Wendy S. Walters (M.F.A./Ph.D, Cornell) is a 2018-19 GIDEST fellow and the author of a book of prose, Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal (Sarabande Books, 2015), named a best book of the year by Buzzfeed, Flavorwire, Literary Hub, The Root, and Huffington Post. She is also the author of two books of poems, Troy, Michigan (Futurepoem, 2014) and Longer I Wait, More You Love Me. Wendy trained in literary studies, performance studies, political geography, and cultural studies. Her current field of interest is the writing practice as a means for conducting research and translating methods across disciplines.
Wendy’s GIDEST seminar will discuss her current project, which looks at the continued use of white paint from white-lead to latex. It is estimated that more than 80 million gallons of white house paint are sold every year in the U.S. This does not include white paints that are sold for construction or industrial use, for example, as the base coat of most major airline fleets. Throughout the late 18th and early 19th century many painters used white-lead paint in portraiture to accent the skin of their female subjects, just as their subjects used it to “paint” themselves for the occasion of being drawn. In cold creams, powders, and lotions, white-lead helped to redefine standards of beauty from the ancient Greeks to the modern era. Wendy’s project considers how white paint gets employed in narratives about starting over, many of which eschew and flatten history.