in Harlem
Tufts University
Weatherspoon Art Museum
Whitney Museum of American Art
The Zabludowicz Art Trust

Artist-in-Residence, Headlands Center for the Arts, CA
Deutsche Bank Fellowship Award, New York Foundation of the Arts, NY

Artist-in-Residence, Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY
Artist-in-Residence, Simons Center for Physics and Geometry, SUNY Stony Brook, NY
Artist-in-Residence, Museum of Arts and Design, NY, NY

Artist-in-Residence, Dieu Donne Papermill, NY, NY
Artist-in-Residence, Newark Museum, Newark, NJ

NEA Access to Artistic Excellence Award, Real Art Ways
Artist-in-Residence, VAN, National Performance Network

Puffin Foundation, Long Island, NY
Fund for Creative Communities, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York, NY
Manhattan Community Arts Fund, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York, NY
Visiting Artist, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Harvestworks, New Works Residency, New York, NY

The Franklin Furnace Fund Grant for Performance Art
Artist in the Market Place, Bronx Museum

Artist-in-Residence, Studio Museum in Harlem
NYFA Fellowship – Cross-Disciplinary/Performance
Art Matters Grant – travel to Japan for the study of performance and craft traditions

Fulbright IIE Grant: Brazilian Fulbright Commission – for the study of performance and craft traditions
Artist-in-Residence, Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY

Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Fellowship

Selected Film Screenings and Performances
Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016, Screening Series, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

B3 Biennale of the Moving Image, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

ChimaTEK: Hybridization Visualization Mandala, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
ChimaTEK: Dinner Party Upload, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

Hybrid Cosmology, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, OR

Empathetic Plant Alchemy, Newark Museum Dreyfuss Planetarium, Newark, NJ
Ritual of the Empathics, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ
Lecture of the Artist: Empathetic Plant Alchemy, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN
Hybrid Cosmology, Newark Museum Dreyfuss Planetarium, Newark, NY

Empathic Imaginaries, Harvestworks, Soho Gallery Night, New York, NY

Ethnography of No Place, Zoom in on the Blur, Bas Fisher Invitational, Miami, FL
Ritual of the Empathics, Performa09, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY

Ethnography of No Place, Brooklyn International Film Festival, Experimental Film div, Brooklyn, NY

Coloring Book Cart featuring: The CleanersKitchen Highline Block Party, The Kitchen, New York, NY
The Cleaners, Resistance and the Law: Radicalism, Extremism, Legitimacy, Co-Optation, Harvard Law School Conference, Cambridge, MA

The Cleaners, Art Parade, Deitch Projects, New York, NY
Pessoa da Rua, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH
Pessoa da Rua, Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo, Brazil

Love Monster, Metro Color Collision at Frisbee Art Fair, Miami, FL
Terra de Lixo, Federal University of Maranhão, São Luis, Maranhão, Brazil
Winter GardenSculpture Space, Utica, NY

One Night Stand, Performing Art Chicago, Chicago, IL

Recent Commissions
Westfield World Trade Center & Art Production Fund
The Peninsula Hotels Art in Resonance, Paris
New York City Parks’ Creative Courts
Cincinnati ArtWorks & Contemporary Arts Center Mural

Sarah Cascone, Studio Visit: How Can You Maximize Your Time as an Artist in Residence? For Saya Woolfalk, the Key Is to Pick the Brains of Those Around You, Artnet News, November 30
Christina Nafziger, “From Bones We Rise: The Empathics” By Saya WoolfalkCreate! Magazine, May 14
Art World: ‘This Year Has Deranged My Senses’: 12 Artists on How the Pandemic Has Changed the Way They Approach Their Work, Artnet News, March 11

Benjamin Sutton, Best of 2017: Our Top 20 NYC Art Shows, Hyperallergic, December 17
John Cotter, Saya Woolfalk’s Empathic World, Articulate with John Cotter, PBS, Aired November 14

Knight, Christopher, Identity transformed in the Fowler’s ‘Disguise: Masks and Global African Art’ Review in Los Angeles Times, January 27

Johnson, Ken, Saya Woolfalk: ‘ChimaTEK: Hybridity Visualization System.’ Art in Review, The New York Times, February 19
Ebony, David, David Ebony’s Top 10 New York Gallery Shows in January, Artnet News, January 27
Murakami, Kenta, Artists of African Descent Don Disguises in the Digital Age, Hyperallergic, September 3
Frank, Priscilla, Global African Artists Explore the Meaning of Disguise in the 21st Century, Huffington Post, June 24
Gleisner, Jacquelyn, Saya Woolfalk’s Happy People, Art21 Magazine, October 20

Wolff, Rachel, Science Friction: Sci-Fi Gets Real, ArtNews, March (Cover)
Vartanian, Hrag, Get Your Fix of Sinister Post-Human Future, Hyperallergic, November 7

Cotter, Holland, Saya Woolfalk: Chimera. The Listings, New York Times, p C 19., April 19
Chun, Kimberly, Migrating Identities: Artists explore how to know other cultures, San Francisco Chronicle. (photo) p 16., July 4

Vogel, Wendy, Critic’s Picks: Saya Woolfalk: Montclair Art Museum, Artforum, December 26
Frank, Priscilla, Saya Woolfalk’s ‘The Empathics’ Turns Montclair Art Museum into Sci-Fi Mythological Laboratory (PHOTOS), HuffPost, December 23

Press Release
2022 Another World at Richard Levy Gallery