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Alumni Scholarship Award Winner's Visual Narrative on Life as a Gay Minority

"There is no better time to break who you are into pieces, and then reassemble them into who you are capable of being."

Over the next few weeks, SVA will be highlighting some of the many outstanding projects by its 2019 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Next up is student Mojo Wang (MFA 2019 Illustration as Visual Essay) on his project Late Bloomer and Other Stories, which explores the challenges faced by gay minorities in the U.S.

Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?
Late Bloomer and Other Stories is a collection of short queer comic stories. In this ongoing semi-autobiographical book project, I reveal my journey when it comes to queer identity, sex and coming to age as a Chinese gay man in my early 20s.

I walked into the early stage of adulthood recklessly and carelessly, in a way that may be defined as irresponsible, when now I look back those years of "figuring it out," in which the shiniest and darkest moments walked hand in hand. After days and nights spent in laughter and tears, I thought, "Why I don't I put those memories to some good use?" Then here comes this project.

What most surprised you once you started working on the project?
It's not easy to be completely honest with myself without passing judgments when writing and laying the groundwork for this project. It can be challenging to find the proper balance between the intellectual side and the sentimental side of me as a young artist, and also it is exhausting and emotionally draining to put down the barrier I tend to have between me and my works.

What was a highlight of living and studying in New York City?
People—those beautiful and intriguing "New Yorkers" that I met along the way for the past two years make this city far more exciting than it actually is.

What is something you learned at SVA that you’ll always take with you?
Don't be afraid to change, to create something you never created before or be someone you didn't dare to be, and always, always have fun.

Was there a teacher or class that was essential for you?
Every teacher and every class from my program was inspiring and fundamentally helpful to finding my visual vocabulary.

David Sandlin's silkscreen class is very enlightening and the essential reason for the change of my perspective regarding creating art and the process of it. It's only fair to credit David and his class for the growth and transformation of my visual voice. I can hardly imagine anyone else who is better than David to guide and enlighten young artists with such kind and patient encouragement.

Also, Marshall Arisman, the chair of MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program, is the most fascinating and generous man I have ever met in New York. His wisdom and intriguing stories somehow possess the power to make me feel I'm invincible.

What was your favorite piece of advice a teacher or student shared with you?
"Style, format or medium are means to serve the content of your work best, not the other way around." From David Sandlin.

"Be honest to yourself." From my classmate Des Ghanbari.

What advice do you have for next year's students going through your program?
There is no better time to break who you are into pieces, and then reassemble them into who you are capable of being.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

For this year's SVA Alumni Scholarship Awards, a record 68 students were chosen from a pool of over 270 applicants and were granted scholarships worth more than $60,000 for projects as varied as design products, animation, painting and photography. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of this year's recipients, click here

For more information about SVA's MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program, click here.

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