Monday, August 3, 2009

The Politics of Shoes: Artistic Profile Sam Tan

The Politics of Shoes: Artistic Profile Sam Tan

by Jill Furumoto

After viewing the Politics of Shoes art exhibit hosted by Jane Wang, many thoughts and feelings and images flooded my mind. There were so many ideas and so much to look at.

As I reflect on my experience with the Politics of Shoes show, a few of the exhibits stood out in my mind. One of them was the piece "63 in '08", by Sam Tan. This piece engaged me, and I immediate felt that I had literally "stepped into the artist's" medium when I crossed a sand puddle on the floor to read the names of the 63 homicide victims in Boston in 2008.

After reading their names, I stepped back across the sand puddle and tried to move on to the next piece. In doing so, I tracked the sand across the floor and realized that I was now part of the art piece. Yes, it made a direct impression on me. The interactive aspect of this piece grabbed me. The violence in the community rubs off on our souls or our soles, in this case, and when we try to walk away, the residue symbolically follows us. This was a great idea, and it made me stop and think about what the Artist was trying to say.

I decided that I would like to learn more about Sam Tan's artistic process and his journey towards making 63 so I interviewed him electronically and was glad he was willing to share some of his thoughts and background via facebook. Here is a summary of the interview.

Question: What is your background? Did you go to art school?

I am largely self-taught and my background was originally in psychology. I've always enjoyed visiting museums and galleries and was intrigued and inspired by the creative journeys that the artists went on. After following the programming of quite a few of the local galleries for awhile, I felt that I had the courage to jump into the deeper and see what would come out of it.

Question: What is your favorite modality?

I don't have a specific modality that I stick to. I don't like to box myself in, and I enjoy shaking things up now and then. That is why I found the open call to participate in "The Politics of Shoes to be appealing and challenging as I have not made site specific work in the past .

Question: What inspired you to do your piece 63?

Some of my work; like abstract biomorphic paintings are more intuitive and fluid in its process while others like “63 in '08” and my other work which involves using gay pornographic imagery are more conceptually based and linear in its process.
I came across the Politics of Shoes through an open call posted on the net.

The inspiration behind my piece was that I had been basically (and continue to be) troubled by the homicides that took place in the city. I wanted to communicate the idea that we are all interconnected to one another even though we may live in much safer neighborhoods that have not been a witness to such crimes.

Question: What are you working on now?

I am currently working on abstract paintings that have collage elements. Its a continuation of the work that I have shown earlier this year at the artists foundation gallery in Boston. I have no plans to make other site specific installations like "63 in '08". Although I could conceivably create variations of that work in the future.

The responses I have gotten from my piece have been good. Because of the sobering content of the piece, some viewers have been moved by it while some others were able to make interesting cross-cultural connections.