WANDA EWING (by Alicia Candiani)
The University of Iowa, in the United States, is well known for its internationally renowned printmaking program (established by the Argentine Mauricio Lasansky) and for being the nest that incubated Ana Mendieta;s performances and projects. It was at this university where the artist Wanda Ewing earned her MFA. I do not mention this casually because as their creative process, technique and focus on gender come together in a combination that is enjoyed twice if you know what was the context in which they began to originate and what bounds has this context with contemporary art. Thus, this creative artist is allows herself to break all the rules and to use unconventional, shinny and colorful materials while we perceive that she -as her women representation- is “in control”. Wanda has a refined use of technology, that she manipulates as she wants , to create powerful images that make us think about gender from a different point of view.
The “Jump Off” is slang in hip-hop culture referring to the girl that everyone has sex with. I learned this term after watching the VH-1 documentary “Sexploitation On the Set”. During the program, individuals working in the industry were asked if they thought the women who performed in the videos (known as Video Vixens) were taken advantage of or were the women in control. The responses from both men and women varied. Some thought the women were being used, others did not think so.
Karrine Steffans, the first Video Vixen, wrote a memoir about her experience in the industry. She completely denounces the industry as lude, sexist and misogynistic. She wrote about her sexual escapades and how she got the nickname Superhead due to her promiscuity. That name was shortened to Sue. Where it once felt “endearing”, it quickly turned ugly. She knew that if she stayed in the industry, she would succumb to the sex and drugs and eventually destroy her lifei.
As I watched the documentary, an image came quickly to me of the bodies of beautiful women with punching bags for heads and puppet strings attached around their ankles, feet and neck. The punching bag for me represents the psychological assault these women are being subjected to.