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Joni Wildman

Artist Website


Artist Biography

Wildman graduated from Florida State University in 2011, earning her BA in Creative Writing and a BFA in Studio Art. Wildman then went on to earn her MA and MFA from the University of Wisconsin.

Artist Statement

In my work, I play dress up. My paintings are triggered by poems from my manuscript Not Oz, a collection of poems that alter fairytale stories with ominous and funny narratives that explore my own individuality as a woman. My voice resonates through the altered experiences of fairytale characters so that, like trying on clothes, I can see how the experiences of universally known characters suit me as an individual.

I use my own image in the paintings as princesses and villains. All of the women in my family inadvertently change their face when they look at their own image. In mirrors, I change the shape of my mouth, almost a pout. My sister sucks in her cheeks. These “mirror-faces” are involuntary reactions to our own images that make us feel/appear to ourselves more beautiful. In this way, painting my own image (from a mirror) changes each of my fairytale counterparts into versions of me that are not only more beautiful according to my subconscious, but are also versions of my face that only I recognize because, If every time I see my reflection, I make the face, then I have never seen my true image.

By playing dress up with myself, I also mimic the action of internalizing the fairytale narrative. It is a child-like act, with adult themes and explicit sexuality (both common themes in my written work), which pushes the boundaries of the role of women in the original fairytale stories, where often innocent girls are victimized and older women are portrayed as villains. The work bridges the gap between writing and painting so that there is a seamless mental connection that is not bound by medium, but bound by the story and the individual.

I avoided illustration. The paintings function as the poetry does, as its own narrative world. Both poems and paintings rely on images, and rather than repeat the images from the poems in paint, I try to organically derive them from my own experiences with pop-culture and familiar objects. Images of a desolate sea floor in my poem Scheherazade led me to appropriate Gregory Peck from the 1951 film Moby Dick as the male hero of the painted narrative; where, in the poem, giant isopods pick at a dead whale carcass, his image as a whale killer holding the heroine, his white whale, is both dangerous and familiar.

Fairytales are dangerous and familiar too, they teach. They teach morality, social constructs and stereotypes, they teach the archetypes of good and evil without perspective, without context. The disjointed narrative in my paintings rails against that. When children view my paintings, they are delighted at the familiar images, the cartoons they recognize; adults see sex in the pin-up figures, the teeth on dogs, and the danger.

Currently on display in the Honors, Scholars and Fellows House:

Currently on display in the Turnbull Conference Center: