Her work is about healing and it is also about empowerment. This coming November 19, SOMArts Cultural Center will present "A PLACE OF HER OWN, curated by Cynthia Tom, award winning recipient of the 2015–16 Commons Curatorial Residency at SOMArts Cultural Center, in partnership with Asian American Women Artists Association.
This unique exhibit which will include the works of other women artists, is something that Cynthia has been cultivating and nurturing passionately. Even when she finds funding, Cynthia often must go the distance to bring to life the hidden truths and realities she discovers.
She believes art is a healer. Holding to the teachings of Carl Jung, the 20th Century psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology, Cynthia said, "Jung saw art in a special role. He proposed that art can be used to alleviate or contain feelings of trauma, fear and anxiety. Art can also repair, restore and heal."
Pointing to Jung's 'Collective Unconsciousness' Cynthia sees that every human being is endowed with a psychic archetype layer and that this is something innate. "We are all inter connected," she said. And while most the art installations she has conceived and created have been about women and Asian culture, at the heart of her expression is the universal truths and believes that all people in every part of the world share.
Even when an exhibit in particular is predominately Asian in theme, there is something universal that people can recognize, like "family patterns and dynamics." These can often be deeply entangled in a given culture, with little or no understanding of how such patterns emerged or came to be.
Her art exhibitions are intended to help bring about dialog as well as reflection upon societal, cultural and gender norms so to challenge and be a catalyst for change. "It is difficult for people to change when they are held back by imposed beliefs," many of the art exhibitions I curate or establish, ask the difficult but often subconsciously obvious questions; beginning with 'why?'
Whether it is bringing the evil of human trafficking to light through the historical exhibit at Angel Island
(which in the 19th Century, had been the "Ellis Island of the West for thousands of Asian immigrants to California) or recognizing the universal expression of loss through the 'Day of The Dead' commemorations in San Francisco's Mission District,
Cynthia does not shy away from deeper issues.
"My own life experiences and passions have lead me to the type of work I create and participate in with other artists," she said. "As an artist and as a curator I aim to inspire wonder and yes, even indignation (regarding serious topics) when I open up a venue and bring an audience in."
At times described as a 'mixed media' artist, Cynthia's work even in her younger days was always tactile and thought provoking. No matter if the piece was whimsical or serious, Cynthia's work is about making the subconscious more conscious. She often uses found objects and calls upon metaphors to demonstrate her desire to communicate with the wisdom of the Universe. Born and raised in San Francisco, Cynthia found her mission, her purpose her life's work in art. Addressing cultural issues as well as personal ones, Cynthia has not stopped in her quest for greater clarity, honesty and a deeper sense of connectedness.
'A Place of Her Own' stemmed from years of examining and yearning to understand the unconscious patterns that stick.. "Installations are my attempt to actualize my purpose in this life time, she said. I grapple with deep questions, test out surreal ideas and I invite the community to come into my intuitive space and participate."
In her work Cynthia likes to engage the senses, surrounding the visitor to her exhibit in a visual, tactile 'other world.' Always eager to access deeper thoughts and understandings, 'A Place of Her Own' is an exhibit where life stories and truths are honored, cherished and respected.
"Yes, its grounded in the Asian American culture, but it is for all women. It is also about the 'Collective Unconsciousness' everyone is a part of," said Cynthia.
"A magical journey will await visitors to the exhibit as they enter the gallery to behold multiple vibrant, colorful expressions, said Cynthia. "'A Place of Her Own' is the dreams of Asian and other women artists brought to life through installations, paintings, sound, fabric, photographs, and collage. Visitors on opening day will tour Studio Euphoria, listen to soul inspiring sound sculpture, walk within a forest of giant intuitive paintings, stroll under dancing “walkers,” and awed by an enormous landscape of hand built ladders. Surrounded by art intuited from aspiration, viewers will be intrigued by the opportunity to join the journey through participation in three Self-Guided Workstations, she said. They can create small artworks in response to question prompts about their beliefs, their family patterns, and their aspirations."
Working with her fellow Asian women has been very important for Cynthia and empowering. As she said, "I understand that we can't make significant societal change if the majority of us remain unhealed, unconscious and reacting from a place of hurt and pain."
Historically PLACE has garnered support of Asian American Women Artists Association and received funding from the San Francisco Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition, WomenArts.org and Zellerbach Family Foundation. Cynthia has had to invest much of her own time and resources into 'A PLACE OF HER OWN' "It is hard to fathom that I have been doing this for over seven years." To Cynthia it is more than just an art exhibit or mixed media, interactive art installation. "It is a malleable transformative program with many branches," she said.
In some ways it is not simply an art exhibit, it is an intensive retreat or comprehensive, innovative workshop. "Artists will share the intimate story of their journey leading to the creation of 'A Place of Her Own," she said. "Viewers will have the opportunity to ask questions about anything that puzzles them or that has aroused their curiosity. They will also have the opportunity to initiate their own journey through three self-guided workstations. With the help of question prompts and a variety of materials, viewers/visitors will create their own small art works."
Also curated and coordinated by fellow artists Manon Bogerd Wada, Maggie Yee, Irene Wibawa, Susan Almazol, Sigi Arnejo, Adrienne Yan and Reiko Fujii, 'A Place of Her Own will run from Nov. 19 to Dec. 11, with live music and Community Potluck for the Closing Celebration of the exhibit. For more information visit SOMArts Cultural Center web site.
Cynthia is also recruiting for the next A PLACE OF HER OWN 2016 Workshop Series and Exhibition, visit A Place of Her Own Web site for more info.