Exhibition: Between Heartlands / Kelly Wang

Kelly Wang (Wang Jiayi 王佳怡) (born 1992, New York, NY; active New York), Mount Lu, 2017. Ink, acrylic, pigment, xuan paper, and resin on plexi. Collection of the artist. © Kelly Wang Kelly Kelly Wang combines contemporary and ancient influences, as well as American and Asian traditions, to create multimedia works infused with elements of cultural identity and personal sorrow. Landscapes of the heart revolve around places, persons, or events for which one feels a deep belonging. Such heartlands are creations of the mind, and being caught between two or more heartlands often generates tensions of identity or crisis.

Wang, Thank You for Reminding Me of My Rich Cultural Past, 2021. Cosmetic compacts and burnt xuan paper, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist. © Kelly WangFor most Asian Americans there comes a realization that others may see them as different, as alien. Wang captures this moment in a group of mirrored cosmetic compacts; she covers the mirrors with paper into which she has burned words, revealing what others may see, think, or hate.

Kelly Wang, Recluse Studio No. 16, 2018. Ink, pigment, xuan paper,and resin on aluminum. Collection of the artist. © Kelly WangWang also plays with the calligraphy and landscape painting traditions of China in unfamiliar ways. Chinese characters are burned into paper, but the resulting texts are often illegible. In her Recluse Studio landscape series, she experiments with layers of resin infused with pigments that are manipulated using a blow torch. Supplying a near-transparent depth in which the pigments seem to flow, the initially malleable resin transmutes into a durable substance. Frozen, almost as if by alchemy, what emerges are heartscapes—places of safety away from the world’s hardships.

TKelly Wang, New York City (Microcosm 6), 2021. Newspaper on canvas. Collection of the artist. © Kelly Wanghis sense of safety and belonging was shattered with Wang’s father’s death due to COVID-19. While her dad was in the hospital, she began twisting strips of newspaper and attaching them to canvas, creating images of scholar’s rocks (microcosms of immortal realms) and a map titled New York City (Microcosm 6)—the location of her grief.

The exhibition begins and ends with a painting of the Buddhist deity Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who represents a place of infinite grace between heartlands.

Cary Y. Liu
Nancy and Peter Lee Curator of Asian Art

Art@Bainbridge is made possible through the generous support of the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art; the Virginia and Bagley Wright, Class of 1946, Program Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art; Barbara and Gerald Essig; and Joshua R. Slocum, Class of 1998, and Sara Slocum. Additional support is provided by Stacey Roth Goergen, Class of 1990, and Robert B. Goergen; and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.