Written by Watie White
It was the fall of 2006, and I was out of place. I had finished my MFA a couple years before my young family was moving again. However, I had what felt like a big break: my first solo show in New York.
This was to be a woodcut show, and printmakers are very particular craftspeople. Paper is important, ink is important, no detail is unnoticeable. I received the call from the gallery: they wouldn’t accept the prints I had sent them, on multiple, technical fronts. Wrong paper, poor printing technique, poor storage and shipping.
I am reluctantly in Omaha and have no idea where any of the resources I need are. I reached out to UNO and talked them into letting me use a little time on the University presses, as long as I wasn’t disturbing anyone. I came in at night and got my work set up for an evening’s work.
At UNO at the time, there were two presses: the nice new press, still pristine and perfect and the old warhorse, with dented rollers, slipping gears and odd shaped blankets.
Soon, a Professor came in to print on her own work. Wanda. We talked about our work, I watched her preparing and printing on the beautiful press while I tried to calculate how much work she was going to do, figuring I would just wait. If my turn came at midnight, then it would come then. However, all printmakers know that dance, and she quickly turned the conversation to my work that night. She shared my joy for a show, my dread at having messed up my work with slapdash execution and low-key panic that my work won’t be good enough after all, that the printing won’t get done.
She removed her work from the press, insisted I take it and spent the next hours with me, assisting with paper, having deep discussions on what we do and why we are doing it.
That’s my first memory of Wanda Ewing. Her seeing my moment of insecurity and vulnerability in a new city, and greeting this stranger with generosity, assistance and confidence. I loved her ever since. She included me in print projects of hers, I lived with her work in my home. It was her advice I would seek in this art world over the years. I held a fundraiser to support her residency in Brazil when she started blending her prints with sewing and fabric. I visited her in her studio as she started making latch hook rugs, making the best work of her career, in my opinion.
I was in a hotel room on a freezing morning in Chicago when I heard she’d passed. It felt unfair. It felt tragic. It still does. We could use her voice these days more than ever.