Written By Trilety Wade
Having a solid memory of an introduction to a friend is a rare gift. I first met Wanda at a social gathering. If you knew Wanda, it won’t be a shock that I met her at a party. She treated people and parties similarly, rarely saying “no” to either. At a backyard soiree hosted by Timothy Schaffert and Rodney Rahl, Wanda and I got on immediately, talking about art and men. I went home and wrote about the day, with a small section devoted exclusively to the new friend I’d met just hours before, In walks Wanda/all confidence of comfort/She wore the print/before the leopard/A paper-art predator she’ll/masticate you with enticing aplomb/Until you are simmering in the/hot tub of her belly/Warm and at ease.
One of my cherished memories of Wanda was in Sally Brown Deskin’s basement with our friend Kristin Lubbert Ndoda. The four of us enjoyed cocktails and mocktails while playing Truth Jenga. How was I the only one to never have a wild run in with the police? Even though a decade of ages spanned across the four of us, we were all girls; in need of nothing other than friendship and fun. We were without airs that evening.
Wanda produced art that was as provocative as it was aesthetically inspiring. Both her art and her personality evolved to be subtly, rather than aggressively, confrontational, which was in my opinion way more powerful than any style of “in your face” attitude. My favorite piece of hers was a sculpture she brought to show when she was the featured artist at the inaugural Chittenden Art Haus event. The 3D piece resembled hot tar, magically animated into women bulging languidly from the tabletop on which they sat. Like naked bathers coming up for slow swallows of air, they entranced me.
Wanda wasn’t pedantic or pompous when it came to teaching. I wasn’t a student of hers in the formal sense, but I did learn a great deal from her. While setting up for “Les Femmes Folles: Voice,” a group exhibit we were both showing in, she came over and gave that carnivorously curious eye to my format and suggested something different. Bold, but not arrogant, she was right, and I believe my photos were better for the modification.
While we are born as individuals, we become myriad people once we set out into the world, because who we are to some people is completely different than who we are to others. The self-known by our mothers is different than the self-known by our lovers, and so on. To me, Wanda was effortlessly thought provoking, and just as effortlessly delightful. I loved how she was almost always the last to leave a party I hosted, and yet I never wanted her to go. She straddled the worlds of woman and little girl, and this was something we had in common. We would often talk on romance and love, and how both seemed so much more foreign and unobtainable than anything else in our lives. She passed before she fell in love, but she seemed more settled about it, and in that wisdom, I believe she found great comfort. And yet, so many were in love with her spirit, then and still now. She was as spiky as she was soft, as timid as she was conspicuous. But this is only who Wanda was to me. I can’t wait to read who she was to you.
Photos by Stuart Chittenden