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10/26/2015
Multi-media Exhibit by Joanna Tam to Open at The Teaching Gallery at Hudson Valley Community College

CONTACT: Deborah Renfrew (518) 629-7180, d.renfrew@hvcc.edu
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015

The Teaching Gallery at Hudson Valley Community College announces American Studies – an exhibition of videos, photographs and installations by Boston artist Joanna Tam on view Nov. 5 – Dec. 12, 2015.

Tam will discuss her work on Thursday, Nov. 5 from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Bulmer Telecommunications Center Auditorium, followed by a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Teaching Gallery. Both events are free and open to the public.

American Studies features works from Tam’s ongoing exploration of what it means to be American. Through a nuanced, and at times amusing look at both material and identity culture, the Hong Kong-born artist sorts through one of the most enduring questions of our culture. In a society that simultaneously prides itself on its diverse cultural roots while anxiously wrestling with continued immigration, Tam’s work ponders questions that are deeply personal but universally relevant.

As a Boston-based visual artist originally from Hong Kong, Tam’s interdisciplinary practice examines the issues of standardization, displacement and the construction of ethnic and national identities.

In video works, we see the artist engaged in actions designed to aid her assimilation into her adopted nationality. In I’m an American (Happy 4th Edition), Tam shoots a video of herself emphatically asserting that she is an American while fireworks burst behind her head and uninvited (likely) drunken party guys bomb the picture in a menacing manner. The intensity increases as Tam, slightly sweaty and barely audible over the fireworks and crowd noises, keeps her mantra of “I am an American. I am an American.” going all though the finale.

Tam understands that her repeated statement “I am an American” is undermined by her pronounced Chinese accent. In her two videos, Reduction Study (Ping Pong) and Reduction Study (Skype Lessons) she engages an accent coach to help reduce the foreign-ness of her speech. These videos are both poignant and entertaining. We see her playing that most Chinese of games, Ping Pong while she recounts being told that her accent is too British when she thought it was too Chinese. We also see the artist battling her way through a Skype session where she takes on the ‘r’ sound in the word ‘party’ to mixed success.

In her series of photographs, Manner of Delivery, 2014, Tam photographs herself in a variety of locations, with her hand over her heart as if she is about to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Of this work Tam states “I am interested in how nationalism and patriotism is being institutionalized and choreographed. In this photo series, I am imagining this simple yet coded gesture would one day become a practice that I would do (or I would be asked to do) in my everyday life.”

Manner of Delivery, 2014. Archival Inkjet Print, 22 x 30” Manner of Delivery, 2014. Archival Inkjet Print, 22 x 30”

Tam’s newest work, American Objects, is a display table that she has erected with objects that seem particularly “American” to her: a baseball, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a roll of police tape among others. She will provide hand written personal notes on each object and invite visitors to contribute their own objects and observations. As items are added to the table by students, artists, community members and other visitors, a democratically ‘drawn’ portrait of America will develop and evolve over the course of the exhibition.

American Objects, 2015. Found object. Life size.American Objects, 2015. Found object. Life size.

Tam’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including locations in York, UK; Istanbul, Turkey; Cusco, Peru; and New York, Brooklyn and Boston among others. Her work was awarded the Best Art Film at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York, UK (2012), the People’s Choice Award (Sub-Category) and Third Prize at the Prix de la Photographie, Paris (2009).

A 2013 Artist in Residence at the Center for Photography, Woodstock, Tam received a MFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston /Tufts University. She also holds an M.S. in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh and a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Boston College.
This exhibition was made possible, in part, through support from the Center for Photography at Woodstock.

Gallery Hours:
The Teaching Gallery is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Wednesday, 1-7 p.m.; Saturday, 12 - 4 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday. For directions and more information, go to www.hvcc.edu/teachinggallery.

Teaching Gallery exhibitions are supported by the Department of Fine Arts, Theatre Arts and Broadcast Communications with assistance from the Office of Cultural Affairs. All exhibitions are installed and assisted by students in Gallery Management classes. The Teaching Gallery is located on the ground floor of the award-winning Administration Building.