Waverly Wang

Studies of Women

February 7-25, 2022

Sprague Gallery

A charcoal drawing of a female figure with squinted eyes holds a pair of glasses with one hand and an open book with another. The figure appears to be trying to read what is in the book.
Oh, Good Heavens, 2017, white charcoal on paper, 19 x 13 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Sprague Gallery is pleased to announce Waverly Wang – Studies of Women. Waverly Wang (HMC) is an artist whose diverse bodies of work often take the form of portraiture and represent the artist herself, people from the artist’s life and social media, historical figures, performing artists, and fictional characters, both from popular culture and of the artist’s creation. As a result of the prolific nature of Wang’s practice – one can easily get lost in the sheer amount of works and figures – proliferation and complexity arise as the key pattern and quality of the figures, particularly of women.

The exhibition begins with Oh, Good Heavens (2017), which Wang calls a medieval self-portrait, and Noodle from Gorillaz (2017), a portrait of an animated member of a virtual band. Both feature women in glasses and books: Wang’s medieval self, through the reading glasses, gazes long into the book; and Noodle, wearing round sunglasses and blowing an equally round bubble, becomes the book. As the exhibition progresses, the self proliferates into multiple faces and hands each with their own expression and movement; a woman, plunged into rain and reverie, appears as though she is rain and reverie; another woman moves through music and herself becomes rhapsody in Rhapsody in Blue (2018); and numerous characters and those who perform the characters dress, pose, and live on and off stage.  

Wang points out fanfic as a primary source where she finds truly complex women:

Female characters I see in films are too overpowered. Writers seem to make female characters strong in the way a man is strong like physically.... Writers can sometimes feel too afraid to give flaws to female characters. That’s why I really like fanfiction. The majority of fanfiction is female-written work. And there seems to be more examination of areas like motherhood... [as well as] intelligence, arrogance, and beauty.... I will keep searching.

The sought complexity is very much evident in Wang’s works inspired by fanfiction of Sherlock (BBC, 2010-2017). Her work not only imagines a female Sherlock but realizes other potentialities of the character by dressing her in John Watson’s clothing and making her both a detective and a mother.

As the women move and proliferate through the uncontainable backgrounds of time, space, and art and embody interdependency of qualities and identities rather than collision between them, their complexity gains a new dimension. These women are out of ordinary and out of continuity, yet extremely familiar and recognizable.

The exhibition ends with My Sisters at a Night at the Zoo (2022), which features two lights, two chairs, and two women.

Waverly Wang – Studies of Women opens on February 7 and continues through February 25, 2022. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8AM to 5PM. As a precautionary measure, the exhibition is open to students, faculty, and staff of Harvey Mudd College only until February 13; and starting February 14, it is open to students, faculty, and staff of The Claremont Colleges. Masks are required. The Covid-19 guidelines will be updated as new information becomes available.

The exhibition is curated by Julia Hong.

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