Both imposing and intimate, Wanying Liang’s sculptural works are inspired in large part by the divide that exists between cultures and by the sense of inquiry that can help to bridge that gap. “I want to arouse my audience’s curiosity to come closer and look inside,” she says. It’s how she thinks people should approach one another as well, and the intricate floral details and cage-like structures that appear throughout her art invite much more than a passing glance.
When Liang moved to the United States from her native China to get an MFA at Alfred University, she often found it difficult to communicate. But reflecting on her life back home, she realized there were always barriers that language couldn’t span. “The experience of living in a new country as a foreigner gave me the chance to really think about how we identify ourselves and how people might develop empathy toward each other,” she reflects.
In her larger-scale “Shrine” series, she constructs highly detailed floral formations visible through cloche-like covers peppered with slots or small holes. These sit atop sturdy horse legs whose every muscle and ligament are visible beneath the weight of the structure. Each of these pieces reads like an exquisitely strange corpse, speaking volumes without uttering a word. They ask the viewer to reach beyond initial impressions as they examine the piece from all angles while recognizing that some things may remain a mystery.
Liang’s work is the product of an almost spiritual connection to nature. Many of her ideas come from her walks along trails in New York’s Finger Lakes region, where she lives and works. “When my body is moving, my mind seems to go more freely,” she notes. Her artistic practice, too, allows her to find a sense of calm amidst the chaos occurring in the world. “I’m pushing my burden from my mind onto the clay,” she says. “It feels like meditation.”
Growing up in a relatively conservative area in China, Liang attended many traditional rituals with her parents. Works from her smaller-scale “Woman as Vessel” series are shaped like centerpieces with their flowers and shapes endlessly blossoming outward in wild abundance. These are partly modeled after huamo, a wedding bread decoration featuring delicate flowers and animals intended as a blessing for a new couple. Though she didn’t understand the meaning behind them as a child, she could sense their power. It’s a feeling she hopes to transmit through her work today, aiming for an experience that reaches beyond the confines of language.