Johanna Winters


I use elements of puppetry and printmaking to investigate anxieties of the female experience as it relates to aging, vanity, shame, restraint, and pleasure. Bridging the genres of theatre and visual, my work chronicles a troupe of puppet-women who hide themselves in shifting walls to resist the shame of their womanhood. As they enter their middle years, they acknowledge the devastation of a misplaced desire, and initiate a process of deterioration to outpace the looming disappointment of their unmet longing.

These silhouetted characters bend against their frame, pull at their hair, turn down their mouths, and endure a slow process of waiting for their fate to come apart. They are neither bitter nor tolerant of this inevitable deterioration – they tepidly hinge against and toward it. While suspended in a time that is both passing and returning, sustaining and releasing, these middle women summon a carnal pleasure in their undoing.

I believe puppetry possesses the capacity to evoke a complex sense of familiarity and discomfort in its near-humanness. It exists in-between a realm of mortal recognition and fragmented otherness. This dualism allows for a simultaneous exposure of the spectacle (vulnerability) and concealment of the apparatus (protection) within the mechanism of the work. Though I am in control, I also relinquish some authority in a kind of puppet self-determination. In this way, it is permissible to disappear behind the puppet’s performance.

My interest in puppetry is reinforced by the distinct qualities of print media. I appreciate how printmaking commands an ownership over process in which intentionality and experimentation work in tandem. Similarly, puppeteers must exhibit control  and self-restraint in their movements. I believe printmaking and puppetry each embrace translation: a printmaker’s marks are transmitted from one surface onto another, while a puppeteer’s actions are translated into the puppet’s reflexes. Both mediums evoke a kind of call-and-response language defined by gesture.