Beginning at the End
Art/Studio Gallery, Recology SF
San Francisco, California. January 2012
Looking at Donna Anderson Kam’s large-scale drawings in pastel one might not realize the source of her imagery or the process behind her work. Anderson Kam uses contemporary newspaper stories as a starting point to explore pressing social issues, especially the paradox of prosperity and sustainability. She begins by photographing young actors as they perform the stories, then uses the resulting photographs to create collage studies that she eventually reinterprets in pastels. The final drawings are finely
rendered scenes in soft tones that can be as large as four by six feet and which are left intentionally ambiguous. Negative space is as significant as the drawings themselves as it serves to isolate and accentuate, and the soft pastel tones speak to hazy memories of
past events. The youth of the figures alludes to everything from fragility and peril to mischievousness and rebellion, and intimates that the issues that play out in the secenarios will continue to face future generations. She explains, “…our consumption based economy, our media influenced identity, and the unrealistic expectations of personal prosperity inspired by a constant barrage of messages from the media to consume/renew/refresh, have created a mountain of discarded commercial goods,cultural amnesia, and the many spiritually impoverished ‘consumers’ that exist today.”
During her residency, Anderson Kam used the Recology San Francisco facility as back drop for her actors and recognizable areas—the sculpture garden, hillside, and Public Disposal Building are all visible in her final pieces. She has also incorporated new materials into her practice including computer paper and advertising signage, and as pastels have been harder to come by, is working with varieties of chalks and crayons. Expanding on the narrative nature of her work, she presented drawings in free-standing circular formats, enabling the viewer to walk around a piece, entering and exiting at any place, to create their own beginnings and ends.
Sharon Spain, curator, Recology Residency Collection