Holly Wong, solo exhibition ‘She’

The solo exhibition “Holly Wong: Mending Body / Mending Mind” was held in the Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center from September 12 to October 28, 2023. Holly Wong, who is based in San Francisco, creates installations using fiber and drawn materials that balance fragility and strength. Her work explores memory, myth, and trauma, seeking to find beauty in brokenness.

“The artwork, titled ‘She,’ is a unique exploration of primordial female energy. It’s not just about the natural, aquatic quality that many people find intriguing, but also about the positive female energy and the empowerment of body positivity. In a culture that often shames our bodies, this piece stands out with its intentional largeness, boundlessness, and vibrant colors, symbolizing the freedom and acceptance that women should feel about their bodies.
Sculpture is a proxy for the body itself. The work in the exhibition has a narrative component in the sense that my mother suffered from domestic violence and alcoholism. Still, it’s also about the notion of healing and transcending. She died when I was very young when I was 15 years old, and while this did happen a long time ago, I see her life as a metaphor for the things that many women suffer today. I’m trying to work on how women can transcend their conditions.
The deconstructed quilts in the exhibition are deeply influenced by my adopted Chinese culture. They symbolize the funeral blanket and the mourning of death, reflecting the profound reverence for the dead and the honoring of family members in Chinese culture. This aspect of my work is a tribute to my husband’s heritage and my deep appreciation for it.
The audio track in the exhibition was created by a New York-based poet, Ya Karpinska, who made the poem and the actual sound composition. The poem is my mother’s words to me, telling me the story that she could not tell me about what she had lived through when she was alive.
There’s a lightness and joyfulness in the work that comes from feeling alive, probably for the first time in my life, feeling present in myself. So, the joy comes through color. It comes through the rich color of “She,” the rich fabric selection of the deconstructed quilts where I’m using reds, golds, and oranges, or even the more monochromatic “Mending Body Mending Mind” where I’m using these almost iridescent fabrics and golds that reflect a lightness of spirit.
Many women artists use sewing as a form of joining and repairing, and many fiber artists generally use the metaphor of sewing, weaving, or knitting as rejoining, reconnecting, and rebuilding. That is why many women, culturally, have been fiber art was our space to be in. But we are reclaiming it as an act of healing and empowerment.

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