Spotlight on junior artist Ava Wang’s work

March 22, 2015, is the day that junior artist Ava Wang will never forget. Earlier that year, Wang had entered the Reflections Art Contest with the theme of “The World Would Be a Better Place If…”. Her winning submission featured a crying boy, hugging his knees, and sitting by himself against a wall marked with cruel words used to describe him. Wang says the rainbow colors and the rays of golden light that the boy looks up to symbolize hope.

Wang’s artwork was displayed at Woodruff Arts Center along with the other winners.

“There, as I stood behind my painting, a girl a little younger than me came up to the painting, stared at it for a good 5 minutes and just started crying,” Wang recalls. “I later found out that she was crying because she felt like someone had understood and cared about what she was going through and she felt like she wasn’t alone. I was so shocked that my art had actually caused so much emotion in someone and I had never been as proud as I had in that moment because it was the moment I realize the true power of art, my art.”

Wang later named the painting “Golden Shadows” and said that it expresses how the world would be a better place if bullying ceased and there was more hope for the victims.

Art has always been an integral part of Wang’s life ever since she was three years old. She seeks to not only create beautiful masterpieces but to also impact her community through her art.

“I started out by covering the walls of my single floored apartment with crayon drawings, then my mother saw that I liked art and sent me to a Chinese-style painting class,” Wang joked about her beginnings as an artist in China.

She said the real reason she started art was because painting was the only thing that could relax her.

“My school teacher told my mom that I was extremely energetic and talkative in class but my mom wanted me to be calmer and more collected,” said Wang. “she found out that painting seemed to be the only thing that would calm me down.”

After Wang moved to the United States when she was 10, she had to change her artistic style because she could not find any Chinese painting teachers. “I will somewhat embarrassingly admit that I really got into anime and drawing manga characters for a couple of years,” said Wang. “I have to say that it made me fall in love with art even more.”.

Today, Wang prefers “a mix of realism and abstraction” as her favorite style of art. She enjoys realism because of its familiarity as well as the sense of accomplishment it gives her.

“I really love the feeling I get when I look at the finished product of a piece that I rendered successfully,” said Wang.

This past year, however, she has become increasingly interested in abstract art.

“To me, the abstract elements add character to realism, and it becomes more than just a ‘painting.’”

This year, Wang is taking AP Studio Art: Drawing and Painting, taught by Benjamin Steele. Even though she says the class is “very stressful,” she sees it as a “mental break” where she has the opportunity to fully immerse herself into her passion of creating beautiful artwork.

“All the students in art class are so close and we are able to form a bond with not only each other but also with the teachers—it’s hard not to when almost everyone has to stay in class for hours after school, rushing to finish a piece,” said Wang.

Additionally, Wang also appreciates the opportunity to work with her art teachers, who she regards not only as great artists, but also as her mentors.

“They are such great resources and give such insightful advice,” said Wang. “In addition, it’s really inspiring to work alongside such incredible artists and professionals.”

According to Steele, the primary focus of the class is to develop a portfolio of 12 works based on a student’s own theme.

“It’s kind of like a class managing 20 independent studies at the same time,” said Steele. “It is a very challenging class, but I think it is certainly very rewarding.”

Outside of the classroom, Wang is also the founder of the club Art Heals.

“I have seen art make someone cry,” said Wang. “I have seen art make someone gleam. Most importantly, I have seen art heal. I wanted to use this amazing power of art to give back to the community. I wanted to use my abilities and my love for art to change lives by giving, starting with the areas around me.”

Besides winning the Reflections contest her eighth-grade year, Wang has also won the state Reflections contest in 2016. Last year alone, Wang won first place in the Georgia Bird Art Contest, the State-Fish Art contest, and the 2016-2017 River of Words art contest—winning the national first prize, among numerous other awards. Her artwork has been showcased at the High Museum of Art, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as well as around the city of Duluth. Despite her numerous achievements, Wang sees that her greatest obstacle in art is perfectionism.

Wang’s work typically uses precise lines and shapes to render objects or people.

“I always try to make everything so perfect and exactly the way I envisioned it that I forget that sometimes that imperfections and rough strokes can make a piece even more beautiful,” said Wang.

However, Steele sees this as one of her biggest assets.

“She’s willing to stay up the last couple of nights before the deadline, and she never accepts something that’s 95 percent complete,” said Steele. “I think a lot of her peers would look at the kind of determination Ava has and think that it comes naturally, but she’s put in a huge amount of work to get where she is.”

As an artist, Wang believes in the power, inclusivity, and understanding that art brings.

“There is no wrong answer, no wrong way to express yourself through art,” said Wang. “Because of this, art has the ability to bring vastly different people together into a community and I really appreciate that.”