The Gestalt of Wanda
Written By Kristin Ndoda
I met Wanda a couple years before her cancer diagnosis. We weren’t especially close, but her warmth and attentiveness made me feel so welcomed and appreciated. She had so many exciting life stories to share and was equally interested in the experiences of others. We had both spent time in San Francisco and it was so enjoyable sharing our experiences with one another. Hearing her laugh in conversation and the joy it created is so easy to recall.
Shortly after meeting Wanda I started nursing school. I worked as a figure model for art classes during my program. Most modeling gigs were sporadic, occasional and unreliable. Wanda did things differently than most. I was fortunate to spend an entire semester modeling on Tuesdays for her. I was grateful for the steady income and to be able to sit in on her teaching of an introductory life drawing class. She included how the relationship with the model is part of the artistic process and was part of why she had only a few models through the semester. So instead of feeling like an object that drops into a class for a few hours I felt like a person contributing to the creation of art. She had a way of making life more meaningful in this way.
My Tuesdays with Wanda were the best drawing education I have ever received. I remember one lecture especially well. She taught about the concept of Gestalt – to not get caught up in the details, but to look at the whole of what is being seen and drawn. She walked around the classroom as students were drawing and gave this lesson so casually – but had clearly come from years of dedicated artistry and attention to aesthetics. The way she taught about Gestalt went beyond art and became a life lesson for me. Look beyond the details and see the greater whole.
Nursing school became very intense for me around the same time the cancer struggle was consuming Wanda. I know little about her private struggle. I think her approach to art and life in general helped her see the forest for the trees in a way that is nearly impossible for most amid a cancer struggle. The reach of her life, attitude, art and the whole of her were magically massive. I felt lucky when I first met her, and I continue to feel lucky to have known her and been moved by her. Wanda was working on the ethereal latch key carpet images the last time I talked with her. I can only imagine how fascinating the medium and imagery of her work would be now.