By Bill Hoover
The first time I met Wanda Ewing was at an exhibition Renee Ledesma and I were having at Jackson Artworks in downtown Omaha. Wanda was one of those people who can enter a room and all eyes are on her. She had moved back to Nebraska and wanted to get involved in the local art scene. We made the connection that I had been extremely good friends with her sister Mona in high school. From that night on, Wanda became a colleague, a mentor, a teacher, and an inspiration, to not only me but countless artists in Omaha.
For this blog, I reached out to quite a few folks and asked for a one word description of Wanda. Colorful, Wandarful, but one artist, Jill Rizzo, summed it up best, “ONE?! She then proceeded to write about 20 words. Wanda once told me she didn’t want to be a big fish in a small pond. We were discussing what it means to “make it” in the art world…How do you measure your success…What do you buy into? She was a visionary, driven, and to quote Rizzo, “lived out loud.” Wanda had no problem saying “I want to be a big fish in a big pond.”
As working artists, Wanda and I would often talk about “The Life.” The long hours spent in a studio practice, to always be pushing ideas and imagination and using your chosen media to form your message. One thing I know for sure about Wanda. Her creativity was only matched by her work ethic. Her serious political message was only matched by her high hilarity. Wanda was so, so, so funny. She was an amazing model of fearlessness and surety, refusing to be ashamed, denigrated, second-guessed or pigeon-holed. It’s impossible to understate the impact she had on me and countless other artists, academics and friends who knew her. There will never be another Wanda Ewing. She is dearly missed.
I visited her at the hospital a few weeks before she passed. I was grief stricken because I didn’t know how sick she really was. She was very private about her cancer. I asked her if there was anything I could get her and she said yes, bring me an Orange Crush. 5 years later, I think of her as like that orange crush. Refreshing, sweet, sharp, tangy, with a name that famously has no rhyme.