Q&A with Oliver Wang

Today I dropped by the Art+Science lab to chat with the fellows hard at work in the basement! Here’s a brief Q&A with Oliver Wang, this summer’s Chen-Yang Fellow. Oliver will be a regular contributor to the blog this summer so look forward to his posts!

What have you done this first week of summer?

Last quarter, I spent a lot of time learning how to use the x-ray fluorescence detector and reading a bunch of papers that would be useful for what I was studying. This week I was finally able to work on this project full time. I’ve gotten to spend more time with each piece, rather than just an hour or two.


Oliver measuring the chemical composition from the Torso of Adele. Photo by Diane Wu.

This is a piece I’ve been working with since the beginning of last quarter. It’s my practice case. It’s a Rodin – a Torso of Adele. It’s about a foot and a half tall, maybe half a foot wide. My next one is going to be much larger.

What I’ve been doing with this piece is taking measurements across the entire thing. I’m hoping to have maybe 20 or 30 by the end of the day.

What are you excited about coming up this summer?

I’m excited that we’re going to the Artworks Foundry in Berkeley to watch the bronze casting process. Right now it’s just a process I’ve read about in books. It will be exciting to see how they actually made these.

I’m also excited to really getting to know an artist. In high school and college, I’ve taken classes that were overviews of different periods, where we studied just one or two famous pieces by each artist. This summer I can really get to know Rodin and his pieces, the way he worked and what he enjoyed doing, what kinds of things he did with his sculptures.

Yesterday I went up to the galleries and spent three or four hours walking around, looking at the little things around the bases and around the tops of the sculptures to see if there were things that unified them. I was learning how to copy his signature, looking to see where he put markings. You can actually see his hand markings and fingers in a lot of his pieces, and so it’s kind of cool seeing that.


Keeping track of where measurements were taken. Photo by Diane Wu.

Anything surprised you this first week?

One of the things that surprised me was from being in the museum when it’s closed — to see just how much stuff is happening behind the scenes. When I was there on Tuesday, walking around the galleries, a bunch of people were at work. The walls are open where you didn’t think that they’d be open, and there’s random things everywhere.

I knew a lot of work goes on into a piece of work, maintaining it and keeping it presentable. But it really surprised me to see how many people and how much work goes into it. I saw maybe four people working in one of the contemporary galleries de-installing and reinstalling a painting. It was an entire operation!

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