Johanna Winters


I investigate anxieties of the female experience as it relates to aging, vanity, shame, restraint, and pleasure to confront the social conditioning that perpetuates the repression of female desire, and prioritizes and encourages male pleasure. Using puppetry, drawing, and printmaking, I bridge the genres of performance and visual art to confront how female desire is inhibited, enacted, sustained, and diminished over a lifetime. 

My current work chronicles a troupe of women hiding themselves in shifting walls to resist the shame of their womanhood. As they enter their middle years, they initiate a process of deterioration to outpace the looming disappointment of an unfulfilled desire. These women bend against their frame, 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.

In particular, I use shadow-puppetry to refute to misogynist historical and contemporary restraints imposed upon women, such as the expectation to bear children, to be a repository for male desire, to brandish physical appearance as social currency, to tolerate objectification, and to be ashamed of sexual desire. Shadow puppets possess the capacity to evoke a complex sense of familiarity in their near-humanness – they exist in-between a realm of recognition and hesitation. The characters in my work hover in this middle space, in a state of stubborn uncertainty. Suspended in a time that is both passing and returning, sustaining and releasing, these middle women summon a carnal pleasure in their undoing.