Sam Francis Gallery Presents Paintings by Artist-in-Residence Audrey Chan
Crossroads students add works reflecting on language and culture to the exhibition.
“How am I going to pass on language and culture to my child when I’m still learning it?” wondered artist, writer and educator Audrey Chan upon becoming a mother. Reflecting on this question, Chan conceived her most recent series of gouache paintings on paper entitled “An Illustrated Vocabulary of Tenderness,” the first installment of which was developed over a two-week residency at the Sam Francis Gallery from Jan. 27 through Feb. 5.
Inspired by the Chinese language flashcards she studied as a child, Chan created six works during the residency that paired Mandarin words, their phonetic transcriptions and English translations with Chan’s striking illustrations. Poster-sized “flashcard” paintings depicting the words “heart,” “pigeonhole,” “protest,” “Jamaica,” “snail” and “mama” decorated the gallery walls at the closing reception on Feb. 5.
“I wanted to create this project as a way to rethink my relationship with how I learn language and what words and what pictures are associated with it,” says Chan.
In addition to producing her own works, Chan also invited art students from Crossroads Elementary, Middle and Upper Schools to create flashcards representing languages of their own choosing. The students illustrated a wide array of words, from “jellyfish” to “creepy clown,” and translated them into more than 20 different languages—Amharic, Nepali, Hawaiian and pig Latin, to name a few.
Like Chan, many of the students reflected on their own family and culture when selecting what to draw. Sixth grader Jemma Handler sketched a dog, which translates to собака in Russian. “When I was little, I had a bunch of dogs, and I learned the word собака from my mom, who’s Russian,” Jemma explains. “This project makes me want to learn more animal words in Russian.”
The students displayed their finished flashcards alongside Chan’s paintings throughout the residency. On Feb. 19, the student-curated exhibition “nothing’s going on here.” will open in the Sam Francis Gallery.