Artist: Tony Nguyen
Exhibition: Willpower Ring from his exhibition Neoteny
Gallery: Dr. Maxine Merlino Gallery
About the Artist
Tony Nguyen is an undergraduate student at CSULB, in the School of Arts Metalsmithing program. Outside of metal work, Tony likes to occasionally write cheesy detective novels, and spend time watching YouTube videos in order to learn something new. He is also a big nerd in comic books, superheros, and the like.
Willpower Ring is a replica of a Green Lantern’s ring from DC Comics. It can be assumed that it is to fit Tony’s own finger, seeing as he created it.
It is slightly larger than a normal ring because it has a slightly large Lantern shape on its top. The Lantern’s middle is hollow, as opposed to solid and filled as in most depictions of a Green Lantern Ring (see below for comparison pictures).
The part that goes over one’s finger is circular, but the outside edges are angled, forming a diamond shape. However the diamond shape is not entirely complete because the top edges connect to the aforementioned Lantern.
The Ring is Tony’s very first piece of work made on campus. It is made of bronze, and was forged using an ancient Egyptian system that involves pouring the bronze into a mold made out of cuttlefish bone. The many bones is where all of the Ring’s texture, patterns, and marks come from. The green color was produced by leaving the Ring in a plastic baggy with some ammonia, whose fumes affect metals (a good comparison would be oxygen and the elements causing copper turn from brown to green).
As stated in his Artist Statement posted in the gallery, Willpower Ring was inspired by neoteny, which is when an organism or individual maintains juvenile behaviors into adulthood (which also led to the exhibition’s name). Tony wanted his creations to cause a feeling of nostalgia for childhood and youth–his works are inspired by his childhood experiences, hobbies, and influences and philosophies. He wanted to show that childishness (which I mean in a positive connotation) is not necessarily indicative of immaturity. Tony said he wanted to prove that his work takes the maturity and technical prowess of an adult to make, but the inspiration and ideas of a child.
Willpower Ring obviously stems from Tony’s love of comics and all things nerdy. It is a Green Lantern Ring, which many have undoubtedly made their own, but this is his very own interpretation. He even said that this project took a lot of willpower to make, referencing that Green Lanterns use their high levels of willpower to use and create things from their rings.
I love Willpower Ring for many reasons. 1) I am a very big comic book/superhero nerd, and seeing this nearly made me “nerd out,” so to speak.
2) Because I am such a comic book fan, I always had my own ideas of what a Green Lantern Ring might look like. Every comic book artist has their own interpretation, but they are all generally the same: a green ring with a lantern on it in some way, shape, or form. But every individual has their own personal ideas of what one would look like. I always wanted to see a ring that was war torn and damaged, as if the wearer had used it for ages in numerous battles and exerted so much willpower that it almost destroyed the ring…Tony’s Ring is exactly that. While he may have made it with his own visions, etc. in mind, he somehow nailed my vision: a dirty, scored metal ring with only glimpses of Green energy flowing through it, just waiting for its bearer to call to it and use it once more.
3) I applaud Tony for his craftsmanship; I wish I could do something as intricate and technical as metalsmithing, if only to be able to make my own Lantern Rings and the like.
Even though I do not have pictures of the rest of Tony’s work, I highly recommend Neoteny. By simply looking at his pieces I can see all of the imagination, dedication, hard work, and fun put into them.