She gave up her career as a graphic artist to follow her dream of being a fine artist. Now, she's showing her work to a new viewing audience in Japan.
"It's my first time going to Japan. This will be my first solo show in a gallery in Tokyo," said Houston-based artist Wendy Wagner.
Wagner is an exhibiting artist here in the United States, but says she is ready to show her work to other places. She says her playful and whimsical style appealed to the gallery and connects well with the current Japanese aesthetic.
"The gallery had seen some of my pieces from 2007 that were inspired by my experience with 'Ice Capades' when I was little, and they liked them," Wagner said. "My mother had saved the brochures and some circus brochures, so I dissembled the images and reassembled them in my own language. They really responded to that series of work, so I did 15 new pieces for them."
Wagner's work will be on display from June 2 until June 20 at Gallery Trinity in the Roppongi District of central Tokyo. A couple larger pieces will also be displayed at hotels around the city.
Wagner says the show seemed to just fall into place, but the journey from Houston to Japan was a long time coming.
"Ever since I was a little child I've exhibited a talent for art and won lots of awards, but I didn't actually go to college for fine arts. I went to college for graphic design," Wagner said.
In 1990, Wagner moved from her hometown of Austin to attend Houston's art institute. She got a degree in visual communications and worked as a professional designer for 10 years. It was only then that she decided to make a drastic career change.
"I got burned out in design and was called back to my roots in fine arts. In 2000, I did a career change and decided to focus on fine arts, primarily painting," Wagner said.
From there Wagner's creativity took off and so did her career. By 2004, she noticed characters starting to emerge in her artwork, which pushed her to transform her 2-D designs into 3-D creations.
"I got involved in ceramics that were based on their little characters. I started giving them names and personalities," Wagner said.
But ceramics were just the beginning. From there she started thinking about animation and says because she had the computer background in graphic design, it was something that came natural for her.
Then came the Qwerkys. Wagner says these creations are soft sculptures based on the characters in the animations. They are all part of Wagner's artistic evolution that promises to continue to grow.
"I'm glad I did the route that I did because I have experience in different things, such as the computer, that I can use in my work. Plus, working as a designer and under deadlines was good work experience," Wagner said.
Over the last decade, Wagner's work has been on exhibit internationally and in Houston. In May last year, she achieved one of the highest forms of recognition in the art world when she was announced as the 2008 Hunting Art Price winner for her painting "I Hope I'm Dreaming."
With more paintings on the way and her line of Qwerkys growing, there is no telling what the future will hold for this promising Houston-based artist.
"It's all cumulative to where I am now - everything that I've done," Wagner said.
Wagner will be in Tokyo the week of June 2 for the exhibit opening and a special artist talk.