Artist Spotlight: Dylan Kwang, an artistic satirist

By JAE CHOI | December 5, 2019

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COURTESY OF NICK BOSWELL

Dylan Kwang is a junior studying biomedical engineering and visual arts.

From a young age, Hopkins junior, Dylan Kwang has immersed himself in the arts. Having taken painting and illustration classes all throughout elementary, middle and high school, art is something that has always been an influence in his life. 

While working on art projects and taking classes in the Center for Visual Arts, Kwang also balances his studies in Biomedical Engineering. But when he first matriculated, he wasn’t entirely sure if continuing art would be a possibility. 

“When I came here, doing engineering, I didn’t think I would have time for it,” he said. “Fortunately enough, when I started doing art again sophomore year, I had forgotten how sitting in a room for three hours working on something not related to numbers felt. It was nice to have something separate from my major, so that’s why I decided to declare a Visual Arts minor as well.” 

Although he used to work with oil paints and acrylics, he now primarily does photography and works on digital projects in Adobe Photoshop. Regardless of the medium, however, he’s always been interested in the satirical possibilities of art. 

“I used to take old paintings and put my own personality on them. I made the people in American Gothic into zombies and lit their house on fire; it was like a Walking Dead spin-off. And then for Edward Munch’s The Scream, I put earphones and an ipod in the painting so it looks like he’s rocking out on one of those Apple commercials,” he said. 

He admits that using Photoshop makes the process of making parodies or incorporating humorous elements into his art easier. For one, he said that manipulating photographs can be an easier time than painting an entire canvas of what he’s imagining. 

Given his interest in the ways that satire can be used in art, it’s not surprising that Kwang draws inspiration from artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, who were known for parodying abstract works of art throughout art history. He also looks up to English artist David Hockney, who, alongside Warhol, was an important influence in the pop art movement. At the heart of Kwang’s interest in these artists, however, is a belief that there are many ways of appreciating art and that differences in taste don’t dictate an artwork’s quality.

“At this time, abstract expressionism was at the forefront, and it was getting really bougie. But then Lichtenstein and these pop artists wanted to show that there were more forms of art than abstract expressionist art, so they started making comics and commercial art and exhibiting them in these fine arts spaces,” he said. 

Kwang is also interested in dispelling the stereotype that engineers aren’t capable of art or other creative pursuits. In some ways, studying the sciences or engineering in tandem with the visual arts can seem like a paradoxical choice. Yet, for Kwang, his dual interests fit nicely with his career goal of going into product development and design.

“I kind of want to go into product development as a career. You don’t really associate engineering with art, but I think that the aesthetics of a product is very important to its design. It’s really important to be able to visualize something in order to create it,” Kwang said. 

Next year, Kwang will be taking a class on life art, continuing to explore the link between the sciences and the arts. 

“Next year I’m taking life art, so it’s a lot of figures. It’s anatomy, so you get to draw skeletal and muscular systems. I also didn’t know this, but Hopkins also offers a master’s degree in medical art. There are only a few accredited courses in the nation or the world or something like that,” he said. 

Regardless of if you’re young or old, trained or untrained, an English major or an engineering major, Kwang argues that everyone has the capability of producing art and enjoying the process.

“People who say they’re not artistic — I don’t believe that, necessarily. I just don’t think they’ve been exposed to it enough. Anyone can be an artist,” he said. 


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