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Wanda Ewing: In Memoriam

posted by CAA — Dec 20, 2013

Maria Elena Buszek is associate professor of art history in the College of Arts and Media at the University of Colorado Denver.

Wanda Ewing

Wanda Ewing (photograph by Dana Damewood)

The artist and educator Wanda Ewing died in Omaha, Nebraska, on December 8, 2013, of complications from chemotherapy. She was 43 years old.

Born on January 4, 1970, Ewing received her BFA in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute, and later both an MA and MFA in printmaking from the University of Iowa. She was an associate professor of art at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, where she began teaching in 2005, leading courses in foundations and senior capstones for studio majors. She was a longtime member of the College Art Association, on whose Committee on Women in the Arts she served at the time of her death, as well as the Southern Graphics Council, where she was the International Board of Directors’ secretary.

Ewing’s work ranged from traditional print media to sculpture and, most recently, fiber arts. She was influenced by folk-art aesthetics and the depiction—and lack thereof—of African American women in popular culture, often with a biting, comical edge. Ewing’s best-known series included her pin-ups Black as Pitch, Hot as Hell, voluptuous clothing from The Summer I Wore Dresses,and faux magazine covers entitled Bougie. Her work has been included in exhibitions and purchased for collections throughout the world, and was reproduced in such publications as the Paris Review.

At the time of her passing, her series of brand-new, latch-hook works, Little Deaths, was on display at the RNG Gallery in Council Bluffs, Iowa—which will remain on exhibit, with additional works, through January 2014 as a memorial. She was, perhaps, proudest of her inclusion in the 2010 exhibition A Greater Spectrum: One Hundred Years of African American Artists in Nebraska at the Museum of Nebraska Arts, where her work was included alongside that of luminaries such as Aaron Douglas. Ewing was the recipient of grants and honors from the Women’s Caucus for Art, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Nebraska Arts Council, among other accolades.

Wanda Ewing

Wanda Ewing, Girl #9, from the series Black as Pitch, Hot As Hell, 2006, acrylic and latex paint on carved plywood, 48 x 48 in. (artwork © Wanda Ewing)

Ewing was also an excellent educator, beloved and respected by both colleagues and students at the University of Nebraska for her rigorous curricula, her no-nonsense critiques, and her outreach to the regional arts community. Her legacy at the school will live on in the form of the Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Wanda Ewing will be remembered by all who knew her for her larger-than-life personality, tremendous warmth, and indomitable spirit. She is survived by her mother Elouise Ewing; her siblings Mona Yaeger, Clarence Ewing III, and Annette Ewing McCann; and her nephew and niece Devlin and Kayleigh McCann.

Filed under: Obituaries