The Art of Collaboration

The Blood that Runs Through Us, at 950 Pacific Ave.

Artistic collaboration is a complicated process that can turn into a minefield of competing personalities and aesthetic intentions. It has even been described as “the ultimate unnatural act.” Yet quite the opposite was the case in the creation of The Blood that Runs Through Us, an installation by Pam Hom, Mary Coss and June Sekiguchi, at 950 Pacific Ave. These three artists worked independently (at times from different countries around the world) to create a seamlessly visceral and luminous sculptural exploration of birth, death and cultural inheritance. The work is an allegorical conversation about the nature and cycle of life, a dialogue the three initiated with another piece, Bloodlines, at Seattle’s Columbia City Gallery earlier this year. When the sculptors received a Spaceworks Tacoma commission, they decided to move and expand upon the original work, which now dominates the corner of 9th St. & Pacific Ave. It includes Family Portrait, a hanging sculpture by Sekiguchi; Motherland, a wall/pedestal installation by Coss; and You Never Listen, an audio/hanging installation, and Where Did You Go, a wall sculpture, by Hom. Using electrical conduit and dryer duct to strong effect, the artists describe the internal world of their perceptions about birth and mortality.

Internal perceptions of mortality

While they worked independently, the combined effort came off without a hitch, says Coss. “All the design decision making was done as a group. June was in Japan and Pam in Argentina while we were processing and figuring out how to use the space. We met before the travels and again after, at the [Tacoma] space, and then went to a cabin for a weekend to do a mini artist residency, so to speak. During that time the transformation really jelled,” and the artists returned to their respective studios to complete their portions of the work. Coss examines the hidden world of the unconscious, inspired partly by research into her genealogical roots. Hom’s sculptures reflect the thoughts and emotions connected with the death of a parent. Sekiguchi expresses her “fierce” instinct to protect her children with a metaphorical portrait of three eggs shrouded by ancestral bones.

A collaborative exploration of the cycle of life

Each artist brings a different cultural inheritance to the table, adding to the complexity of this work about family relationships. Hom’s father emigrated from China; Sekiguchi is second-generation Japanese-American; and Coss is five generations removed from her European roots. “The three of us are friends and have individually known each other for less than five years, but have a deep connection,” says Coss. “None of us has collaborated in this way before. We feel that we have a strong bond and work well together.” After the work is de-installed at 950 Pacific, the artist team has proposed the next chapter to be installed in Brooklyn, in early 2011. This summer, Coss and Sekiguchi travel to Stockholm, Sweden, to show work at the Candyland Gallery. The Blood that Runs Through Us, 950 Pacific Ave. through Sept. 26, 2010.,,

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