After 20 years in the local art scene, photographer Wanda Pearcy is aware of how art can be a tool for change. By day, she teaches photography at the University of Minnesota Duluth. “[I] seek to help people be honest with who they are, honest where they are and with each other in the classroom. Not an easy thing to do, since we are taught to try and please...and in the process of doing that you can lose pieces of yourself.”
Growing up in Duluth, Pearcy once carved an orange hippo out of wax at Central High School. She also sliced out a chunk of time to take a class on the French Impressionist Rembrandt.
Duluth photographer Wanda Pearcy poses with a skeleton and
authentic WWII gas mask that are
part of her next series, “Silent Cinema.”
A required art class led her to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UMD. Then a stint at Blue Water Dance in Duluth led her back to school, this time for a Master of Fine Arts from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. One particular experience in graduate school blazed her artistic trail—shredding a canvas “like linguini.” Then they reassembled the pieces into spheres and proceeded to roll them around the gallery floor like bowling balls.
After grad school, Pearcy launched a hitchhiking trek across the country, eventually landing in Florida. Today, she has two young children and is studying law in the hopes of becoming a judge.
Last May, her photo series, “Interwoven,” opened at UMD as part of the Tweed Museum’s A Thousand Words exhibit. One of Pearcy’s most striking submissions is a surreal nude, crouched beside a camping trailer. “It is a very intimate photograph. All my work is...I was more of an internal person. I was living more on the inside, than I was living on the outside. The next series that I am doing is [“Silent Cinema”], trying to intermix all these things I have been interested in.”
“Silent Cinema” is a homage to the silent film era. “I am going to trying to bring about those fantasies, those internal places to the surface...I am using the silent movie genre...to communicate in this process. They are going to be real quiet images.”
Collaborating with Pearcy is Michelle, a model and UMD alumnus, who posed for a photo shoot in her West Duluth flower garden, wearing white grease paint, under dark clouds threatening rain. In another, a backdrop of lush plants frames a skeleton in a gas mask, looming over a table with tea set.
“They had a quiet way of being political...With humor you can reach more people than with anger...For the theatre backdrops, I am using some props to bring in contemporary things, but also historical things...Like, that is an actual gas mask from World War II.”
No silent picture is complete without “intertitles,” connecting scenes, depicting action or dialogue that function as cognitive switches for the audience.
Capturing all of this is a 4"x5" camera. Pearcy will then scratch up the negatives to make them look old, and finish them digitally in post-production.