Thoughts from Gasher's Art Editor, Sydney Ewerth
Mei Lam So uses printmaking, ceramics, and textiles to construct a narrative about conflict and resolution of identity and place. Mei transcends these various mediums, creating a sense of gravity in space through the light, delicate nature of the material, as well as her sense of touch.
Born in Hong Kong, So’s work explores a longing to connect and a pressure to assume multiple selves. Through the lens of her bicultural Asian immigrant experience, the objects depicted in So’s work carry heavy symbolism of how consumerism impacts the culture we feel tied to. The work shows the power, softness, and fluidity of objects and how they are linked to distant memories. In the piece, “Have You Eaten,” So’s still life diptych creates two separate narratives based around the same type of moment. The individual panels in each piece create a ghost of an image from either side, giving the viewer the feeling of a memory triggered by the senses, yet still just out of reach to be fully remembered.
There is a stillness to So’s work that brings the calm and subtle melancholy of nostalgia. There are recurring motifs in the work such as paper cranes and long, flowing shadow arms that gesture toward one another and offer reflections of self and memory. In the piece, “Voyage,” a suitcase overflows with a mass of paper cranes that have been haphazardly shoved into it, while ghost-like tendrils of shadows with hands are creating tension and pulling objects throughout the scene. The delicateness of the cranes contrasted with the reckless way in which they are packed conveys the loving burden of carrying around the culture and traditions she is expected to uphold and be tied to. The arms coming out from different directions are symbolic of the familial and societal expectations a bicultural person faces, being pulled in the direction of past and current culture.
Her recent exhibition, “Longing For Belonging,” shows a dichotomy of time and space that come together to create one identity. The viewer is presented with dreamscape architecture of imperceptibly disparate imagery. On one side, the structure depicts her space in Hong Kong, while the other reflects her current home. Two selves are merged into one welcoming environment, while still opposing each other in a quiet struggle. Within the structure there are objects that symbolize her current self as a mix of all the symbols tying her to each space. The viewer is invited to walk through this space that conjures distant memories for So, and allows them to pause and reflect in their own acts of remembrance.
Collections like the pile of hangers sitting upon an ordered and tidy grouping of tiles in So’s sculpture, “Too Many But Not Enough,” give space for the disposable made permanent through objects that feel delicate yet discarded. This most recent exhibition, among the rest of So’s work, explores the duality of self through acculturation, nostalgia, and memory.
View Mei Lam So's collection here
Originally from Atlanta, Sydney Ewerth received her BFA with a concentration in sculpture and ceramics from Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia and graduated with her MFA from The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After graduation she remained at The University of Alabama as a Part-Time Instructor until moving to Indiana to start her residency at New Harmony Clay Project. She then spent 3 years teaching and making art at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, IN as the Artist in Residence in Ceramics, Studio Technician, and Visiting Professor. She currently resides in Iowa City, IA, teaching at The University of Iowa as the Iowa Idea Visiting Assistant Professor in Ceramics. Sydney has shown in various exhibitions through the US and internationally, including locations such as Aqua Art Miami during Art Basel and juried exhibitions in Sofia, Bulgaria. See more at www.sydneyewerth.com.