Long-time GV art professor to retire in April

By Shelby Pendowski | 1/18/15 6:50pm

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GVL/Brianna Olson Retiring art professor Ed Wong-Linda with Blaire Bancroft, Sienna McCone, Linnea Gish, Stephanie Mabie


The Grand Valley State University Art Gallery echoed with the chatter of students, community members and faculty as they viewed the array of work by art and design professor Ed Wong-Linda. After almost 20 years of teaching at GVSU, Wong-Linda will bid the university adieu when he retires following the commencement of the 2015 winter semester.

In 1996, Ed Wong-Linda accepted a position at Grand Valley State University to develop the Art and Design Departments new illustration emphasis.

“I used to be at Kendall, then I got contacted by Grand Valley and they seemed more interesting to me,” Wong-Linda said. “They seemed more educated and they cared more about the liberal arts, and I thought that is where I want to be. And then they offered me a job here.”

A special exhibit entitled “Veracity, Distortion, Reduction: Visual Explorations by Ed Wong-Linda” debuted in the GVSU Art Gallery inside the Performing Arts Center on Jan. 15 to commemorate his work.

“I tried to include the best selection of his work that I could because there was quite a variety,” said David Newell, art curator at the gallery. “The hardest thing, actually, was there was a stack of sketches and just digging through the stack and selecting the right ones. So I pretty much selected ones that were related to pieces that were in the shows. I think it (the exhibit) shows his range.”

His timeline of pieces displayed in the gallery and in his personal studio are all tied together through issues and concepts that continually inspire him.

“I kind of just do what I want to do, but also, I kind of have been thinking about certain issues my entire life,” Wong-Linda said. “I keep revisiting these issues over and over and over.”

Vulnerability and mortality are just two reoccurring influences, but the role of people is another.

Decorating a wall of the gallery is a collection of paintings that depict pregnant women. The paintings depict the role of a woman and an evolution of a woman’s identity in society.

“When a woman becomes married, she usually loses her last name which always seemed odd to me,” Wong-Linda said. “They lose their identity slightly when they get married, and then when they get pregnant, people start looking at (their stomach) and then when they have the baby, they start looking over here at the kid.”

The pieces such as these that are in the gallery are different from Wong-Linda’s well-known pieces, according to Newell.

“A lot of his public work that he has done are group portraits where this is his personal work,” Newell said. “You can go around campus and see his pieces, and I think it is funny to compare those against these. These are much more intimate situations. It is just much more personal.”

Wong-Linda officially became a professional artist in the 1970s, but the art always appealed to him.

“I never made a decision to be an artist,” Wong-Linda said. “I just thought when I was young that I was going to be an artist, (but) I never made a decision about it. I just became an artist.

“My advice is always is never go into art unless it is the only thing possible that you can imagine doing with your life.”

Such advice is one of the lessons he teaches his students, such as GVSU juniors Bobby Manquen and Deavan Worley.

“I am pretty disappointed (to see him go),” Worley said. “It has been fun having him for this last little bit because he trying to get out as much information as he can.”

Although he will no longer be an instructor, Wong-Linda has no plans to set down his paintbrush.

“Painting. That is what I did when I was young, and that is all I ever wanted to do so that is what I am going to do,” Wong-Linda said.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. It will run through March 20. For more information on the gallery, visit www.gvsu.edu/artgallery.

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