Waverly Wang: Studies of Women Exhibition at Sprague Gallery

Article by Waverly Wang

Photos by Waverly Wang and Michelle Lum

Hi everyone, my name is Waverly Wang. I’m a junior at Mudd majoring in Computer Science and Media Studies. I recently showcased my art in a solo exhibition at Sprague Gallery in Shan! I’m going to answer some questions I thought people might have. 

How did I get the opportunity to showcase my art in Sprague Gallery?

Back in 2020, I saw an email from Sprague Gallery about an open call for musical art; it had been sent by arts director Julia Hong of the HMC Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts who curates exhibitions for the gallery.  I responded with some art pieces I did for my AP Art concentration, which was about visualizing music. I was selected but sadly, right before I was going to meet with Julia, we were sent home because of COVID. One of my music-art paintings, The Lark was showcased in the So They Sang virtual exhibition (Dec 2020 – Feb 2021) curated by Julia and hosted online. 

This August, I submitted some paintings I did over the pandemic when there was another open call, and Julia asked if I would like to do a solo exhibition. I was honored and gladly accepted! 

What was the exhibition process like?

In November, Julia and I met in person to discuss my works and decide on a theme. Typically, an artist’s work is coheres into some major theme, but my work is all over the place. I’m constantly trying new styles. Julia actually liked how my style was not always consistent. She found this challenging but in a fun way. I was interested in what Julia found fascinating about my work and what narrative she saw in it. Julia seemed very fascinated by my sketches and my process drawings, especially the Sherlock ones. We briefly considered showing my music-art paintings, but ultimately, Julia suggested “Women” could be a theme, and I liked how I could showcase all my different styles with it. Julia requested to see all my pieces featuring women, so I compiled work on my art blog, and she selected from these works for the exhibition. I was surprised how hands-on the process was. For example, I installed the exhibition with Julia. Overall, this gallery process was exciting because I really love collaborating with people and seeing their vision. It was great to talk to someone who specializes in art and has professional insight.

What are the meanings behind some of my pieces in the gallery?

Two of the paintings  in the gallery, Reverie and Rhapsody in Blue, are part of a 12 piece concentration about visualizing music for AP Art. Music has always conjured vivid imagery and I wanted to communicate how the principles of design overlap with music: rhythm, color, movement etc. I did extensive research on the music history of those pieces. Reverie was inspired by the Debussy piece of the same name and the film Shape of Water and Rhapsody by Gershwin’s piece and Disney’s Fantasia.

For “Self-Portrait based on NFWMB”, I was inspired by my younger sister’s painting. She painted a tsunami wave coming on the horizon toward my brother. I imagined it would go well with Hozier’s NFWMB. I envisioned a scene that would happen right before her painting, where someone was having a coming-to-Jesus moment in the rain. It wanted it to be a companion piece to my sister’s piece. 

Behind the Scenes and The Dressing Room are me exploring fiction and reality clashing. That was part of another AP Art concentration based on my fascination with behind-the-scenes photos of movies and TV shows. 

Why do I do art?

I’ve just always loved drawing. I was maybe two or three years old when I started. I drew a lot of butterflies inspired by my stuffed animal butterfly. And I’ve never really stopped drawing! I think I heard someone describe the urge to draw like a demon that needs to be exorcized from you. Yeah, that’s apt. 

A lot of my work tends to be derived from other creative work. TV shows, movies, books, and music inspire me the most. I make lots of fanart, and even art about fanfiction. Recently, I’ve been obsessed with the book Six of Crows, Shadow and Bone, and Arcane . You can see lots of my Sherlock (BBC) fanart in the gallery. Recently, I’ve tried to make more original art like My Sisters at a Night at the Zoo (2022) which was based on a trip we took to the Oklahoma Zoo this winter break. In that piece, I experimented with capturing camera blur. 

What’s my art process like?

On more ambitious pieces, I’ll create thumbnail drawings and collect references. But usually, I’ll just jump in! On some paintings, I’ll blend directly on the canvas without a palette to maintain bright colors. I like to leave my marks with an almost sketchy quality so that you can feel movement and energy. I don’t try to convey realism as I try to approximate the essence of my subject. When I make mistakes, I’ll incorporate them into my pieces to make something new. 

Why didn’t I major in art?

I have this crisis everyday at Mudd! I thought about going to art school and applied to one after high school, but I was so burnt out by AP Art that I thought I wouldn’t want to be graded for my art. I put so much heart into my art, and it can be painful to be so emotionally invested in every creative decision. At the time, I wasn’t making much art for fun. Also, I thought studying Computer Science would be more practical.

When I got to Mudd, I sometimes felt like a square peg in a round hole because I felt much more arts-focused than most other Mudders. During sophomore fall, I got very burnt out by Core, so I decided to take a lighter semester in sophomore spring. When I took Intro to Digital Art, I realized that taking art classes wasn’t as stressful as it had been for me in high school. It was actually really fun. Last summer, I really rediscovered my love for art. I spent all summer painting with my younger sister in our make-shift art studio and it was the best time ever.

I also came to peace with not feeling very “STEM-my”. Weirdly, once I accepted that, I started enjoying learning in my STEM courses. I used to think coming to Mudd meant I had “given up” art. But now I see, I’ll always find a way to make time to draw. I’m thinking of studying more art in the future since I haven’t been able to fit in as many art classes as I would have liked. Whether it’s for school or not, I will always want to create something or make stories. 

Any last thoughts about showcasing at Sprague Gallery? 

I still can’t believe it’s real! I’m ecstatic because this is the biggest audience I’ve ever had. Julia told me that a class visited my gallery, which is insane to think about. I’m most honored by how I’m being treated like a real artist, how Julia’s curating and exhibition design created the possibility for serious consideration of my work, and how she critically analyzed the work in the press release that accompanied my exhibition. It’s a dream come true. 

The exhibition ran from Feb. 7 to 25 at Harvey Mudd College’s Sprague Gallery (located at the bottom of the Shan steps). 

Read the press release by Julia Hong here.

If you like Waverly’s art, you can check out her art Instagram account, @watsonwaddles, and her art website, waverlywang.wordpress.com.

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