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Holly Wong-Head Shot 2022.jpeg

Photography by Al Wong

Holly Wong - Fiber Installationist

Holly lives and works in San Francisco and describes her primary art as "fiber installations".  Her art, at first look, is very serene and a reminder of the quilts that the elders would make yet as she explains it is a look into the way women bodies have ben viewed and sometimes violently abused. With her emphasis on telling a universal truth, she has given the viewer a gentle way to view the female body.  vf

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Artist On The Cutting Edge: How did you come to art?  

HOLLY WONG: Like many artists, I was creative as a child and loved to paint or draw growing up.  As I became a young adult, I found that artwork was a way for me to understand my personal history and to process the more troubling aspects of my life.  What began initially as a discipline to improve myself and my craft has become a daily obsession.  The practice of making work is the key to keeping me whole, healthy, and optimistic about my life.  It resolves feelings of anxiety and helps me to feel purposeful and realized as a person.

 

AOTCE: How long have you been in the arts?  

 

HOLLY WONG: Post graduate school, I have been a working artist for about 20 years.

 

AOTCE: Who were your biggest supporters?  

 

HOLLY WONG: My husband, artist Al Wong, is a tireless supporter of my work.  I am also grateful to have a community of artist friends and great relationships with 2 galleries (SLATE Contemporary in Oakland and ELLIO Fine Art in Houston) that promote and encourage my work.

 

AOTCE: Have you ever taught art?

 

HOLLY WONG: I have taught art in the context of adult learning/weekend classes at the San Francisco Art Institute.

 

AOTCE: How would you describe your work and what category would the historians put your art? 

 

HOLLY WONG: My work would be described as contemporary fiber art installation, drawing from the rich art historical feminist practices of the 1960’s and 70s.

AOTCE: Are you a full time artists? If not what else do you do?

 

HOLLY WONG: I am not a full-time artist per se since I do not rely on making art as my primary source of income.  That said, my studio practice makes up about 25-30 hours of my week.  I do have a full-time day job doing finance work at UCSF Alliance Health Project, so I create my art starting at 2am daily before work in order to get the studio time in.

 

AOTCE: What is your medium of choice?

 

HOLLY WONG: I work primarily with fiber installation, and collage.  Recently, I have started to integrate elements of video and LED lighting as a new direction in my work.  In the past several years, I have worked extensively with drawing and painting on paper and drafting film.

 

AOTCE: Do you have a studio or is your studio at home?

 

HOLLY WONG: My studio is in my home.

 

AOTCE: Did you show your work during the past year?

 

HOLLY WONG: Yes, I have had 11 group exhibitions in the past year including the Court Tree Collective Gallery and A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, ELLIO Fine Art Gallery in Houston, ARC Gallery in San Francisco, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley, and Northern Illinois University in Decatur.  In addition, I created 16 pieces for a clinic installation at UCSF Women’s Health Primary Care which was up for several months in 2022.

 

AOTCE: Did your art change over the years?

 

HOLLY WONG: Over the past 20 years since finishing my MFA program, my work has migrated back and forth from painting and drawing to larger scale fiber-based installations.  In graduate school, I also did single channel video and performance.  Much of my earlier work spoke to social or political issues in a more didactic fashion as I tried to tell a story about the history of violence against women and the use of rape as a tool of war and genocide.  My work was externally focused but as I changed as an artist over time, I realized that I had to invert this to instead tell my own stories in a way that was more universal to the experiences of viewers.  I started to think more broadly about feminism and what it meant to me in the sense that the body becomes a battle ground in contemporary culture.  I use the act of making quilt-like constructions that I then cut up and rebuild to describe the female body and the ways in which it is defined as impure, imperfect and never enough.  My artmaking becomes a form of reclaiming and honoring the body and my integration of materials over the past 5 years in particular is a part of that process.  The installations “Silent Music” and “Guardian of the Spirits” both demonstrate the kind of evolution to accept my body and to celebrate it.

AOTCE:Where can your work be seen?

HOLLY WONG: I am represented by SLATE Contemporary Gallery in Oakland, CA and ELLIO Fine Art in Houston, TX which have an inventory of my work available for viewing.  I also have 8 exhibitions on the schedule for 2023. 

You can view this schedule at: https://hollywongart.com/current-shows/

AOTCE: What do you hope the viewer will come away with after viewing your work, and is that important?

HOLLY WONG: In viewing my work, I hope that people will have a strong emotional response, a feeling of mystery, wonder and a sense of spiritual renewal.  I work in a large scale to envelope and encompass.  Ultimately, I hope my work brings healing and reconnection.  The viewer’s experience of my work is extremely important to me.

AOTCE: Who is your favorite artist or influence?

HOLLY WONG: American artist Sheila Hicks, who has lived and worked in France since the mid 1960’s.  She is in innovative fiber artist who creates weavings and sculpture/textile installations that emphasize color, natural materials, and personal narratives. She has had a pure, consistent vision regardless of artworld trends.  Her handling of materials is truly original.

 

AOTCE: Do you mentor or teach today?

 

HOLLY WONG: I do not teach currently.  However, I participate in several online communities with other artists such as https://www.vvrkshop.art/netvvrk and https://www.ilikeyourworkpodcast.com/membership

In interacting with other artists, I wouldn’t describe myself as a mentor per se, but I share any insights or information with fellow artists, especially those earlier in their careers who need support.

 

AOTCE: What words of wisdom would you like to leave our readers?

 

HOLLY WONG: If you are an artist or maker and the work brings you joy, never stop making your work.  Sometimes, you may need to take time out or stop temporarily but remember that you can always begin again; your practice is sacred.  Also, remember that while it can feel like a competitive rat race, you are not in competition with other artists.  Stay in your own lane, celebrate the successes of others, learn from others and “grow your own garden” so to speak.  When you are making your best personal work, there is no need to have regrets.

 

 

AOTCE: Thank you for being as open as you were.

 

 

HOLLY WONG: Most welcome

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