UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Standing tall in the latest fashions from head to toe, Yiwei (Leo) Wang isn’t your average landscape architecture student.
Hailing from Shijiazhuang, China, Wang is a double major in landscape architecture and sculpture art who showcased his love for both disciplines earlier this semester in a colorful and playful exhibit in the School of Visual Arts titled “FlamBOYant.”
“I have been interested in art and design since I was little,” explained Wang. “When comparing traditional forms of art, I always prefer interactive, installation art. I want my work not just in galleries but outside for people to use and enjoy, so double majoring in these two areas makes it possible for me to go after my dreams.”
Wang decided to come to Penn State to explore his options after high school. He thought a school of this size would give him the opportunity to pursue his passions while discovering who he really is.
Wang explained that when he began taking classes in his majors, he truly got to express his attitude and who he is through his work. He was absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity as only a sophomore to showcase his personal project.
“To me, ‘FlamBOYant’ exemplifies how no matter who we are, we are all just human beings [so] we shouldn’t be separated by gender,” he explained. “Gender doesn't matter, your labels don’t matter, as long as you’re flamboyant and proud of it.”
He loves including viewers of his work in what he does and enjoys seeing people react to his creations. This, of course, includes those who don’t always agree with his style or approach.
“All of my art pieces, one way or another, are a reflection of me and things I’ve experienced,” Wang said. “Through my art and designs I have been given the chance to become powerful enough to not take criticism too much into account, whether that comes from those who are uncomfortable with how flamboyant I am or those who are uncomfortable with [me] being gay.”
According to Wang, one of the most influential experiences he has had as an artist and designer came from the semester he studied Barcelona as part of the landscape architecture program.
“It’s really nice to have had a chance to work in a different culture that I had never experienced before,” Wang said. “Doing the research for our project was so exciting, especially since we were designing a church. Prior to that, I had almost no experience designing religious concepts. The whole thing was entirely new to me, but it really opened my eyes. What an exciting project.”
Wang emphasized his love for landscape architecture, art and how social media culture has changed society and has also inspired his creations.
“I focus on my outer beauty and my clothes on social media just like more masculine guys [may] focus on their muscles. We’re both just trying to show the good-looking part of ourselves off,” he said. “Who is anyone to say what’s fake and what’s real? It’s okay to show a better version of yourself on social media, be as flamboyant as you can, that’s sort of what it’s there for.”
With that being said, Wang wants to emphasize that he is open-minded and ready to get to know everyone he interacts with.
“When some people see me, they probably think I’m just some cool guy who’d rather be left alone,” he said. “I’m really an easygoing person, so please don’t be afraid to say hi when you see me around campus!”
Take a look at Leo's exhibit via the College of Arts and Architecture Facebook page.