Maggie Wong is a visual artist, writer, and educator committed to a playful curiosity of forms of relation and interpretation. Her work is nested in the domain of sculpture, yet her methodology utilizes any mode that facilitates sentimentality, which for her is both the surface and depth of human relationships and sensorial engagement. Specifically, she is compelled by nature of interpretation, object relations, playing with a grammar of arrangement, and tenderly tantalizing sculptural forms.
Wong has exhibited in Chicago, New York, Berlin, and San Francisco. She received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, her Master of Fine Arts degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Low- Residency MFA program. Based in Chicago, IL, she is currently the Assistant Director of Iceberg Projects, assistant teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago, and works in the Exhibitions and Events department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her writing will be published in the forthcoming exhibition catalog of Material Meanings: Selections from the Constance R. Caplan Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Extended artist statement:
450 Words In a Room
I am ushering you into a room – welcome to an illustration of my practice. Inside the room are sculptures, installations, and research material which comprise a study of transitional objects, interpretation, and social relations. We can closely consider a few scattered pieces.
On the floor rests Squishy Box (2016): a 2ft x 2ft x 2ft soft minimalist construction with defined square edges and undulating folds of material – like rolls of skin acquiescing to gravity. The bright peach-colored silicone cube is never the same shape when installed. The anthropomorphic reading of the sculpture objectifies ‘the body’ while the form resists being fixed to a function or identity. This box is always in transition and is also a transitional object as it is similar and different from its mold.
Across the room is a series of 12in wide circles of multi-colored poured silicone. Each is a mold (and discrete sculpture) that mixes songs from used records into specific playlists. Themes like unrequited love or a single song being performed by many artists organize the playlists. When cast records are made and played, the songs loop, skip, and are overlaid by the soft static of droning noise – artifacts from the process of archiving the cultural material. These records comprise a methodology of sentimentality, which seeks to explore the sensation of touch, nearness, and anxious desire.
To one side of the room is the installation Making Out (2017), made in collaboration with five artists for the SITE Sharp gallery at SAIC. A set of three 9ft x 8ft x 8ft bleachers made of cold metal, rough pine, and opaline periwinkle chiffon make a half circle that faces an imaginary football field. Under the bleachers, you hear faint sounds of the street and people – adding to the incitement to hide and covertly kiss. On a practical note, planned programs (such as an altered re-staging of ACT UP’s 1990s Kiss-Ins), urge participants to practice consent and explore how intimacy can empower collective resistance.
On my work desk, you find scraps of colored vinyl, circuitry boards, vernacular objects, and a digital model of the exhibition Coloring Room (2018). The installation, designed for the Interactive Gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago, invites visitors to cultivate communication and empathy through interaction with perception. Piles of research material help build my pedagogical practice, which aims to foster interpretation as both an introspective and collective process.
As we back out of the room it is clear that my work can be read from multiple viewpoints. I am interested in the legibility and mutability of objects and people. When you read my name I am legible as Chinese, yet I pass as White on the street; I am both, and any singular read does not capture my total self. My work complicates reading by stripping down form, making copies, working collaboratively, and instigating interaction. Simultaneously, I employ sensuousness to facilitate learning to see interpersonally and within institutional structure.