December 2023 Unicorn Of The Month: Holly Wong

I really need interns. Or a large sum of cash. Or both. Either of these things would give me more free time to keep this interview series going. Balancing my own work, and life, and this blog...there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day. But I imagine everyone in every profession feels this way. Holly has been on my radar for quite some time. Here work is extremely complex, with multiple layers of meaning. The more I stare at her work, the more it reveals to me, which in my opinion, is the hallmark of an artist at the top of their game. 

1. Tell me about you as a person. The name in which you prefer to go by. Where are you based? What are your origins, where are you from, etc.?

I go by Holly Wong and my pronouns are She/Her/Hers. I am based in San Francisco, California where I have listed for the past 30+ years. I originally am from North Miami Beach, Florida.

2. How long have you been practicing art professionally, when did you consider yourself a real artist?

I have been practicing art professionally for about 20 years since graduating with my MFA though I do consider the more mature phase of my work happening in the past 5 years (i.e. starting in my mid 40’s)

3. Did you go to art school? Tell me about your training, formal and informal.

Yes, I earned my BFA and MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute. Prior to that, I went to the New World School of the Arts, an arts magnet high school in Miami Florida. Informal training has been through the network of artists in the San Francisco Bay Area community and of course through my husband Al Wong, originally known for his experimental films in the 1960’s and later as a conceptual artist.

4. What is the medium(s) that you prefer to work in and tell why? 

I have three pathways in my work; my collaged paintings and drawings and shaped aluminum, my larger suspended drawing installations and my fiber works which incorporate LED light, video and sound. The 2D aspects of my practice allow me to explore the rich interior life of pattern which communicates memory and the passage of time. The expansive installation approaches with both drawing and fiber speak to my feelings about the feminist body and taking space/owning one’s space.

5. Who are some of your art inspirations? What are some of your non-art inspirations?

My art inspirations include the work of Mary Beth Edelson, Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington as well as the films of Robert Bresson, Federico Fellini and Kenji Mizoguchi. In terms of non-art inspirations, I would say that I love true crime writing

6. When do you know when a work is finished?

When I look at the work and nothing else about it bothers me. I often will work on a piece intensively and then walk away from it for a while. Then when I come back, I can really “see” it. At this point, I know that the work is complete if there is nothing else I feel needs to be done.

7. Tell me about your process when working. Do you listen to music or do any rituals to get yourself ready to make art?

I get up every day at 2am before my day job starts so that I can spend at least 3-4 hours in the studio. I listen to art podcasts as well as true crime audiobooks. Working in the morning allows me to focus intensively and get as much done as possible before the day gets away from me.

8. What are the meanings and the concepts behind this particular body of work?

My works on shaped dibond are about the layering of memory and containment of hope in an amulet like shape. I collage paintings and drawings in dense arrangements on the dibond so to speak to express the density of feeling, pain, struggle, resilience and transcendence. I use aquatic images, botanical elements as well as blood spatter images from crime scene photos as a basis for the shapes. 

9.What do you want viewers would take away from your work? 

I want viewers to have an experience of beauty and transcendence; to both feel the pain in the work but to understand that in feeling the pain, it is the beginning of healing. It is why the element of visual pattern and beauty is important to my work.

10.What are your biggest goals as a visual artist? And what has been your proudest moment professionally?

My biggest goal professionally is to do a large multi-media fiber project that includes community members on the topic of violence against cis and transgender women. I want to create the installation plus have a full offering of programs and resources, building upon the legendary project by Mary Beth Edelson called Combat Zone back in 1994 at Creative Time in NYC. Occupying the ground floor of a building in SoHo from October through December of 1994, Combat Zone was designed as a political campaign headquarters, ready to fight all forms of domestic abuse.

My proudest moment professionally has been receiving a 2023 California Arts Council Fellowship in the Established Artist category.

To see more of Holly's work, visit her Website, follow her on Instagram, and her Facebook Page.


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