ShawNshawN (SS): In this new show, you have steered away from portraits into candy and plasticine animals.
What is this new direction?
Ingrid Wells (IW): The new series of oil paintings represent femininity and youthful exuberance without the use of
figures. The challenge that I set up for myself with the work is to discuss the feminine spectacle
without using the female form. Female bodies have been painted throughout art history in a
variety of ways (for others pleasure, to demonstrate vulnerability or aggression, etc). Even
though I enjoy painting figures, I needed to take a step back from that type of work due to the
loaded symbolism. In a way I almost wanted to put up a barrier for my female figures, and
protect them from viewers that might misinterpret their presence, only reading the work on a
surface level. I definitely see figure paintings in my future, but I wish to be methodical about the
use of the figure.
In my new series, the paintings reflect miniature plasticine trinkets, painted as shiny still lives
and inflated to grand proportions on the canvas. The images provoke a bizarre, almost
suffocating encounter between viewer and the enlarged, gendered objects, depicted in
variations of luscious pink on the canvas. Taken individually the trifles are cute and delightful,
but clustered into a candied extravaganza, the image’s complexity deepens and the sugary
mass of artificial happiness overwhelms.
This line of inquiry speaks to the pressure of maintaining the ideal woman’s voice as charming,
precious, and small. Together this work aims to provide a place of subtle reflection and
ultimately to dismantle the patriarchy (in the sweetest way possible).
SS: - I noticed in an earlier work you tackled Honey Boo TV show. How does this represent
children in today's TV world? Is this a positive or negative direction?
Nip Slip - Ingrid V. Wells
Hot [Pink] Dog! - Ingrid V. Wells
IW: The television show was addictive for many, all eyes on the ridiculous spectacle of child beauty
pageants, overweight women and an economic difference. The “reality” show spoke to the
ethics of fascination. I have empathy for the stars of the show, with the feeling that they are
cast as acts at the freak show, or caged animals in the circus. The production team put this
child on display and she performed accordingly. Americans display gender norms and expect
their children to perform accordingly.
SS: How do you interpret children pageants that are now on TV?
IW: Child beauty pageants teach children strange things about femininity and worth. They are sad
and odd and very American.
SS: How do you interpret manga as an art form? Is it art or veering into perversion?
IW: Manga, much like other genres is merely a tool, and it’s only in the hands of the artist does it veer into perversion. Much like other spaces, in this area women's voices are not represented in an equal fashion.
SS: Earlier this year, you painted a series on the surprise Trump election win. How did you react
as a painter?
Ingrid V. Wells
Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles
IW: This past year felt bizarre, and reminded me of the musical Cabaret, with fascism on the rise.
The series of paintings were of babydolls, each with a title from the chaotic musical. These
powerless objects, with painted on smiles, were subject to the needs and wants of others,
much like the character Sally Bowles (played by Liza Minnelli). The election results violated the
liberal bubble that I am surrounded by here in the artist community of San Francisco.
SS: Why do you think the #metoo campaign on social media came about now vs. an earlier time in web 2.0?
Thoughts On Being Agreeable - Ingrid V. Wells
Pink, Plastic & Proud - Ingrid V. Wells
IW: Women in America are more connected now more than ever because of the political attacks on
women’s rights and the orange chicken in office. American women are using all tools
necessary to respond, including marches on Washington and social media hashtags. Earlier
this year my work was curated into an exhibition at The Untitled Space in New York. This is
space is run by Indira Cesarine, Editor in Chief of The Untitled Magazine and the exhibition
included work from actress and women’s rights champion Rose McGowan. Being a part of that
exhibition reminded me that there are many artists upset about the way that women are treated
in America. It reminded me that the issues need to be visible, and that in publicly saying
#metoo it creates an empathic bond. Everyday we’re hearing about a new sexual abuse
scandal in the media and artists are responding loudly.
SS: Do you see yourself covering Malala Yousafzai, the girl shot by the Taliban? How do you think
female education impacts society interpretation of girls and later women?
IW: Not at this time, although her story is admirable. Education of minority groups often make the
majority group (or the one in power) feel threatened. There’s an embroidery stitch pattern going
around the internet right now it reads: “You know why weak men are afraid of strong, smart,
connected women? Because they f*cking should be.”
ShawNshawN, how do you relate to Ingrid's show Spectacle?
SS: I have done a two paintings on feminism. One was on the rape of a young girl in India that became national news after the grisly details of her death came out. Weirdly enough today I just had a twitter discussion with this guy trying to redeem a famous Indian politician accused of rape. So that was interesting continual conversation of #metoo on twitter.
My other painting is of Malala and her battle for equality of female education in Pakistan despite mortal death threats. It was interesting as she developed a blog that directly led to attempts on her life for challenging the status qua of submission in traditional tribal Pakistan.