Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Photo Dept. Experiments With Greenwood

    Seattle University photography students explore varied media to hone their craft, but chances are they don’t spend much time performing musical numbers with video recordings of themselves.

    Now, thanks to a new addition to the photography department faculty, they just might get
    that chance.

    Visual artist Wynne Greenwood, well-known across the U.S., will be joining the department this fall as an instructor. The artist, who has had her art featured as numerous national venues, including The Frye, will likely bring a new, experimental vibe to Seattle U’s photography students.

    Greenwood is a queer feminist artist who has worked in a number of media, ranging from video work and performance art to music. She’s originally from Redmond, but has traveled around the country both performing and learning her craft. Coming from a family of artists, she attended Douglass College and Rutgers University for her undergraduate years and went on to get an MFA from Milton Avery Graduate School for the Arts at Bard College in 2004. She moved back to Seattle from New York in 2006.

    She is well-known in the art world and has become, over the years, a cult star. Surprisingly enough, Greenwood is most well-known not for traditional visual arts but rather for music.

    Back in 2001, Greenwood was busy traversing the country and performing as Tracy and the Plastics. While performing, she would simultaneously take on the role of her alter ego Tracy and her fellow band members Nikki Romanos and Cola. While Greenwood manned the stage, her fellow “band members” occupied the space as pre-recorded videos behind her. Tracy would handle vocals, Cola took the drums, and Nikki played the keyboard.

    The piece had underpinnings in Olympia’s own riot grrrl scene. Between songs, Tracy would have amusing conversations with her fellow band mates, arguing over different subjects and discussing their sexuality.

    This project ultimately took off in the experimental art scene of New York, where Greenwood performed at gay bars and university auditoriums. She also displayed her talents at some of the city’s more famous spots, like The Kitchen and The Whitney.

    In 2006, she retired Tracy and the group due to personal health and various other factors, and returned to Seattle.

    Since returning to Seattle, Greenwood has shifted her attention more specifically to installation-based works, which have been similarly popular. Her installation entitled “Peas” was featured as a Susanne Vielmetter Berlin Project from February to April 2007.

    The installation has the artist communicating with visual representations of different parts of her selfhood and society itself.

    The Stranger, which awarded Greenwood a Genius award back in 2008, described the piece in these terms: “’Peas’ is both scripted and impromptu, something that feels not like performance, but like revelation. Her unplanned crying is a rupture (for her and for the audience) that recontextualizes the work that came before it: She isn’t only a construction, she’s really in there, and she’s letting you see it, right up to when the camera cuts to the baritone joke.”

    Greenwood’s work isn’t simply experimentation: it also deals with political questions of power and sexuality. In “Peas” in particular, she exhibits the problems of a lesbian—or anyone with a non-heteronormative identity—navigating a patriarchal world.

    In another piece, “Mirrors and Dresser,” Greenwood begins on the floor in a bathrobe, speaking to a projection of a naked Betty Boop on a box just behind her. Together, they discuss the feasibility of Boop praying while being “naked” and “relaxed.” The video then transitions to something more akin to a music video, with Greenwood navigating a space of boxes and lights while signing, occasionally dawning makeup and pantomiming movements.

    The work is full of enigmatic emotion and sometimes feels impenetrable, but it certainly conjures up a visceral response.

    For students at Seattle U, the introduction of Greenwood as a faculty member will no doubt serve as a great opportunity to learn from one of Seattle’ most genre-bending artists.

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