Oil on canvas
As one of the first global luxury products and universal currencies, tobacco is intertwined with the ruptures and waves of world history. The imagery in this series of digital prints on silk come from paintings I've created based on studies of tobacco smoke. By reproducing them on silk — another global luxury product that paved the way towards international commerce via the Silk Road —, I allude to how the continuum of global economic development remains intricately tied to nature's bounty.
The global tobacco industry earned $816 billion in 2016, perpetuating the phenomenon of cultivating a plant only to be combusted for ephemeral pleasures. Representing an ungraspable state of transformation, smoke has always been present in worship, cremation, engines, and warfare. Tobacco smoke, occupying a special class in the world of polymorphous substances, encompasses human relationship to nature, imagination, commerce, seduction, illusion, and addiction. Yet, as e-cigarette usage gains popularity, the replacement of real tobacco smoking with the inhalation of synthetic nicotine vapors symbolizes a tangible world dissipating behind a digital smoke screen. In parallel, digital transactions render money virtual, thus defying concepts of value held for millennia, and are the manifestation of money going up in ash-less smoke. As the global trend continues to virtualize, I assemble visual and conceptual tools to articulate the mesmerizing aesthetics and the fluid materiality of value and power embodied by tobacco smoke.
The project explores how tobacco’s story echoes humanity’s story, and how smoke mirrors the fluctuating notions of value. I use tobacco smoke as a metaphor for our emerging virtual world that is hurtling toward a value system based on cryptocurrency and digital assets. I am approaching tobacco as Americana, a cultural root, a commodity, a currency, and also a divination tool to ask “What are the digital smoke signals from the future beckoning?”
Paul Gauguin was a French artist with Peruvian heritage who sought erotic adventures in Polynesia.
BEATRICE GLOW is an American artist with Taiwanese heritage married to a Frenchman.
Gauguin spent a part of his childhood in Peru, and later on self-mythologized as a savage.
Glow returned to New York after a few years in Peru and became a Tarot Card Reader.
Gauguin has made work in the Asia Pacific region, specifically the Marquesa Islands and Tahiti.
Glow has made work in Asian Latin America, specifically in Peru, Argentina and Chile.
In an ongoing series I paint as the character Apprentice of the Ghost of Gauguin to unpack the social imaginaries of the romantic other. Gauguin and I are in dialogue due to our overlapping geobiographies: He was a French artist with Peruvian heritage who sought erotic adventures in Polynesia and painted in the Asia Pacific region. I am an American artist with Asian Pacific heritage married to a Frenchman and have lived and worked in Peru. As the Apprentice character, I use student-grade paint mixed to match the colors from the Colonial Color Palette.
March 2015, Acrylic on birchwood canvas, 4 in. x 4 in. x 1.5 in. each
In an on-going investigation on the relationship between color, language and the imaginary, I collect commercial paint chips whose color names are imbued with western-centric exoticism. I then painted these colors on small wooden canvases. Deceivingly apolitical at first glance, this color library catalogues by skin color, tropical obsession, trade and commodities, adventure and conquest, and archaeological exploits. My favorite color names include Colonial White, Pure White, Vanilla Tan, Grass Skirt, Mayan Treasure, Romantic Isle, Treasure Isle, Aloha, Sailor’s Eyes, Sugar & Spice, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Molasses, and Nutmeg. As my color library grows, it has become a glossary that I reference in other bodies of work that critique this western-centric gaze.