Art media

‘A Form of Self-Love’: From Fan Art to Self-Portraits, HMC Student Art Exhibit Highlights Multifaceted Depictions of Women

“Studies of Women” by artist Waverly Wang HM ’23 was exhibited at the Sprague Gallery at Harvey Mudd College in February. (Anna Choi • Student Life)

Movement and femininity filled the Sprague Gallery at Harvey Mudd College as “Waverly Wang – Women’s Studies” took center stage last February.

Facing the courtyard of the Shanahan Center, the gallery featured intricate and dynamic artwork by Waverly Wang HM ’23, a double major in computer science and media studies.

As its name suggests, “Studies of Women” explored the many ways in which Wang portrays women in her work. Curated by Julia Hong, Artistic Director of HMC’s Humanities, Social and Artistic Department, the exhibit featured women in self-portraits, fan art, music visualizations, quirky characters and portraits of family members of Wang.

In the spring semester of 2020, Wang was supposed to display one of his works in the gallery after responding to an open call for art, but the exhibition was postponed, then moved online, due to the pandemic. When Wang submitted her portfolio again this semester, she was invited to do a solo exhibition.

“I’ve always wanted to paint something that mimics how the camera works and blurs things out. I felt like it would be a technical challenge.

Waverly Wang HM ’23

“It’s just amazing,” Wang said. “I can’t believe this is happening. And I heard a class visited, which is just crazy. I’m really fascinated by what other students think and if they analyze my work. Just being treated like a real artist who has ideas and opinions that can be analyzed is just crazy. I never thought I could get into Mudd – let alone have an art exhibit at Mudd.

by Wang drawings of a female version of Sherlock Holmes inspired Hong to suggest depictions of women as the exhibition’s main theme. In her description of “Women’s Studies”, Arts at Harvey Mudd College website underlined the dynamism of the various women presented.

“As women move and proliferate through the uncontrollable backdrops of time, space and art and embody the interdependence of qualities and identities rather than the collision between them, their complexity gains a new dimension,” a press release read. “These women are out of the ordinary and out of continuity, yet extremely familiar and recognizable.”

For Wang, the exhibition was a way to show her love for multi-faceted female characters both in fiction and in her life. Although women have not always been the focus his workWang said she was recently inspired to create female-centric artwork by her sister, who liked the way she portrayed female characters in her illustrations.

“When I started drawing more women, I realized it was like a form of self-love.” Wang said. “You recognize your beauty. That’s why I really like doing this exhibition.

In her exhibition, Wang explored herself and her sisters through portraiture in different media. “Self-portrait inspired by NFWMB (2021)” was particularly striking., an acrylic painting of Wang surrounded by a stormy ocean, drops of water falling from her wet hair. Wang said she was inspired by the Song Hozier NFWMB and one of his sister’s paintings of a tsunami wave about to crash into his brother. His piece imagines the scene before the wave crashes.

One of Wang’s favorite plays is “My Sisters on a Night at the Zoo (2022)”, the last in the exhibition and Wang’s most recent work. This acrylic painting depicts Wang’s sisters at the zoo in a vibrant pink and blue color palette. Using a photograph as a reference, Wang liked to try to blurring the composition of the image and the night lighting.

Four paintings hang on the wall.
The exhibit featured experimental paintings, such as works inspired by his family and fanfiction. (Anna Choi • Student Life)

“It’s just very exploratory,” Wang said of the work. “I’ve always wanted to paint something that mimics how the camera works and blurs things out. I felt like it would be a technical challenge.

“Women’s Studies” also focused on fanfiction through a female lens, with some of Wang’s work reimagining characters from series such as “Sherlock” and “Arcane” and films like “Lady Bird” through graphite renderings. Wang’s passion for fanfiction often makes these illustrations intricate and imaginative.

“I really like how the fanfiction is actually very feminine,” Wang said. “You get topics in fanfiction that you don’t normally get in other books because they reflect real-world events happening right now.”

Wang noted that students who visited his exhibit were particularly drawn to the fanart of their favorite TV characters, such as “Jinx (2022), an acrylic rendering of Jinx, protagonist of Netflix’s new “Arcane” series and League of Legends franchise.

“I think people are really fascinated by [the fan art]“, Wang said. “I love the reactions I have to the Jinx painting because it came out about a month ago. And they’re freaking out that I painted Jinx.

In his themes and media, which range from graphite sketches to mixed media collages, Wang’s works exhibit immense variety, as Wang enjoys exploring different ideas and techniques through creative expression.

“I love changing,” Wang said. “Every time I draw something new, I’m always changing, adapting. And I think it’s more fun because I don’t want to stay in a box. Because then it becomes boring.

Waverly Wang – Studies of Women opened February 7 at Harvey Mudd’s Sprague Gallery and closes today.