Sweet Castrator: Wynnie Mynerva’s Revenge

By Sofía Cerda Campero / Photographs by Francesca Florian for TOUT

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On a Monday afternoon in June at the LatchKey Gallery (LKG) in Canal Street, New York, Wynnie Mynerva stands before one of their paintings. They’re dressed in a bright array of colors: a sheer violet top, a mauve bomber jacket, an eggplant-colored kilt and bright blue stockings that peek from white astronaut-like boots. Wynnie’s straight ebony hair is pulled back in odango-style double buns, a heavy streak of black eyeliner highlights their pitch-dark eyes.

Behind them an eight-foot canvas displays two female figures kneeling together, they both hold a knife splashed with deep crimson and red. Two flies hover above the women while a hand holds out a breast resting on a tray. A masculine figure, their abuser, lies underneath them, his head being slashed. The colors spread at the bottom of the canvas like blood. Shades of pastels surrounding the scene blend together like a kaleidoscope: rose, canary yellow, lavender-blue, chestnut brown.

“Bold brushstrokes, strong lines, colors that mesmerize, as if they carried all of the destruction and beauty of this world.”


El Retorno Al Útero, 200 x 200 cm, Óleo sobre lienzo (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

It’s daring, it’s unapologetic, it hits you right in the face. Bold brushstrokes, strong lines, colors that mesmerize, as if they carried all of the destruction and beauty of this world.

“These images arise from pain, they tell stories of rape, depression, fear, revenge. The color palette I have chosen helps me tolerate the gravity of the narratives that I have rescued from my memory,” says Wynnie in Spanish, “perhaps these colors represent the hidden direction to where I want these metaphors to transition to.”

“This body of work reflects how I currently feel towards heterosexual masculinity.”

At 28, the Peruvian non-binary artist from Lima is showing Sweet Castrator, their first solo exhibit in New York, a collection of pieces that brings the artist’s most vulnerable moments into oil paintings. Stories of personal trauma told through their own memory. Scenes gathered from catharsis, a visceral re-interpretation of femininity that defies the visual discourse that has been commonly displayed.

“This is a space for symbolic action, I’m confronting the masculine form through visual revenge so I can rid myself from the violence I’ve felt throughout my life,” says Wynnie. “This body of work reflects how I currently feel towards heterosexual masculinity.”

Story of Revenge I, 250 x 250 cm, Oil on canvas, (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

Story of Revenge I, the first of a three-piece series of large-scale paintings, draws direct influence from Artemisia Gentileschi’s 17th-century piece Judith Beheading Holofernes, both pieces illustrating women brutally killing their male oppressors.

“Throughout the history of art, women have been visually represented as artifacts to compose war scenes, many of which consist of illustrating rape,” says Wynnie, “I wanted to show a conflict between two parts through the killing of this masculine form and what it represents. I’m confronting my own fear of living in a machista society.”

Growing up in Villa el Salvador, a coastal district in the outskirts of Lima, Wynnie grew up witnessing violence first-hand. Drug trafficking, prostitution, kidnappings — “It all happened in front of my house,” they say, “so my sexuality never seemed too important because there were more important things happening. You could get killed.” This meant Wynnie had to carry out certain practices in order to be safe: they had to be home by five in the afternoon, be very careful of who they were dating and avoid wearing certain clothes that could draw attention or put them at risk.

“In a country like Peru, where women get harassed, raped and killed, we’ve been taught to remain in visual silence,” they say, “It was especially hard in the neighborhood where I grew up because violence was part of our everyday lives. For many years I adapted ways of hiding myself and the expression of my identity as a form of self-protection.”

“No one knew that gender crimes were happening, that wasn’t something people talked about, it was just killings because we didn’t have the tools or language to address these issues.”

Latin America is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicides in the world. In Peru, a total of 138 were reported by authorities in 2020, while 5,521 women were reported as missing, two-thirds of whom were girls. And yet, words such as gender violence and femicide still seem to be hidden from everyday lives. “No one knew that gender crimes were happening, that wasn’t something people talked about, it was just killings because we didn’t have the tools or language to address these issues,” says the artist.

In Sweet Castrator, Wynnie is the protagonist, every painting reveals a different aspect of themselves, all of them confronting systemic patriarchal violence. “I’m present in all of them.” All My Tears, for example, depicts a nude, hunched over figure with fat tears streaming down their side. “I’m showing a person who just had sex with someone,” explains Wynnie. “They cry as the other person masturbates, like when you agree to have sex without wanting to or feel conflicted by it.”

Through this process, Wynnie confronts their wounds that range from microaggressions to battles drawn from their imagination. “I often felt like saying, ‘Take my body, eat from me, take all of me, I don’t care how,’ and then I have these battle scenes where I’m killing a man.”

“The viewer is constantly conflicted as ideas, colors and shapes are constantly juxtaposed by erotism and a soft-colored palette. It is in this duality that we find truth in the complexity of the discourse.”

Love Story, 150 x 150 cm, Oil on canvas, (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

These are all short narrations of scenes that have happened in their life that analyze gender identity, the idea of romantic love and death. The viewer is constantly conflicted as ideas, colors and shapes are constantly juxtaposed by erotism and a soft-colored palette. It is in this duality that we find truth in the complexity of the discourse. A truth that speaks freedom.

“Color has become a way of making myself present. My work, my space and the way I carry color in my everyday clothes are a way of declaring that I exist.”

“Color has become a way of making myself present. My work, my space and the way I carry color in my everyday clothes are a way of declaring that I exist.”

In September, Wynnie will be presenting a solo show at the Ginsberg Gallery in their native Lima, Perú. The exhibit will aim to show a healing ritual of their vagina, closing it physically and subjectively in order to re-think other symbolic ways of opening it.

This is an excerpt from Issue 01 of TOUT, a print magazine by Dims. launching Fall 2021. Sign up to be notified when it’s available for purchase.

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