Overview of the Martin Wong Gallery

Mission of the Martin Wong Gallery

The mission of the Martin Wong Gallery is to provide San Francisco State University's student artists the opportunity to exhibit works and organize and present exhibitions. The Martin Wong Gallery is located in the Fine Arts Building, Room 195. Under the guidance of faculty sponsors, student artists and curators are encouraged to propose exhibitions. This program is made possible through the generous support of the Martin Wong Foundation and San Francisco State University’s Instructionally Related Student Activities Fund.

Martin Wong (1946–1999) was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up in San Francisco. He graduated from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California where he focused on ceramics. Beyond developing his painting practice, during the early 1970s Wong designed sets and painted scenery for the Angels of Light, an avant‐garde theater group based in San Francisco. In 1978, Wong moved to New York City’s Lower East Side, and first exhibited his work in NYC in 1981. The paintings Wong created during his time in New York reflect the people and places he knew, particularly Latinx and Black subject matter. In this sense, he subverted traditional notions of portraying one’s own ethnic and racial heritage. Wong’s later work was centered more explicitly around his queer sexuality, most notably in his paintings I Really Like the Way Firemen Smell (1988) and Big Heat (1988). He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994, and died five years later in the care of his family in San Francisco, continuing to paint up to the day he died.

In 2001, Wong’s mother, Florence Wong Fie, established the Martin Wong Foundation to provide scholarships to encourage young artists at four different universities, including San Francisco State, to study art. Additionally, she made a gift to SF State to establish the Martin Wong Gallery, an on-­campus venue for the presentation of art by students, and exhibitions curated by students. Mrs. Wong Fie died in San Francisco in 2017. Up until her death, she was closely involved in the Martin Wong Foundation and its support of student artists.