Vivian Wang is an American sculptor of Chinese descent, who is inspired by the art of ancient China and Japan. With Asian features and formal poses, her figures are always elaborately clothed in garments replete with Asian patterns and motifs. The style and color of the clothing has been greatly influenced by her previous career as a fashion designer. The “textile-like” surfaces of her work are purposely distressed or antiqued. Wang uses glass components for the hands, feet and heads of her figures, which imbues them with an intangible quality. Together, these elements give the sculptures a haunting look, mirroring the paintings and sculptures of ancient China and Japan.
All of Wang’s pieces are now extravagantly embellished with semi-precious stones and crystals. This reflects the opulence and pageantry of court life in ancient Asia. Even the Samurai warrior wears the most resplendent armor covered with an overwhelming number of garnets and moonstones. The use of these semi-precious stones is a new direction in her art, one which she intends to develop further.
Wang states: “It is difficult to place my art, sometimes referred to as Asian Figurative Sculpture, neatly into the spectrum of the art world as it is both old and new. Ancient in its origins, subjects and some of its materials, my work is also contemporary in its use of cast glass as a significant element of its design. In ancient times, figurative sculpture was made in ceramics, stone and wood, and I have followed that tradition by using clay for my bodies. In old China, glass was used only for religious artifacts and decorative ornaments; its purpose to mimic jade. In contrast, I employ glass as glass to create my heads, hands and feet, a contemporary use of materials.”
A former New York fashion designer, Wang was inspired to become a sculptor after seeing work by Akio Takemori. One lucky day, sometime around the turn of the new millennium, she walked into Garth Clark’s Gallery on West 57th Street in New York City to see Takemori’s sculptures. She knew then that viewing that exhibition would change her life.
“Perhaps my interest in ceramics is what took me to Akio Takemori’s exhibition that day,” says Wang. “From the moment I saw Akio’s pieces, I was hooked. I was literally transfixed by his work. The exhibition consisted of a dozen ceramic figures, about two or three feet in height, of the people he remembered from the Japanese village he had lived in as a child. I had never seen anything like them. My embrace of Akio’s work made me want to do what he did, to become a sculptor, to create my own figurative pieces.”
At the time, Wang was living in New York and working as a fashion designer for Jones, New York – a large, corporate, not “very creative”, clothing manufacturer. Several years earlier, Wang had sold her own design firm because small fashion companies could no longer compete against the large corporations. To satisfy her creative needs, she began experimenting with ceramics, casting plates, bowls and cups, and painting intricate Chinese scenes and people on them. For several years, she continued her career as a designer, but with some encouragement from her husband, she took a giant leap and quit her job to become a sculptor.
For a while, Wang stayed in New York, taking live model sculpture classes. But in 2007, she and her husband moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, where she became an artist. Early works included first American children, called Ragamuffins. Then she moved on to Chinese and Japanese courtiers and children. By 2009, Wang had produced enough work to have her first exhibition at Stewart Fine Art Gallery in Boca Raton, Florida. Her sculpture sold well there, and three years later she was invited to join Habatat Galleries. “Since then, I have been creating sculptures as quickly as humanly possible – and having a wonderful life doing so,” Wang says.
Wang’s sculpture can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Imagine Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida; Barry Art Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; Fort Wayne Museum, Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, Florida. She has been honored with the “Artist of the Future Award” by Imagine Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida, 2019; Fort Wayne Museum of Art Award, 45th International Glass Invitational Award Exhibition, 2017; Art Palm Beach Award for Excellence in Creativity, 2017; Fort Wayne Museum of Art Award, 2015; the 43rd International Glass Invitational Award Exhibition, Habatat Galleries, Royal Oak, Michigan; and Outstanding Glass Artist of 2013, Florida Glass Art Alliance, Miami, Florida.