Lena Wolff grew up living semi-communally with her family at the Zen Center in Los Angeles in the 1970’s, and went on to live as a young person in Paris and outside of Amsterdam before going to an arts-based high school in the San Jacinto mountains of California. Based now in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1991, she works in a range of material approaches including drawing, paper collage, sculpture, murals, text-based pieces and public art, in fluid practice that extends out of American craft and folk art traditions, while at the same time being connected to the modern and contemporary movements of geometric abstraction, minimalism, social practice and feminist art. Her work is highly informed by her experience of San Francisco in the 1990’s, a dynamic time within the Bay Area when the arts community was thriving. Overlapping circles of artists, writers, dancers and musicians were motivated to make work that involved a spirit of collectivism and a dismantling of all kinds of outdated hierarchies –hierarchies of aesthetics and gender, as well as superficial divisions between high and low art. The context of this time is still relevant to her process today, and in addition to her own independent studio activities, she frequently collaborates with other artists, craftspeople, designers and makers across disciplines.
Since the 2017 presidential election, Wolff works both as an artist and an activist. As the first person to start a chapter of Solidarity Sundays outside of the initial group that formed in Alameda in 2016, Wolff gathers monthly with a circle of feminists of all genders who stand for a future that values democracy, inclusion, equality, art, science and the natural world.
Wolff received a BA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College (1995) and an MFA in Printmaking from San Francisco State University (2003). She has exhibited at the Headlands Center for the Arts, the Legion of Honor Museum, The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, Needles & Pens, Southern Exposure, Traywick Contemporary, CULT / Aimee Frieberg Exhibitions and New Image Arts among other spaces. In addition to private collections, her work is in the public collections of the One Archive, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Alameda County Arts Commission, Facebook, the Cleveland Clinic, the University of Iowa Museum and the Zuckerman Museum of Art, among others. In 2017, she will be an artist-in-residence for the month of November at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. Taking a cue from an album by The Quails, The Song is Love (Mr. Lady Records 2003, cover painting by Wolff), her upcoming residency looks at the transformative power of art and collaboration to generate empathy and the sublime in times of political and ecological disaster.
Lena Wolff lives with her wife, artist and illustrator of Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, Miriam Klein Stahl and their daughter Hazel in Berkeley, California. Together Wolff and Stahl have been a steady force in the broader art scene and queer community of the Bay Area, placing their home at the center of social, art and political gatherings for over two decades.