Bougie-ing with Wanda-Bread
Written By Christopher Gulick
In 2006, I produced and curated an exhibit titled, “Cheesecake Cover-An Exhibition-ism”. Wanda responded to the call-for, emailed photos and then visited with me on the phone. As I opened the email, my head exploded, and I was in love with Wanda and her fabulous work. She was very excited to exhibit a recent body of work of this exact theme called, “BOUGIE”. This work, fueled by her ability to stand on the top edge of the fence regarding the constantly contentious subjects of sexuality, race, and the tension between both, was akin to opening a fresh oxygen bottle into a vape machine full of CBD. Grounded to the era of 1950s glam, Wanda took a stab at the 1970s era “Blaxploitation” and used it as a way to wave a finger about women’s issues. But not in the direction one might think in today’s climate. She was indeed speaking to the whole room yet referencing a specific message to her sisters in the room of, “STOP #!!@% with your HAIR!” As a guy who is a big fan of “au naturale”, observing this over all dynamic, I can report that her message was serious AND hilarious. During the opening of the exhibit, Wanda owned the room. All either nervously grimaced or stared and then laughed outload at the imagery of a huge smile and the accompanying texts such as, “Of Course It’s Your Hair…You Still Have The RECEIPT!”
In 2011, my wife Sheryl and I were privy to a trip to Omaha with another artist friend, Conrad Snider whom works often for and with artist Jun Keneko there in Omaha. “We gotta go see WANDA!”, I pronounced. We had a delightful visit over dinner and a memorable tour of her home, her collection of other artists as well as much of her personal inventory. I am so glad I took several photos during our visit. So glad.
I recall we spoke on the phone perhaps once or twice more. I do recall attempting a few more times over about a two-year period with no reply. People get busy, I know. I had been thinking to try again. You know how it is when you’re thinking of someone and then one of you call or you run into one another at the store or something. Well, my “something” was serendipity, stumbling across part of some comment, on the facebook page of someone I do not know, by someone named Mona Ewing. I barely recall, but the comment appeared sad and referenced “memories”. I had to find out what this was all about. Then I knew why I’d not heard back.
Mona, I thank God for you responding to me. Thank you for inviting me to share my speck of history with Wanda. She’s looking over me in my studio every day. Her painting, “Get WHREEL!” overlooks my workbench while reminding me to indeed stay “Whreel”.
Godspeed Wanda, Christopher Gulick