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article imageOp-Ed: Artist Cynthia Tom is a surrealist presence telling truths Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Apr 18, 2016 in Entertainment
San Francisco - The weather was gloriously summer-like this past Saturday April 16 as surrealist artist Cynthia Tom opened her 1890 Bryant Street studio to the public.
Part of an exhibit entitled, "Stories to Tell," Cynthia was pleased that the weather was so wonderful as she knows like most San Franciscans, especially natives, when the weather is good, everywhere in San Francisco is the place to be.
Foot traffic in The Mission District where her studio is located is more than double on sunny days. And, for all artists who open their studios to the public to view that is a good thing. Located in the historic Best Foods building on the corner of Bryant and Mariposa Streets 1890 Bryant Street Studios is a collective of which Cynthia is a part of. This landmark building is home to creative businesses including vintners, designers, a bakery, HO scale car-racing enthusiasts, architects, painters, jewelers, printmakers, photographers, and ceramicists.
Some of the works displayed that Saturday and Sunday were items that 'tell a story.' As she explained, this three-part exhibit is entitled 'Discards & Variances: Human Trafficking -A Rich Cultural Tradition.' "These little pillows, she pointed to, representing discarded people in my life, my mother, father and grandmother, are symbolic.The pillows are a contradiction in sweetness, she said, that depicts heartbreaking subject matter, as well as inspiring impactful shifts of emotions. Although the images are vintage, she added, the problem is currently an epidemic in the US."
The sense of social disconnect and broken community is something Cynthia knows all too well.
Part of Cynthia Tom s exhibit are these handmade pillows  used to illustrate a very painful part of ...
Part of Cynthia Tom's exhibit are these handmade pillows, used to illustrate a very painful part of history; that is not only personal but cultural.
Courtesy of Cynthia Tom, artist
 These little pillows  she pointed to  representing discarded people in my life  my mother  father a...
"These little pillows, she pointed to, representing discarded people in my life, my mother, father and grandmother, are symbolic.The pillows are a contradiction in sweetness, she said, that depicts heartbreaking subject matter," (human trafficking).
Courtesy of Cynthia Tom, artist
Cynthia feels a strong responsibility as an artist to create engaging modalities that share truths and spur us collectively into action. Human trafficking in any form is serious and can happen anywhere at any time. It is not something that happened in the past. Or, something that happens in some foreign country far away; a more recent example was an incident that occurred in 2013 at an unsuspecting suburban area south of San Francisco along the Peninsula; in an upscale complex near a BART station and a popular supermarket. "We are all connected," she said.
For 10 years Cynthia has made 1890 Bryant Street her headquarters as she and her work has branched out. She has been very dedicated in lending her talents to things like "A Place of Her Own." and other art-installment-inspired events, like the Angel Island Immigration Station. While "A Place of Her Own" is almost like a 'ministry-outreach' to women, for Cynthia almost all of her art is about examining things at the subconscious level. But, not so much intellectual-analytical but from the heart.
Her focus is Asian women and their life experiences. Yet, as artist Cynthia's work and artistic perception encompasses humanity; always recognizing the delicate thread and fibers that make us human. One thread she recognizes continuously is how much the Mission District has changed in a very short time.
The drastic changes that have occurred are impacting the artist community at 1890 Bryant Street Studio. Not too long ago, life in the Mission and surrounding South Of Market area was ignored by developers. But once the dot com boom occurred land in San Francisco became more valuable. And, that included previously disregarded space.
What had been a mixture of factories, blue-collar businesses and warehouses amid a mixture of immigrant families, then became a haven for the new tech culture. "I began encountering people who referred to the Mission District as 'the Mish' and during the dot com boom, I know for a fact some people where in San Francisco for only one thing, to make money and then leave."
For artists like Cynthia, being part of a collective in an old building helped affirm the neighborhood's initial identity. Precita Eyes Muralists being nearby seemed to keep the dot com boom and the subsequent tech invasion at bay. The Mission continued to maintain its unique flavor.
But when long-standing places started to disappear, families evicted, the shift in the social demographic to the new techie culture made its impact. The colorful expressions of Meso-American and Hispanic culture, as well as all the other multi-ethic expressions, are fading amidst a proliferation of 'IKEA-like' outlets, boutiques, restaurants and night spots.
In a career that spans more than 20 years  artist Cynthia Tom has always leaned toward expression in...
In a career that spans more than 20 years, artist Cynthia Tom has always leaned toward expression in the surreal form; expressing the subconscious as a form of healing.
Courtesy of Cynthia Tom, artist
"I don't know how long I will be able to work out of the Bryant Street Studio anymore," Cynthia said. A native San Franciscan, from a Cantonese family that has been in San Francisco for over three generations, Cynthia had to leave the City to find another place to live in the Bay Area.
"San Rafael is just across the Golden Gate Bridge, she said. And, Marin County has its beautiful points. But San Francisco is my home." Whether it is the Mission, The Sunset/Richmond District or way out in Bayview/Hunter's Point, San Francisco is home to Cynthia and to see it transform into something unrecognizable is difficult to fathom.
Despite the rising costs and the struggles of so many artists just to pay rent, Cynthia was determined to have her showing for Open Studios. The warm sunny weather for that weekend, was an affirmation that her efforts will carry on.
The tenants and artists of the 1890 Bryant Street Studio of which surrealist artist Cynthia Tom is a...
The tenants and artists of the 1890 Bryant Street Studio of which surrealist artist Cynthia Tom is a part of.
Courtesy of 1890 Bryant St Studio artists collective
"What is happening here in the Mission is happening to many people all over the nation, displacement by greed, and it is sad," she said. But she like other artists is determined to carry on. Cynthia will have more showings/exhibits in the fall. Her next open studio at 1890 Bryant Street Studio will be in November.
For more information about artist Cynthia Tom and her work, visit her web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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