A Thousand Maos and Nothing
Wang never tires of his
Who: Wang Wenhai
Sculptor, Yan'an Revolutionary Museum guide
A philosophy graduate from Yan'an University,
Wang was born in Henan and grew up in Shaanxi. In the
early 1970s, as a guide at the Yan'an Revolutionary
Museum, he had his first taste of sculpting when he
helped some artists fashion likenesses of Mao Zedong for
the museum. He and his wife started making Mao figures
in 1987, after travelling to Wangjiaping in Yan'an, one
of Mao's stopovers after the Long March. Currently, over
1000 of his Mao sculptures - ranging in size from ten
centimetres to three metres tall - are on display at
their home, located in the museum.
Q: Why do you
only sculpt Mao?
Wang: I only sculpt people that I
respect. He's my idol; he's the eternal subject;
everything else is entertainment. Sculpting him has only
gotten more interesting with time. I've made him
god-like, also serious and angry. Personally, I like him
when he's older.
Q: Do you use photos of him
when you sculpt?
Wang: I create from my imagination.
In 1999, I went to his hometown [Shaoshan, Hunan] and
stayed there a month, celebrating his birthday there on
December 26. I learned about his life and how he became
the man he was. I also learned some surprising things;
for example, Mao was very mischievous as a child and he
would often play hooky! In any case, that visit made it
easier for me to picture Mao in my mind.
do you only use clay?
Wang: Clay suits me. It's fun
to play with and it gives one more freedom than stone. I
simply go to the mountains outside my home and scoop
some out for my sculptures.
Q: How low would you
Wang: I don't need to think about that because
there will always be a market for Mao's image. My theory
is that once someone really understands Mao, they will
be so fascinated by his charisma that they will want to
buy sculptures of him, regardless of the price. So,
while it won't make me rich, it is definitely a way to
make a living.
Q: Is Beijing a work of art?
Wang: I like Beijing; it's China's cultural centre
and it's so convenient. Some of the residential blocks
are quite impressive; they look like mountains rising
out of the mist. On the other hand, the food is
expensive, the air is bad and it's too crowded.
One of Wang's thousands of Mao sculptures can be
seen in Beijing at the 25000 Cultural Transmission
Center. Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.